5 Great National Park Train Rides

A good train ride provides passengers with stunning scenery, high adventure and a bit of nostalgic romance. These classic rail trips through America's national parks include a panoramic dome car, a restored vintage railway and more!

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Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

It's not likely you'll plan a spur-of-the-moment trip to the Gates of the Arctic National Park: It requires serious planning to venture into this wild Alaskan spot above the Arctic Circle. 960 1280

By National Park Service, Alaska Region (Remote river in Gates of the Arctic) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

The remote park is accessible by bush plane, air taxi and, for the truly hardcore, on foot. Hikers may approach the park from Dalton Highway, but there are multiple river crossings along the way and no trails. 960 1280
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Once in the park, visitors are rewarded with sweeping valleys and rugged mountains, the tallest rising 8,510 feet at Mount Igikpak at the headwaters of the Noatak River. 960 1280

By National Park Service, Alaska Region (Noatak River) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

Washington state has its share of glaciers with more than 300 mountain glaciers in North Cascades National Park. Get your bearings at any of the park's 6 visitor or service centers where maps and exhibit rooms can help you plan excursions.  960 1280

By Walter Siegmund (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

The Ross Lake National Recreation Area is a popular starting point for the 400 miles of trails that meander through the valleys and cut through the mountains with switchbacks and rocky terrain. 960 1280
North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

The mountains are dotted with the glaciers as well as more than 127 alpine lakes and cascading waterfalls. The most popular waterfalls can be found at Gorge Falls along State Route 20 in between Newhalem and Diablo and Rainbow Falls in Stehekin Valley. 960 1280
Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park is a diverse spot with quiet deserts, caves and dense forests filled with 5,000-year-old bristlecone pines. It's remarkable that this is one of the least-visited national parks, often dismissed as a wasteland. 960 1280
Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park

Go underground at Lehman Caves, an ornate marble cave filled with stalactites, stalagmites and over 300 rare shield formations. 960 1280
Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park

Stargazers will delight in the view from Great Basin, one of the darkest spots in the country after the sun goes down. You'll want to spend the night so you can marvel at the Milky Way and constellations in the deep night sky, a rare treat as light pollution blocks the view from many cities around the country. 960 1280
Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park

The state of Florida gets hordes of visitors each year, but somehow Dry Tortugas plays host to only a small fraction of them. This cluster of 7 islands is just 70 miles west of Key West, but its quiet island pace sets it apart from its nearest neighbors. 960 1280

By Joe Parks from Berkeley, CA (Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park

The waters around the islands are filled with coral reefs teeming with interesting marine life that are perfect for a snorkeling trip.  960 1280
Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park

Scuba divers explore the Windjammer Wreck, a complete wreck site featuring an impressive sailing ship that sank in 1907. Back on the beach, sea turtles build nests in the sand where they lay their eggs along these protected sandy shores. 960 1280
Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park

Michigan's remote Isle Royale National Park is accessible only by boat or seaplane, so leave your car behind, and set sail from Houghton or Cooper Harbor in Michigan or Grand Portage in Minnesota. 960 1280
Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park

Once there, get ready for a day of backcountry hiking or navigating the lakes, bays and islands in a kayak or canoe. If you're not an experienced paddler, avoid the frigid water and possible squalls on a guided boat tour. 960 1280
Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park

To extend your trip, spend the night at the Rock Harbor Lodge, found in the island's northeast corner, with simple rooms and cottages overlooking the lake. 960 1280
Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Budding naturalists feel right at home at Rocky Mountain National Park where the kids can join in on short, family-friendly hikes around the park. Bring along a magnifying glass to explore the plants, leaves and bugs during a stroll around Bear Lake. 960 1280
Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Pack binoculars to get a close-up of Albert’s squirrels scurrying around the ponderosa pine forests or bighorn sheep spending a summer day at Sheep Lakes. Kids can scramble up rocks along the trail to Gem Lake or search the water under the bridge for beavers along the Beaver Boardwalk. 960 1280

By Frank Schulenburg (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns

Young adventurers travel deep underground to explore one of the many caves at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Children must be 4 or older to participate in a basic cave tour of the Big Room. Brave souls over 12 can shimmy and crawl through a maze of narrow entryways and tunnels at Spider Cave. 960 1280
Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns

Check out the resident wildlife outside of the cave during the Bat Flight program, a free summertime special when nearly 400,000 Brazilian free-tail bats fly from Carlsbad Cavern at sunset to search for an insect-filled dinner. 960 1280
Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park caters to 8- to 12-year-olds with daily Junior Ranger programs throughout the park. Rangers keep kids busy with stories, artwork, kid-friendly hikes and scavenger hunts to uncover secrets around the park. 960 1280
Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

The whole gang can enjoy family-friendly activities including the fire and ice cruise around Colter Bay to learn about the park’s ecology, including the glaciers and towering mountains. 960 1280

By Acroterion (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park has laid down the law on the many ways that kids should enjoy themselves in the park, summarized in the Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights. Take note of this decree, and plan for family fun in every corner of the park. Pack the bikes and helmets for a ride along the carriage road system -- flat scenic paths that are made for a 2-wheeler (training wheels optional) or the chubby tires of a jogging stroller. 960 1280

By heipei from Deutschland (Acadia National Park, ME) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Head to the shore to enjoy a cool ocean breeze and search for marine life in the shallow tide pools. Set sail on a ranger-narrated cruise including the Dive-In Theater Cruise from May through October where real-time video technology allows passengers to watch scuba divers search the ocean floor for marine life that is then brought onboard for impromptu touch-tank experiences. 960 1280

