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These Are The Top 5 Overnight Sleeper Trains In The U.S. This Fall 

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In recent years, this slow mode of travel has quickly made a comeback. Of course we’re talking about overnight sleeper trains.

In Europe passengers are hopping on board overnight sleeper trains to enjoy a slower and more scenic ride. But in the United States, train lovers and curious travelers may be wondering how they can hop on this trend.

Fortunately, sleeper trains do run throughout the U.S., and there's no better time than Fall to try them out. Taking in the fall foliage throughout the U.S. while aboard a train is one of the prettiest ways to travel.

Though they’re not as commonplace, Amtrak does offer several sleeper car routes across the country.

Here are 5 of Amtrak’s best overnight sleeper train routes:

Amtrak train in California

Yes, Amtrak Still Runs Overnight Sleeper Trains!

Slate recently ran an article singing the praises of overnight sleeper trains, yet they also lamented the apparent lack of sleeper car options in the U.S. compared to Europe.

It’s certainly true that sleeper cars are much more available “across the pond.” In fact, we’ve previously noted this hot new slow travel trend in Europe, as well as its economic and environmental advantages over standard airplane and car travel. 

But if you’re already feeling down about America’s lack of overnight sleeper trains, then we have some news to cheer you up.

A View of the Pecos River in Ribera, New Mexico from an Amtrak Southwest Chief Train

In fact, Amtrak, the United States’ leading passenger train operator, operates multiple routes featuring sleeper cars. Amtrak also has plans underway to upgrade 14 sleeper car routes across the country.

In the meantime, travelers can book rides on several Amtrak routes featuring sleeper cars. Keep in mind that it will take a while for you to reach your destination. But really, this is the point of taking an overnight sleeper train: Sit back, lie in bed, look out the window, and enjoy the ride!

All 5 of these routes run trains that include private rooms ranging from the smallest roomettes to larger bedroom suites and family rooms. Roomettes and family rooms offer access to shared bathrooms and shower rooms on board the sleeper cars, while larger bedrooms and bedroom suites have their own private bathrooms with showers. 

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An Amtrak Auto Train at the Station in Lorton, Virginia

Auto Train: Lorton, Virginia (Near Washington, D.C.) to Sanford, Florida (Near Orlando)

This may not be the most traditionally beautiful route, but we’re including Amtrak’s Auto Train on our list thanks to its unique offerings.

For one, this Amtrak route runs trains that actually let passengers store cars, vans, small boats, and other recreational vehicles on board their specialized auto carriers. If you’d like to take a road trip after your train ride, or perhaps enjoy some watersports, this is the train you want to ride.

Also, this is an overnight sleeper train that serves the Southeast: It runs between Lorton, Virginia, a Fairfax County suburb near Washington, D.C., and Sanford, Florida, a suburb of Orlando. 

So, if you’re in the mood to do a Disney World trip after doing some sightseeing in the nation’s capital (or vice versa), here’s the sleeper train you want. It usually runs for about 17 and a half hours between Lorton and Sanford.

A Look Near the Colorado-Utah Border from Amtrak's California Zephyr Train

California Zephyr: Chicago to Emeryville, California (Near San Francisco)

For a longer ride and much more of that signature American scenery that compels travelers to take the train, you have to try the California Zephyr

Not only does the route include the always exciting Midwestern city of Chicago, but it also has passengers pass through the fertile farmlands of Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska before providing a stunning change of scenery in Colorado.

West of Denver, the California Zephyr ascends the Rocky Mountains and lets passengers enjoy incredible mountain views all the way to Salt Lake City in Utah. Then, this train runs through the vast expanses of the Great Basin Desert before climbing up the Sierra Nevada Mountains west of Reno, Nevada.

Finally, the train makes its way through California’s Central Valley before wrapping up in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

This train typically runs for a little over 51 hours between Chicago and Emeryville.

A View of the California Coast from Amtrak's Coast Starlight Train

Coast Starlight: Seattle to Los Angeles 

When you’re in the mood to linger a while and take your time when heading up and/or down America’s iconic Pacific Coast, the Coast Starlight always shines bright. 

From Seattle, this train glides by the majestic Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Once you reach Portland, you can kick back and take in the wonderful views of the Willamette Valley. After Eugene, the train crosses the mountains and offers plenty more amazing mountain views all the way across the California state line to Mount Shasta. 

Eventually, the Coast Starlight makes its way to the San Francisco Bay Area (yes, it also stops in Emeryville), then it continues south. South of San Luis Obispo, riders get the ultimate visual treat: jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean and the California coast! 

One huge highlight is the scenery in and around the romantically charming coastal city of Santa Barbara. After Ventura, the train moves inland again en route to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.

This train typically runs for about 35 hours between Seattle and Los Angeles.

An Amtrak Empire Builder Train Crosses Barclay Creek in Washington State

Empire Builder: Chicago to Portland or Seattle

If you seek cooler vibes and more mountain views during your overnight sleeper train experience, then look no further than Amtrak’s Empire Builder.

From Chicago, this train takes passengers on an epic journey through the Northern Great Plains before reaching the Rocky Mountains in Montana. This route includes quite the ride through Glacier National Park and the rugged mountains of Northern Idaho.

In Washington State, the Empire Builder runs through the stunning desert and ranches of the east, then crosses the Cascades and descends toward Seattle.

This train often runs for about 46 hours between Chicago and Seattle or Portland.

The View from an Amtrak Southwest Chief Train in Glorieta, New Mexico

Southwest Chief: Chicago to Los Angeles

Finally, we have the Southwest Chief. This is another train that runs out of Chicago, as Chicago is Amtrak’s biggest and most critical hub.

If you like captivating red rock and desert views, you will love the Southwest Chief. After breezing through the Great Plains of Kansas, the scenery starts to become more rugged in Southern Colorado. 

Then in New Mexico, the train rolls through the gorgeous southern arm of the Rocky Mountains and the unique cityscapes of Santa Fe and Albuquerque. After crossing the Continental Divide, the train sports fantastic red rock views in Northern Arizona’s Navajo Country before ascending to the alpine college town of Flagstaff. (If you want to take the train to the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff is the closest station.)

After Flagstaff, the Southwest Chief makes its way through some of the many diverse landscapes of the Mojave Desert and into California. It then offers one more round of epic mountain views in the San Bernardino Mountains before whisking passengers over to the bright lights of Los Angeles.

This train usually runs for over 40 hours between Chicago and Los Angeles.

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This article originally appeared on

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

David Waller

Thursday 21st of September 2023

What about the Chicago to New Orleans overnighter ? 20hr.


Friday 15th of September 2023

Curious...The Coast Starlight, is it only one way, north to south only? Can you hitch a ride in Portland versus starting in Seattle? Thank you for the article. Blessings, David & Roberta

Brian Curless

Wednesday 20th of September 2023

No it runs both ways


Friday 1st of September 2023

Very disappointed that you skipped the Texas Eagle. We used it a few years ago. While not a hugely scenic visit, it was a great trip.


Friday 1st of September 2023

Great story, love trains, would love that 51 hour trip with room.