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7 National Parks You Can Explore via Amtrak

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Ever dreamed of exploring America's best national parks without the hassle of driving? Well, thanks to Amtrak, you can access and experience national parks like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon with the comfort of a train ride.

Once you arrive, you can save time and forget about navigating roads or circling for parking spots. Most of the parks on our list even offer shuttle services to whisk you straight to the best viewpoints and trailheads.

So, take the stress out of your next adventure by letting Amtrak's scenic rail journeys transport you directly to the heart of America's most breathtaking natural wonders.

1. Yosemite National Park, California

Early morning shot of the three brothers mountain range in Yosemite National Park in California taken in the Summer with reflections in the river bed below

Start your journey with Amtrak to either Fresno or Merced. From there, hop on the YARTS (Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System) shuttle, which offers a comfortable ride directly into Yosemite National Park.

Plan your shuttle trip by checking the YARTS schedule, especially during peak tourist seasons. Inside Yosemite, free shuttle buses operate in the Valley year-round, providing easy access to major sights.

Read more about the official and latest public transportation details and free shuttle service on the NPS Yosemite website.

Yosemite is truly a year-round destination, with each season offering unique experiences, from wildflower blooms in spring to colorful foliage in fall. Summer is peak season, so consider visiting in spring or fall for fewer crowds.

To find the best time for your visit, check out our guide: Best (And Worst) Times To Visit Yosemite National Park.

Meanwhile, entrance fees can be covered with an America the Beautiful Pass, or you can pay for a seven-day pass upon arrival.

2. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

picturesque view of Grand Canyon National Park

Take Amtrak to Williams, Arizona, and then embark on a historic ride aboard the Grand Canyon Railway, which takes you directly to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Read more about your train travel options here.

The Grand Canyon Railway offers various classes of service, from coach to luxury observation cars. Booking in advance is recommended, especially during holiday periods. Visit the Grand Canyon Railway website for updated schedules and ticket information.

The South Rim is accessible all year, but the North Rim is closed in winter due to snow. Summer is the busiest time, so visiting in the shoulder seasons (spring and fall) can provide a more tranquil experience.

Entrance fees are required, and the America the Beautiful Pass is accepted. While you're there, tick off this checklist of Grand Canyon's must-see vistas: The 6 Most Stunning Vistas in Grand Canyon National Park.

3. Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park, Utah in Autumn

Amtrak services St. George, the closest large city with a train station. From St. George, shuttle services are available to take you to Zion National Park.

Zion's popularity means shuttles fill up quickly. Make sure to check shuttle availability and book your spot early. Once at Zion, take advantage of the park's shuttle system to explore major landmarks without the hassle of parking.

Zion's mild weather in spring and fall makes these seasons ideal for visiting, though summer's heat brings larger crowds. An entrance fee is required, and the America the Beautiful Pass is accepted.

Be more well-prepared for your Zion Nationa Park trip by saving our guide: Your Ultimate Guide To Zion National Park

4. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Sunset lake reflection of mountains at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Your train adventure begins by heading to Denver, followed by a bus or shuttle ride to Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Read more about the updated schedules here. Local shuttles are also available to take you further into the park.

Estes Park offers accommodations for those exploring the Rocky Mountains. Reserve your park entry and shuttle service in advance during peak summer months to ensure access.

The best times to visit are from June to September when all park areas are accessible. Remember — a timed entry permit or a camping reservation might be required in addition to the park entrance fee during peak season. The America the Beautiful Pass is also accepted here.

5. Glacier National Park, Montana

Logan Pass, Glacier National Park, MT in early summer

The Empire Builder Amtrak line offers stops directly at Glacier National Park's doorstep, including West Glacier, East Glacier Park, and Essex.

Staying within the park requires early reservation of lodging or campsites. Check the Glacier National Park Lodges website for availability and booking. Don't forget to look into the park's free and wheelchair-accessible shuttle service for a convenient way to explore its vast landscapes.

With its roads and trails covered in snow until early summer, July through September is the best time to visit. Entrance fees apply, and the America the Beautiful Pass is valid here.

6. Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park in Maine

Take Amtrak to Boston, switch to the Downeaster train to Brunswick, Maine, and from there, a bus will take you to Bar Harbor. Acadia is accessible via the Island Explorer buses, which provide free service around the park.

The Island Explorer operates from late June through Columbus Day. Planning your visit around these dates ensures you'll have access to the park's free shuttle service. For more and latest information, visit the Island Explorer website.

Acadia is most popular in summer and early fall, offering pleasant weather and spectacular foliage. Entrance fees are required, and the America the Beautiful Pass is accepted.

7. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Scenic Dark Hollow Falls overview at Shenandoah National park in summer

Amtrak will bring you to Charlottesville, Virginia. From there, renting a car or using local shuttle services is necessary for the last leg to Shenandoah National Park.

Shenandoah is known for its Skyline Drive, which offers stunning views of the Virginia landscape. Check the Shenandoah National Park official website for updated information on entry fees, hiking trails, and camping sites to fully enjoy your visit.

Spring and fall are the best times to visit Shenandoah for mild weather and beautiful foliage, though the park is open year-round. Entrance fees are required, with the option to use the America the Beautiful Pass.

Technology Tips for Visiting These National Parks

To ensure a smooth and informed visit to these national parks, consider downloading the official National Park Service (NPS) app for your specific destination.

Remember to download the app and any necessary content or maps before your trip, as cell service can be limited in these remote areas.

These apps offer a wealth of resources at your fingertips, including detailed maps that work offline, real-time updates on park conditions, self-guided tours, points of interest, and trail information.

Embark on a Car-Free National Park Adventure

Exploring national parks by train is not only incredibly convenient but also an eco-friendly way to travel. By ditching the car, you'll be doing your part to reduce your carbon footprint while still experiencing the great outdoors.

A few final tips: Pack light for easy transportation between the train and park shuttles, bring along a good pair of hiking shoes, and don't forget your camera to capture those picture-perfect moments.

Most importantly, soak in every second of your car-free adventure through America's natural wonders.

 
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