Are there any Amtrak stations that have trailheads nearby?
January 25, 2008 11:45 PM   Subscribe

How can I use Amtrak to get to a good backpacking spot?

Background: I would like to go on a solo backpacking trip over spring break. I don't have a car in good enough condition for a trip but I want to get out of the midwest aways. I have very little money to spend on this.
Question: Which (if any) Amtrak stations have trailheads close by?
posted by andythebean to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
It's pretty much in the heart of the midwest but the Katy Trail in Missouri connects with Amtrak in many places. I would imagine that searching for other rails to trails projects and cross referencing with Amtrak would turn up other matches outside the midwest.
posted by Jeff Howard at 12:12 AM on January 26, 2008

Hmm, this is a really interesting question -- where are there trailheads within walking distance of public transportation. But why Amtrak? Doesn't Greyhound go to more small towns?

The main limiting factors will be how long it takes to get there (where in the midwest?) and weather. Boulder, CO has an Amtrak station, but it'll be snowed in in mid-March. Hmm.... Interesting question...
posted by salvia at 12:44 AM on January 26, 2008

As an aside, 25 years ago or so, we took amtrak from SLC to the bay area. They stopped in the sierras to let off (and I think pick up) backpackers at trailheads far from any towns. I doubt they do that anymore.
posted by Good Brain at 12:45 AM on January 26, 2008

Several years ago I took the Capitol Limited (Chicago->DC), and I remember that the route guide mentioned that the Harper's Ferry stop was accessible to the Appalachian Trail. I'm not sure how close it actually was though.
posted by everybody polka at 12:49 AM on January 26, 2008

there are two train stops that will get you to the appalachian trail if you want to head east.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:54 AM on January 26, 2008

Probably too much snow for Spring Break, but for future reference, Googling 'Train stop in Glacier MT' brought up lots of results. Amtrak seems to stop in both East and West Glacier Park MT -- I am sure you could get to a trail from there.
posted by nnk at 6:40 AM on January 26, 2008

If you go to Denver via Amtrak, you can then probably find a train that'll take you into the mountains. I'm not sure of where to go beyond that, but if you want to stick to train, getting into the Rockies isn't that hard, and there is lots of good hiking up there.
posted by cschneid at 9:31 AM on January 26, 2008

These are great. Thanks. Like salvia said "Where are there trailheads within walking distance of public transportation?" So buses are ok too I suppose as long as I can pick them up in Ann Arbor. Again, thanks.
posted by andythebean at 10:23 AM on January 26, 2008

I always found it easier to take Greyhound to good trails than Amtrak. Just as much of a cost savings but you get to a lot smaller places more readily.
posted by moof at 2:01 PM on January 26, 2008

When's your spring break, and is it just a week? What's your tolerance for camping in the cold?

Several small towns that come to mind are snowy and/or they're too far (Telluride, Jackson Hole, Durango, Moab). The Pacific Crest Trail starts just outside San Diego, and you can take a bus to the trailhead from town, and there are places along the trail where you could duck out to a town and catch a bus back east from there (I found a page with notes about "bailing out" along the way but couldn't find it again). But getting to and from California by train or bus is going to take a week round-trip by itself.

If it's March, it seems like you're going to have to get down into somewhere like Texas or Arizona, somewhere near the coasts, or maybe Kentucky, Tennessee, or North Carolina. The Red River Gorge in Kentucky is cool, and it at least has the right temperature range (highs in the 60s lows in the 40s in March and April). But I didn't have luck finding bus connections to this particular end-to-end hike through it.

So, I haven't found anything yet, but a decent next step would be to look at Appalachian Trail guides for notes about when the trail goes through towns, and then trying to pick two towns that are the right distance apart. Or you could also try calling national forest ranger districts and national or state parks in KY, TN, and NC. I never realized how helpful people at those offices can be, but some of them are employed primarily for the purpose of giving out advice and backcountry permits to hikers, and they know much more about the parks and trail conditions than you can quickly find on the internet.
posted by salvia at 3:27 PM on January 26, 2008

2nding nnk, Amtrak does stop in East Glacier. I took a journey up from Seattle a couple of years ago and just got out there cause it looked like a good place to trek. It's a one-horse town (pretty much literally) and was out of season but the bloke who ran the diner opened up the shed/hostel for me! It's just gorgeous, loads of great hiking right out of the station - but might be a bit too snowy depending on your break time.

Alternatively, Glenwood Springs in Colorado is a good stop with a fabulous hostel and some glorious trekking, might be a bit easier, weather-wise?
posted by freya_lamb at 2:46 PM on January 27, 2008

Final update from the OP:
An update for anyone who stumbles across this thread: A startup out in Seattle has created an app that "coordinates bus routes that drop users off close to trailheads"
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:56 AM on November 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

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