Prepare to experience America as many of its earliest trailblazers did. The name "Empire Builder" refers to James J. Hill, a tycoon who acquired enough land to link St. Paul and Seattle with his Great Northern Railway, completed in 1893. Taking the Empire Builder west from Chicago, you'll also retrace portions of Lewis and Clark's expedition from Illinois to Oregon on this adventure across America's majestic wilderness.
Traveling through Wisconsin, you will behold the towering, yet serene, sandstone formations and lakes of the Wisconsin Dells. Farther along, you'll take in 140 miles of fertile farmland and river towns along the Mississippi River, known appropriately as "America's Great River Road." And approaching Minneapolis/St. Paul, the glowing night skyline will surely enchant you.
In Montana — Big Sky Country — you will encounter Glacier National Park, filled with immense valleys that were carved by huge ice flows thousands of years ago. Year-round snow and freezing waterfalls add to the aura. Two thousand lakes and a thousand miles of rivers are tucked into forests and meadows around the park. The train travels through the southern border, and in summer, it stops right in the park at a log cabin station, for an unforgettable look at this sanctuary for endangered bears, bighorn sheep, mountain goats and grey wolves. Also, don't miss the on-board National Park Service guide talks during the summer months.
Upon reaching Spokane, the Empire Builder splits into two routes. If you chose the route to Seattle, you will wind through the seven-mile Cascade Tunnel and revel in views of the Olympic National Park as you coast along the sparkling, pristine Puget Sound. Or, en route to Portland, you'll pick up the Lewis and Clark trail as you head down the awesome Columbia River Gorge, along the Columbia River. Keep you eyes out for incredible views of Mount Hood, Bridal Veil, Multnomah Falls and Beacon Rock.