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Glacier National Park: Rail & Drive - Seattle

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5 days From $600 per person
4.0 stars(1 reviews)

The wide-open skies and rugged mountain vistas of Big Sky Country and Glacier National Park call to you on this memorable independent rail vacation featuring Amtrak’s Empire Builder.

Travel on your own following a well-planned itinerary

2024 Tour code: RM-GRDS-24

About the tour

Immerse yourself in the natural grandeur of Glacier National Park on this roundtrip expedition. Over five adventure-filled days, enjoy time on one of Amtrak's most beloved overnight trains, travel along an iconic byway aboard a 1930s Red Jammer Bus, and stay in a resort town that seamlessly merges nature and modern amenities. This independent vacation begins and ends in Seattle, and in the middle, you are treated to two nights in Whitefish, Montana, the gateway to the Crown of the Continent. Here, you are free to explore the charming town as well as the lush surrounding region with your included rental car. You also enjoy two excursions that showcase the intricacies of the protected parklands. Get out and explore in the heart of Big Sky Country.

Please Note:  Glacier National Park is spectacular to visit no matter the season. The complete opening/closing of the Going-to-the-Sun road changes each year based on winter conditions, and the entirety may not be accessible in the Spring and Fall. If you choose to visit in the shoulder season, the Red Bus Tour and/or the Boat Tour may not be running. You will still be able to explore many areas of the park and spot wildlife with your vehicle and on the trails.


What’s included


Day 1- Depart Seattle on the Empire Builder

Your journey commences in Seattle, where you board Amtrak's Empire Builder for your trip to Big Sky Country. The train leaves late in the afternoon, allowing you plenty of time to settle into your onboard accommodations and enjoy the views before the sun sets over the mountains. Coach seats are the standard offering; however, you have the option to upgrade to private sleeping accommodations: a Roomette or a Bedroom. This upgrade brings more personal space, increased privacy, and complimentary meals for the duration of your train journey. Overnight train.

Day 2 - Arrive in Whitefish/Day at Leisure

The Empire Builder coasts past the Cascade Mountains and through the emerald forests of Washington state overnight before arriving in Whitefish, Montana, this morning. After the train stations at the historic, alpine-inspired station, make your way to the Avis facility to pick up your rental car. Intermediate and equipped with unlimited mileage and GPS, your car is your ticket to the region's beauty, from the protected parklands to the charming resort towns. Spend your day exploring however you please while enjoying breathtaking scenes of the Rocky Mountains. Whitefish is brimming with restaurants and fabulous boutiques. There are art galleries, breweries, and lovely natural sites. Maybe trek one of the local hiking trails or try out a water sport on one of the lakes, including Flathead or Whitefish Lakes. Overnight Whitefish.

Day 3 - Glacier National Park Touring

The gorgeous surroundings of Glacier National Park beckon today on your guided tour along Going-to-the-Sun Road. Make your way to the Apgar Visitor Center on the park's west side for your Crown of the Continent tour. This all-day adventure unlocks immense beauty from the comfortable seats of vintage Red Jammer Buses. These 1930s vehicles have soft tops that roll back in fair weather and large windows lining the side, the combination of which allows you to soak in all the splendors of Glacier National Park from all angles. Look up at the jagged mountain peaks and out across lush valleys and meadows. If you are lucky, you may even catch a glimpse at some of the wildlife within the park - deer, elk, bighorn sheep, wolves, lynx, and bears. The iconic byway passes the park's beautiful forests, past glaciers and lakes, and ventures across Lake McDonald, St. Mary and Swiftcurrent Valleys. Best of all, this tour allows you to marvel at the views on both sides of the road, as the return journey to the visitor's center follows the same route. Keep your camera handy for the scenic stop-offs along the way. Overnight Whitefish.

**Please Note: Departures beginning May 17th through June 19th will include the Huckleberry Mountain Tour. Departures beginning September 14th through September 27th will include the Western Alpine tour.

Day 4 - Lake McDonald Cruise

Back at the Crown of the Continent this morning, take another look at the stunning scenery from the crystal-clear water of Lake McDonald. Venture to Lake McDonald Lodge, where the historic wooden boat, the DeSmet, is docked and waiting to escort you across the lake. From either the upper or the lower deck, look upon magical scenes of jagged mountains reflected in the calm water, lush forests and wide-open blue skies. Look below, too; the water is so clear that you can see down to the lakebed, which is scattered with remarkable rainbow-hued rocks - stones colored in vibrant blues, greens, reds, and deep maroons that border on purple.

After your cruise, you may wish to continue your explorations in Glacier National Park. This gem plays host to over 700 miles of well-maintained hiking trails, as well as biking trails, places for rock climbing and more. You may wish to join one of the ranger-led programs or hikes or set off for independent exploration. Return your rental car this evening and finish up the day with some free time in Whitefish before boarding the Empire Builder again tonight. Overnight train.

**Please Note: Departures after September 19th will not include the Lake McDonald Cruise.

Day 5 - Seattle

As the sun comes up, you may wish to venture up to the train's Sightseer Lounge for panoramic vistas of the changing landscape. From forests to the Cascade Mountains and eventually, the suburbs and unique architecture of Seattle, the final miles of the route are filled with contrasts. Your vacation through the mountains ends when the train pulls into the station. You are free to continue your trip on your own or transfer to the airport to return home.

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.


Amtrak's Empire Builder


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Submitted 09 Jul 2024


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