Amtrak’s Southwest Chief runs daily between Los Angeles and Chicago, through the vast expanse of the fabled American West.
In part one, we’ll be covering the ride between Los Angeles and Albuquerque, NM. Part two covers from Albuquerque, NM east to Kansas City. Part Three will cover Kansas City to Chicago.
In Los Angeles, you can connect to the Southwest Chief via Amtrak trains such as the Pacific Surfliner service to San Diego, the Sunset Limited from New Orleans, and the Coast Starlight from Seattle.
As it travels east, The Southwest Chief provides easy access to the Grand Canyon National Park, the “Indian Country” of New Mexico, the Mountains of Colorado, Kansas City, and finally Chicago.
This is the former route of the famous Super Chief, El Capitan, and Grand Canyon on the Santa Fe which provided passenger service until 1971 when Amtrak took over.
Accommodations on-board include Superliner coach seating, Superliner Sleeping Cars, and the scenic Superliner Lounge. A Dining Car is provided for meals (included in the price of sleeping accommodations) where the scenery changes as the train moves during your service.
The Santa Fe railroad, the builder of the BNSF tracks which the Southwest Chief traverses, helped to develop the Grand Canyon through direct service to the South Rim and the development of the El Tovar Hotel in cooperation with Fred Harvey. Trains such as the Grand Canyon provided Pullman and coach service to the National Park which now attracts around 5 million visitors a year.
Today’s traveler can make easy connections to the Grand Canyon from either Flagstaff (via motorcoach) or Williams Junction (via the Grand Canyon Railway)
In Albuquerque, NM, the traditions of the Native Americans are kept alive as passengers can buy jewelry from trackside during the stop.
Why not spend a few days learning exploring the surrounding area such as the Sandia Mountains and new attractions such as the aquarium.
Old town is also wonderful with shopping and great food. Lindsay Godfree wrote a great article about it for her cross-country travel column.
I highly recommend coming to visit during the annual balloon festival which will be October 2-10 in 2010. You can even ride in one of the balloons! Read more here
Make your Amtrak reservations early for the festival as the trains fill up quick and so do the hotels in the city.
In Part Two, we’ll continue east on the Southwest Chief to Lamy, Colorado, and through Kansas to Kansas City.
Read more about the Southwest Chief on the official Amtrak page.