5 Best Montana Train Tours for Every Adventurer

Montana’s endless landscapes, vast forests, and stunning mountain ranges are all best seen from a unique vantage point — a train. From Amtrak’s Empire Builder traversing Glacier Country to the open-air Last Chance Tour Train in Helena, Montana offers a variety of train tours that showcase its natural beauty.

In this article, we’ll explore the top 5 Montana train tours, a historic journey that takes you through the beautiful countryside. With tours offering a combination of delicious dining and captivating entertainment and even wagon train rides for a more rustic experience, you won’t fall short in Big Sky Country.

So, if you’ve ever wondered how Montana looks from a historic train’s window, join us as we highlight the top train tours across the state. Journeys that not only transport you through the state’s most iconic landscapes but also offer a glimpse into its diverse cultural and natural heritage.

7 Key Takeaways on Montana Train Tours

  1. Amtrak’s Empire Builder is a popular scenic train ride in Glacier Country, showcasing stunning natural beauty with notable stops including East Glacier, West Glacier, and Whitefish.
  2. The Last Chance Tour Train in Helena offers a historical journey with tours starting at $12 for adults and covering significant sights like the Old Fire Tower and the Last Chance Gulch.
  3. The Charlie Russell Chew-Choo Dinner Train offers a unique 56-mile (90 km) experience, complete with live entertainment, a full dinner, and a choice of regular or VIP tickets.
  4. The Alder Gulch Shortline Train provides a short, educational, and scenic ride connecting Virginia City to Nevada City operating from May to September.
  5. Montana offers wagon train rides, providing a cowboy or cowgirl experience in Missouri River Country, and a more extended 4-day ranch adventure with Montana Outfitters.
  6. Each train tour offers a distinct way to explore Montana’s landscapes, adding a unique dimension to your travel experience.
  7. Whether you’re drawn to the rhythm of railway tracks or the slower pace of a wagon ride, Montana’s variety of train tours and wagon adventures promise memorable and immersive travel experiences.

Best Montana Train Tours

A gleaming train at a station under a night sky, ready for a Montana train tour.

Montana’s train travel opens up a whole new way to experience its diverse landscapes, from the sweeping plains to the rugged mountain ranges. These are some of the best train tours in the state, offering not just a ride, but an unforgettable journey through some of the state’s most stunning regions.

So, if you’re ready to slow down and take in the beauty around you, these train tours are the perfect way to do it.

1. Amtrak’s Empire Builder

An Amtrak train called the Empire Builder powering through a snowy landscape, one of the best Montana train tours.
source: facebook.com

Train NameDescription
Amtrak’s Empire BuilderA fantastic way to ease into Montana’s majestic beauty, this train weaves through the northern part of Glacier Country, showcasing nature at its best.

Here are some train stops that stand out along the Empire Builder’s route:

  • Cut Bank – Not far from Cut Bank, you can visit a monument paying tribute to Meriwether Lewis, one of the first explorers to search for a way through the Rocky Mountains.
  • Browning – Found in the foothills near Glacier National Park, Browning is home to the Blackfeet Nation.
  • East Glacier – This stop, made back in 1913, is right next to the Glacier Park Lodge, a historic gem.
  • Marias Pass – The Empire Builder takes the path that Lewis and Clark once searched for, crossing the Rocky Mountains at Marias Pass.
  • West Glacier – Stop at the Belton station in West Glacier, the gateway to Glacier National Park from the west.
  • Whitefish – With its alpine-style station, Whitefish is the door to both community life and the popular Whitefish Mountain Resort.
  • Libby – Wrapping up its journey, Amtrak stops in this quiet northwest Montana town, a perfect spot to explore the untouched beauty nearby.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder offers a daily escape from cities like Seattle and Portland, as well as Minneapolis and Chicago. This train weaves through Glacier Country, showering you with natural beauty the entire way.

2. Last Chance Tour Train

The Last Chance Tour train covered in snow, great for Montana train tours.
source: facebook.com

Train NameLocationDescription
Last Chance Tour TrainHelena, MontanaTakes you on a journey through history aboard open-air tour trains, offering tours for individuals, groups, and schools, perfect for anyone interested in Montana’s past.