By Erin McDaniel Erinmcd (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

America’s first national park welcomes visitors to check out the hot springs, steaming geysers and extraordinary wildlife, including grizzlies, bison and elk. With the park spread out over a sprawling 2.2 million acres, it’s impossible to experience all the fun at once. 960 1280

Michael H Spivak/Moment/Getty Images  

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

As a family, decide on the highlights to experience, like the legendary geyser Old Faithful and the wildlife-viewing at Lamar Valley. Families with children over 8 can enjoy a 2-hour horseback ride to the cookout while families with little ones can ride into the sunset aboard a horse-drawn covered wagon. 960 1280

Adam Long Sculpture / iStock / Thinkstock  

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Don’t worry if you’re more of a beach person than a woodsy type: There’s a national park experience waiting for your family at the national seashore at Cape Hatteras. This protected seashore is made up of narrow barrier islands along the beloved Outer Banks. Celebrate the past with a climb up a lighthouse or an evening of pirate tales with a park ranger. 960 1280

By Madhatter987 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

There are miles of beaches for swimming, shelling, kite-flying or just chilling out and reading a book. Cruise the beach on foot or in an off-road vehicle that allows cars to leave behind the paved roads and drive the sandy shores. 960 1280
Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park

Biscayne welcomes families with the free Family Fun Fest program, a celebration of the park’s wonders with stories, superheroes and cool park activities. The festivities take place on the second Saturday of each month from December to April. But don’t fret if you miss the fest as there are still plenty of opportunities for family-bonding in the park. 960 1280
Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park

Look for some of the park’s cool creatures, including manatees, sea turtles and fish galore, during a snorkeling adventure or kid-friendly ride on a glass-bottom boat. 960 1280

By John Brooks, National Park Service photographer (http://www.nps.gov/bisc/images/20060905140916.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons  

Longfellow House -- Washington’s Headquarters

Longfellow House -- Washington’s Headquarters

For almost 50 years, this mid-Georgian style property was the home of Henry W. Longfellow, the noted American 19th-century poet. It also served as the headquarters of George Washington during the Siege of Boston, from July 1775 to April 1776. Longfellow National Historic Site is full of furnishings, decorative arts, archival materials and beautiful gardens. 960 1280

Nancy Baym, flickr  

Bunker Hill Monument

Bunker Hill Monument

This 221-foot monument marks the site of the first major battle of the American Revolution: On June 17, 1775, American colonists went up against the powerful British army during the famous Bunker Hill battle. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

JFK Birthplace

JFK Birthplace

Visit the birthplace of America's 35th president, John F. Kennedy, in Brookline, MA. This national historic site has been restored to its 1917 appearance, and includes tours of the 9-room house where Kennedy family photographs, furnishings and mementos are on display. 960 1280

Wally Gobetz, flickr  

Saugus Iron Works

Saugus Iron Works

Saugus Iron Works, a 9-acre national park on the banks of the Saugus River, celebrates the birthplace of the American iron and steel industries, with working waterwheels, hot forges, mill, and a 17th-century home and river basin. 960 1280

James Saunders, flickr  

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Salem Maritime, the first American National Historic Site, remembers the early seagoing history of New England with historic buildings, wharves and reconstructed tall ships. 960 1280

Harvey Barrison, flickr  

Hartwell Tavern

Hartwell Tavern

See how Americans lived during the outbreak of the American Revolution by visiting Hartwell Tavern, a restored 18th- century home and tavern located on "Battle Road” in Minute Man National Historical Park. 960 1280

Daderot, Wikimedia Commons  

Spectacle Island

Spectacle Island

For a mix of history and beautiful scenery, Boston Harbor Islands is a must-see when visiting Beantown. Spectacle Island is a popular day trip from the city, offering panoramic views of downtown Boston, as well as sandy beaches and sunset clambakes. 960 1280

Eric Kilby, flickr  

Lowell Park

Lowell Park

In its day Lowell Park was heralded as the "Venice of the United States" due to its extensive technologically advanced canal system. Today, Lowell brings in visitors with its historically replicated trolleys, canal cruises, museums, and concerts and events throughout the year. 960 1280

Elizabeth Thomsen, flickr  

Frederick Law Olmsted

Frederick Law Olmsted

The Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic site is home to “Fairsted,” the world's first full-scale professional office for the practice of landscape design. See the original plans and drawings of Frederick Law Olmsted, the founder of American landscape architecture. 960 1280

Daderot, Wikimedia Commons  

New Bedford Whaling Museum

New Bedford Whaling Museum

Learn the history behind the US whaling industry at New Bedford Whaling Museum. Its exhibits include a 37-foot humpback whale skeleton, the largest ship model in the world and a replica of the whaling bark Lagoda. 960 1280

istolethetv, flickr  

Abiel Smith School

Abiel Smith School

Abiel Smith School, a site along the Boston Black Heritage Trail, commemorates the first public school for African-American children. The school was named after a white philanthropist who left money in his will to the city of Boston for the education of African-American children. 960 1280

Tim Pierce, Wikimedia Commons  

Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor

Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor

Tour the river, canal, mill villages and beautiful landscape of the Blackstone River Valley, a quiet stretch of land that runs through Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The area is also known as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. 960 1280

Doug Kerr, flickr  

Adams National Historic Park, Old House

Adams National Historic Park, Old House

Visit the birthplace homes of presidents John and John Quincy Adams at the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy, MA. The Old House, pictured here, was home to 4 generations of the Adams family. 960 1280

Daderot, Wikimedia Commons  

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