Q: Greetings, Peter! When I retire, we'd like to take a train tour of the Northwest (from Kansas City or Chicago, westward), going to some of the national parks, etc. But we seek a "packaged" or planned tour, if such a thing exists. Can you help us find such a package or give clues about how to go about it? Thank you!
–Jane Hoffman, Arcadia, Calif.
A: A great resource for planning a train vacation is Vacations By Rail, which helps plan trips on Amtrak and many other rail companies in the United States and Canada. If you visit the company’s Web site, you’ll see that it offers a variety of escorted and independent trip packages that fit your description.
For example, the 14-day “America the Beautiful West” package departs from Chicago and takes you by train and motor coach through the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Yosemite National Park, the San Francisco Bay area, and numerous other places. The tour offers many stops for excursions, dining, and sightseeing. Cost: about $2,600 per person.
Another option is the 13-day "Best of the West" package, which also starts from Chicago and hits most of the famous national parks along the way, including Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Arches, and Canyonlands. You head out on Amtrak's Empire Builder Line and return via the California Zephyr. In between, you travel by motor coach. The price is about $3,095 per person.
Another company, America by Rail, has similar trip options, including the 11-day "Yellowstone/Glacier Discovery Tour." This trip departs from Chicago, passes through Salt Lake City, Jackson Hole, Wyo., the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Park. The shorter five-day, four-night "Glacier National Park Weekend Tour" is also available, winding through Whitefish, Mont., Glacier National Park, and Montana's Going-to-the-Sun Highway.
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