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Glacier National Park: Rail & Drive - Chicago to Seattle

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Aboard an iconic overnight train, 1930s Red Jammer Buses and even your own rental car, get a better look at what lies between the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest on this enticing journey that features two overnights on Amtrak’s iconic Empire Builder and a three-night stay in Whitefish, Montana, gateway to Glacier National Park.

You are viewing the 2023 itinerary. Select your departure year
20222023
6 days From $1,550 per person
Travel on your own following a well-planned itinerary

2023 Tour code: RM-GRDW-23

About the tour

Welcome to Big Sky Country, where jagged mountain peaks soar into wide-open skies, and nature's majesty frames the vistas. Reaching this breathtaking destination is made easy, thanks to Amtrak's Empire Builder, your chariot for adventure. Board the train at Chicago's Union Station, and settle in for an overnight journey across the plains to Whitefish, MT. On arrival, you have the freedom to explore as you wish with your included rental car. Want to hike? There are plenty of trails for that. Feeling nostalgic? There are charming shops and attractions in the historic downtown area. Your time here also includes the opportunity to experience Glacier National Park by car and boat. Board a vintage Red Jammer bus for a full-day guided excursion that takes you along the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, presenting all the glorious scenery of the "Crown of the Continent." A cruise on Lake McDonald offers a relaxing perspective on Glacier National Parks mountains, shimmering lakes, and lush forests. Back aboard the iconic Empire Builder, marvel at the changing landscapes as the journey presses forth toward Seattle and the wonders of the northwest.

*This itinerary is also available Seattle to Chicago

Highlights

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 - Depart Chicago on the Empire Builder

Make your way to Chicago's Union Station to board Amtrak's Empire Builder. While Coach seating is standard for this overnight journey, you may choose to upgrade to a Roomette or Bedroom for increased privacy and the perks that come with being a Sleeper Car guest, such as included meals. The journey ahead presents the hues and vistas of the Midwest and begins with the Windy City's tall buildings fading into the backdrop as the train pulls out of the station and begins its northwesterly route through Wisconsin and Minnesota. Overnight train.

Day 2 - Arrive in Whitefish

After passing through the vast prairie lands of North Dakota and entering Montana, the Empire Builder arrives in Whitefish this evening. Transfer to your hotel on your own for a night of relaxation. Overnight Whitefish.

Day 3 - Independent Explorations in Big Sky Country

The day is yours to set out into Whitefish and the surrounding area at your own pace. Best of all, your freedom comes with four wheels, as a rental car is included for your use during your time in Montana. Transfer on your own to the Avis car rental facility to pick up your intermediate vehicle, then spend the day at leisure, soaking in everything this beautiful destination has to offer. Perhaps you will explore Downtown Whitefish, with its art galleries, interesting boutique shops and historic buildings - all set against a backdrop of the stunning Rocky Mountains. You may wish to visit one of the surrounding lakes, such as Whitefish or Flathead, or check out some of the local hiking hotspots. Breweries abound throughout the region, as do award-winning restaurants. Overnight Whitefish.

Day 4 – Glacier National Park

Get your camera ready; a day of breathtaking scenery, amazing wildlife and unbelievable adventure lies ahead with today's tour of Glacier National Park. Meet the excursion team at the Apgar Visitor Center on the west side of Glacier National Park. Here, board a bright red, soft-topped Red Jammer bus for an unforgettable look at the lakes, mountains, valleys, glaciers, meadows, and wildlife of the Crown of the Continent. This full-day tour follows the Going-to-the-Sun Road through Lake McDonald Valley, St. Mary Valley and Swiftcurrent Valley. Revel in sweeping vistas from not only the road but also from the scenic lookouts along the way. Following the tour, the remainder of the day is at leisure. Overnight Whitefish.

Day 5 - Lake McDonald Cruise

Venture back into Glacier National Park this morning for a new perspective on the spectacular surroundings. You are treated to a cruise on Lake McDonald aboard the DeSmet, a historic wooden boat that launches from the shore near Lake McDonald Lodge. Towering, snow-capped mountains envelop the lake, reflecting off the pristine water and creating views that must be seen to be believed. Whether you choose the upper or lower deck of the boat, watch as beauty unfolds all around you, from the emerald-hued forests that grace the base of the mountains to the bright blue skies. But it is not just above that holds incredible views; do not forget to look down. The water of Lake McDonald is incredibly clear due to the cold year-round temperatures. In some areas, you can see all the way down to the bottom, which is strewn with naturally occurring rainbow rocks - stones of all different shades of blue, green, and maroon.

Following the tour, you may wish to continue your explorations in Glacier National Park independently before returning your rental car and making your way to Whitefish's alpine-style Amtrak station, where the Empire Builder awaits. Settle into your chosen accommodations for another overnight journey, this time through the Pacific Northwest to Seattle. Mountain scenes and lush forest views punctuate this portion of the route; keep watch until the sun sets beyond the peaks. Overnight train.

Day 6 - Seattle

After passing through the Cascade Mountains, looking upon volcanoes topped with fluffy snow and enjoying the ambiance of quiet forests surrounding the tracks, Mt. Rainer comes into view this morning as the Empire Builder nears Seattle. Reflect on your time in Glacier National Park and the wonders you laid witness to as the train pulls into the station and your journey concludes.

You are free to continue your vacation independently. Ask a rail specialist about extending your stay and add a day trip to the coastal Olympic National Park or see Mt Rainier up close and personal. Ready for some cityscapes? Consider a food tour through Pikes Place Market or spend the day at Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Space Needle.

Additional information

Departure times

Departure times vary based on selected rail vacation. This information will be provided in your final documents. For more information please speak with your rail specialist.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular vacation with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Train

Amtrak's Empire Builder
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