Here are some of the marvelous sights you’ll see along the way aboard the Last Chance Tour Train:

  • The Cathedral of St. Helena – With its towering 230-foot spires, it promises a breathtaking view.
  • Reeder’s Alley – A restored miners’ village, it offers a glimpse of Montana’s gold rush days.
  • Pioneer Cabin – Dating back to 1864, the cabin portrays Helena’s early heritage.
  • The Old Fire Tower – Erected in 1876, it stands as one of the last remaining fire towers in the U.S.
  • Last Chance Gulch – Lined with unique downtown architecture, it boasts buildings adorned with giant lizards, thumbprints, and gargoyles.
  • State Capitol – Showcasing Montana’s impressive Greek Renaissance design.
  • Mansion District – Home to the opulent dream houses of Helena’s mining elite, including the Governors’ residences.

When it comes to the ticket prices for this exciting journey, here’s what you can expect: 

Adults and Teenagers$12.00
Seniors 60+$11.00
Children ages 4-12$9.00
Children 3 & underNo charge
Group Charter$11.00/person, $330 minimum charge
School Group Charter$5.00/person, $100 minimum charge

This diverse pricing structure ensures that everyone, from history buffs to families with young children, can afford to hop on the Last Chance Tour Train for a memorable experience.

3. Charlie Russell Chew-Choo Dinner Train

The Charlie Russell Chew-Choo Dinner Train basks in the warm glow of a sunset, one of the best Montana train tours.
source: facebook.com

Train NameDescription
Charlie Russell Chew-Choo Dinner TrainRushes through plateaus and rich pastures, offering a 56-mile (90 km) adventure filled with brilliant acts, melodious tunes, and a prime rib dinner.

This four-and-one-half-hour train ride takes you on a journey through the beautiful Central Montana mountains and allows you to witness breathtaking sunsets. Tickets are available for the Charlie Russell Chew-Choo Dinner Train on 8 general trains and 3 specialty trains throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

During the train ride, you will have the chance to see the abundant wildlife, rolling hills, vast ranchlands, and picturesque views of Big Sky Country. The train crosses 3 historic trestles and even passes through a half-mile-long tunnel. 

To board the train, make your way to the Hanover Boarding Station which is located approximately 10 miles (16 km) and 20-25 minutes from Main St, Lewistown. It is recommended to allow yourself plenty of driving time to reach the boarding station.

For the ticket pricing, refer to the chart below:

TicketAdult Price (14 & over)Child Price (13 & under)
Regular Tickets$139.00$129.00
VIP Tickets$169.00$159.00

Don’t miss out on this unique and memorable dining experience aboard the Charlie Russell Chew-Choo Dinner Train. Book your tickets now and take on a journey through the stunning landscapes of Montana.

4. Alder Gulch Shortline Train

The Alder Gulch Shortline train releases steam into the air as it stands on the tracks.
source: facebook.com

Train NameDescription
Alder Gulch Shortline TrainEstablished in 1964 by Charlie Bovey, this historic train links Virginia City to Nevada City, just a mile and a half away. Offering a 15-minute ride, it provides scenic views and educational experiences about the area.

Operating from May 25 to September 2, the Alder Gulch Shortline Train comes with a unique catch; tickets are available only in person on a first-come, first-served basis. Plus, it’s crucial to plan ahead as this charming ride doesn’t operate during bad weather.

Here’s how the Alder Gulch Shortline adventure is structured:

  • Virginia City Depot and Information Center – This is the starting point for this memorable journey, offering access to the Alder Gulch Shortline Railroad and the Montana Heritage Commission (MHC) Visitor Information Center. This is where you secure your tickets for the tour.
  • Nevada City Museum and Music Hall Entrance – This spot marks the start of the train ride, located just across from the Bovey Visitor Center. Here, too, you can obtain tickets and passes from the Montana Heritage Commission.

Sealing the deal are the train fares, making it an accessible and pocket-friendly experience for all kinds of travelers. Check out the chart below for detailed ticket pricing:

Adult Round Trip$10
Adult One Way$ 8
Youth(4-11) / Senior(65+) Round Trip$ 8
Youth / Senior One Way$ 6
Groups of 6+ Round Trip$ 8 each
Children 3 and UnderFree

This trip is not only a visual delight but also a pocket-friendly experience well-suited for group outings, family adventures, or solo explorations. With natural beauty all around, the Alder Gulch Shortline Train promises a uniquely enriching journey that’s as educational as it is entertaining.

