Amtrak operates the Empire Builder daily between Seattle/Portland and Chicago through Minneapolis, traveling across the northern half of Montana and stopping in a handful of charming communities in Western Montana’s Glacier Country. This stunningly scenic route also travels along the southern boundary of Glacier National Park. Climb on board and enjoy the view from your cozy, heated train car and pass by stunning Rocky Mountain scenery, including The Crown of the Continent—Glacier National Park.

The Empire Builder glides by East Glacier Park. Photo: Andy Austin

Glacier National Park by Train in Autumn

A mid-to-late autumn round-trip train ride from Cut Bank to Whitefish offers the opportunity to see Western Montana and Glacier National Park painted in fall hues lightly dusted with fresh snow—a magical merging of seasons. See the glacial blue waters of the Flathead River among the orange and gold contrast of the fall trees. Grab a cup of coffee or snack from the concessionary or make a reservation for breakfast in the dining car. With views like this, you’ll be in awe from any part of the train.

Large windows make it easy to watch for wildlife and admire the scenery.

Western Montana Communities Along the Empire Builder’s Route

  • Cut Bank: Sitting against the backdrop of the breathtaking Rocky Mountain Front, the scenery in Cut Bank is easy on the eyes. Twenty five minutes west of town look for the monument honoring Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition while enjoying stunning mountain views.
  • Browning: Gaze out at the rolling foothills just east of Glacier National Park in Browning, headquarters for the Blackfeet Nation and also the largest community on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.
  • East Glacier Park: The historic East Glacier Park train station—featuring old photographs of early rail travel—is located across from Glacier Park Lodge. This architectural wonder was built by the railroad industry to promote train travel and tourism to Montana.
  • Marias Pass: Cross the Continental Divide at 5,216 feet on a route through the Rocky Mountains traveled by American Indians for thousands of years and sought by Lewis and Clark. Keep your eye out for a monument at the top of the pass honoring President Theodore Roosevelt.
  • Essex: The sweet little town of Essex is known for the Izaak Walton Inn, drawing visitors year-round, especially railroad buffs and cross-country skiers.
  • West Glacier: A popular base camp for park adventures, West Glacier is located at the western entrance of Glacier National Park. The historic Belton Chalet is just across the street from the depot.
  • Whitefish: This quaint, alpine-style station in downtown Whitefish has an on-site museum and welcomes visitors to this quintessential mountain town and the year-round vacation destination, Whitefish Mountain Resort.
  • Libby: Enjoy beautiful Cabinet Mountain scenery in the charming town of Libby—the gateway to the quiet northwest corner of Montana.
The East Glacier Park Amtrak Station is close to lodging, dining and shopping. Photo: Andy Austin

Train Travel Tips

  • If you can, snag a seat in the observation car. During the late spring, summer and fall, Amtrak’s Trails & Rails program has volunteers from the National Park Service on the train who offer interpretive commentary from Seattle, Washington, to Shelby, Montana.
  • You can get the best pictures by placing your camera as close to the window as possible.
  • If you’re getting on or off in Whitefish, West Glacier or East Glacier Park, be sure to check out the train stations.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the conductors questions about the train, best views, etc. They are very friendly and happy to share their knowledge.

Please note: We ask that all our visitors and residents Recreate Responsibly by being mindful of the following: know before you go; plan ahead; play it safe; leave no trace; tread lightly; and help build an inclusive outdoors.

October 10, 2022

Related: Amtrak, Browning, Cut Bank, East Glacier Park, Essex, Glacier National Park, Libby, Montana, Vacation, West Glacier, Whitefish

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