Tag Archives: east glacier park

All Aboard for Montana: A Day Trip on Amtrak’s Empire Builder

Not to toot my own horn, but I think I do a pretty good job of taking advantage of the offerings that are found in my Montana backyard. Except, I don’t always try everything that I wish I would. Take for example Amtrak’s Empire Builder line. It runs between Chicago and Seattle and passes through Montana’s northern tier two times per day, making stops in Libby, Whitefish, West Glacier, Essex, East Glacier Park, Browning, Cut Bank, Shelby and Havre.

Amtrak's Empire Builder traveling the tracks near Glacier National Park. Photo: Amtrak

Amtrak’s Empire Builder traveling the tracks near Glacier National Park. Photo: Amtrak

Ready for the truth?

Here it comes: the last time I rode Amtrak’s Empire Builder I was six years old and on a first grade field trip when we rode the train from Shelby, Montana to East Glacier Park, Montana which—by the way—I thought was so awesome. And since I haven’t been six years old for a few years, it seemed like it was time that I got back in the train-lovin’ saddle and took a ride through my own backyard. So I grabbed one of my favorite traveling companions and we climbed aboard the Empire Builder. And you guys, it was pretty fun.

Take a look…

Our starting point: Whitefish, Montana.

Our starting point: Whitefish, Montana.

Waiting for the train to come in.

Waiting for the train to come in.

Here's our ride.

Here’s our ride.

Making our way to our seats.

Making our way to our seats.

Fall colors were starting to arrive along the river.

Fall colors were starting to arrive along the river.

Loved this view looking back west out of the train.

Loved this view looking back west out of the train.

Something I learned on this trip: it's really hard to get good photos from the inside of a train car looking out.

Something I learned on this trip: it’s really hard to get good photos from the inside of a train car looking out. 😉

The observation car was my favorite spot on the train.

My favorite spot on the train: the observation car.

Making friends with a National Park volunteer in the observation car.

Making friends with a National Park volunteer in the observation car.

Hello, gorgeous.

Hello, gorgeous.

Coming down off Marias Pass, you're rewarded with this view.

Coming down off Marias Pass, we were rewarded with this view.

Entering the Blackfeet Nation. Traveling from west to east, you abruptly notice the change in Montana's topography as you hit the plains.

Entering the Blackfeet Nation. Traveling from west to east, you abruptly notice the change in Montana’s topography as you hit the plains.

Arriving at our destination: East Glacier Park, Montana.

Arriving at our destination: East Glacier Park, Montana.

The train station at East Glacier Park.

The train station at East Glacier Park.

Displays from the Blackfeet Nation inside the train depot at East Glacier Park.

Displays from the Blackfeet Nation inside the train depot at East Glacier Park.

It's official: we love train travel in Montana.

It’s official: we love train travel in Montana.

A few things to note when riding Amtrak’s Empire Builder to (or through) Montana:
-Go with the flow. Trains aren’t known for always operating on time; our eastbound train was 90 minutes late, but I’ve found that when doing a trip like this where things can tend to run behind, it’s easier to just roll with it. You’ll be happier and pleasantly surprised when it’s on time.
-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 (thanks to NPS guides who shared that insider tip!).
-If you’re getting on or off in Whitefish, West Glacier or East Glacier Park, plan to arrive early so you can check out the train stations. The Whitefish station has an on-site museum, while East Glacier Park has interesting and historic photos from the early time of train travel to the area.
-Don’t be afraid to ask the conductors questions about the train, best views, etc. They literally know everything there is to know and are incredibly nice.

xo,
TT