5. Wagon Train Rides

A horse pulls a covered wagon train with two passengers enjoying the ride, courtesy of Montana Outfitters.
source: facebook.com

Train NameDescription
Montana Train RidesOffers wagon adventures that are just as memorable as traditional train tours, providing unique experiences for travelers.

Here are two rides I’d recommend:

  • Missouri River Country – This place hosts lively Wagon Train Rides where you can feel like a true cowboy or cowgirl. Get a chance to feel the excitement of horse-pulled wagons roaming through the vast prairies.
  • Montana Outfitters – For a longer escapade, consider Montana Outfitters’ 4-day, 3-night Wagon Train Adventure. It’s a real treat, offering a deeper dive into the ranch experience with a bit of comfort mixed in.

If you’re up for a slightly different pace from traditional trains, hitch a ride on one of these wagons. The scenery and the thrill are just as good!

Montana Train Tours Final Thoughts

The Amtrak Empire Builder speeds along the tracks during Montana train tours.

Montana’s train tours rekindle the romance of travel, painting vivid tapestries from Glacier Country’s mountainous horizons to Helena’s historical nooks. Whether aboard Amtrak’s Empire Builder or savoring a meal on the Charlie Russell Chew-Choo, each journey offers a unique peek into Montana’s heart.

This collection of memorable train rides captures Montana’s allure, making it a must-visit for those yearning for an adventure beyond the beaten path, with choices that cater to history buffs, nature enthusiasts, and families alike.

The pictures we painted here are mere frames of the full experience, where every turn of the track reveals a new chapter. So, ready your mind for discovery and your heart for wonder, as Montana’s trains await to sweep you off on an unforgettable odyssey.

Montana Train Tours FAQs

1. Does Amtrak Go through Montana?

Amtrak operates the Empire Builder route, which runs daily between Seattle/Portland and Chicago via Minneapolis.

This route traverses the northern half of Montana, offering stops in several charming communities in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, providing passengers with scenic views and opportunities to explore the region’s beauty.

2. Is There a Train That Goes Through Montana?

Amtrak’s Empire Builder train service travels through the northern section of Montana’s Glacier Country, offering passengers a scenic and relaxing journey through the stunning terrain of the state.

This route provides travelers with an opportunity to experience Montana’s beauty while enjoying the comfort of train travel.

3. What Cities Does Amtrak Serve in Montana?

Amtrak serves several cities and towns in Montana along its Empire Builder route, with multiple stops near Glacier National Park and stations in various small towns.

Some of the cities served include Browning (BRO), Cut Bank (CUT), East Glacier Park (GPK), Essex (ESM), Glasgow (GGW), Havre (HAV), Libby (LIB), Malta (MAL), Shelby (SBY), West Glacier (WGL), Whitefish (WFH), and Wolf Point (WPT).

4. What Cities Does Amtrak Stop at in Montana?

Amtrak’s Empire Builder route in Montana stops at several cities and towns, providing passengers with access to the state’s stunning landscapes and charming communities.

Some of the key cities served include Browning, Cut Bank, East Glacier Park, Essex, Glasgow, Havre, Libby, Malta, Shelby, West Glacier, Whitefish, and Wolf Point, offering travelers opportunities to explore various regions of the state.

5. What Happened to the Amtrak Train in Montana?

On September 25, 2021, the westbound Empire Builder, an Amtrak passenger train, derailed west of the town of Joplin, Montana, United States. The train, carrying 149 passengers and 16 crew members, experienced a derailment incident, killing 3 passengers and injuring 49 passengers and crew.

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Written by:

Elizabeth Hawley
Hey, fellow travelers! I'm Elizabeth Hawley, stepping into the world in the hues of fall. For me, Montana is more than just a state; it's a muse. The golden aspen trees and russet landscapes in the fall have always fueled my creativity. Co-founding PocketMontana.com was a no-brainer, blending my love for art, photography, and Montana's ever-changing palette.

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