Every autumn, my family used to pile into our minivan and hit the open road from the suburbs of Long Island to my grandparents’ farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (yep, Amish Country). I was convinced there was no better way to appreciate the fall foliage, and it was one of my favorite childhood traditions.
Then I grew up and realized that actually planning a road trip totally sucks. Traffic, detours, tolls, speed traps, refueling at questionable highway exit gas stations -- when you really get down to it, that just sounds like work. That’s when I figured, why not leave all the planning to the original masters of cross-country transportation?
Turns out taking a train is way easier: naps, incredible scenery, abundant snacks, a bar car. More than spring and summer, autumn is a cheap time of year to take a trip for the pure scenery of it. From Napa Valley to New England, you can find plenty of rail trails that make for a prime leaf peeping getaway. Bust out your flannel, because these are some of the best (and most affordable) routes across America to explore this autumn.
MORE: America’s biggest small-town Halloween fests