9 Days/8 Nights – Gateway: Chicago, IL
INDEPENDENT RAIL TOUR WESTERN EXPLORER
9 Days/8 Nights – Gateway: Chicago, IL
Welcome to the vibrant and bustling city of Chicago clinging to the southern shores of Lake Michigan. Home to skyscrapers (it’s here the word originated), lakefront beaches, and restaurants reflecting its regional food specialties, magnificent shopping and unique architecture that epitomizes the spirit of the city.
2 nights Chicago, IL
A four hour tour of the city shows you the North and South Side business and residential districts for stunning architecture and fascinating history. During this tour you will visit all of the beautiful parks including Lincoln Park, Washington Park and Grant Park. See virtually the entire length of the scenic Outer Drive along Lake Michigan. Stops will be made at the fascinating Lincoln Park Conservatory and the Museum Campus, known for its breathtaking view.
Depart this afternoon on Amtrak’s “Empire Builder” heading westward for the Great Plains and Big Sky Country. Traveling daily between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest along major portions of the Lewis and Clark trail, the mighty Empire Builder takes you on an exciting adventure through dramatic wilderness, following the footsteps of early pioneers. This is one of the most majestic routes on the US rail system and today you’ll have magnificent views of the Mississippi and see the glowing night skyline of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Overnight on the Empire Builder Train
Awake this morning in the state of North Dakota as the train passes Rugby the geographical center of the United States. Traveling through an area where Sitting Bull and the Sioux Nation lived we cross into Montana passing Wolf Point, home of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Near Wagner on July 3, 1901, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s “Wild Bunch” pulled off one last great train robbery – a hold up of the Great Northern Flyer and then it’s the Bear’s Paw Mountains where in 1877, after a 1,700-mile retreat, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians recognizing the hopelessness of his position, finally surrendered to the U.S. Army. At Cut Bank we get our first view of the Rockies, then passing Browning, headquarters of the Blackfeet Indian Nation, we finally arrive at Glacier National Park and the famous Glacier Park Lodge our home for the next two nights. The lodge located in close proximity to the National Park has a western theme and you’ll be amazed at the huge Douglas fir pillars that are over 40 feet high and 40 inches in diameter forming a support in the distinguished lobby
2 nights Glacier Park Lodge.
Included today is a full day tour of this magnificent park with the itinerary due to the seasonality of the tours either Old North Trail Tour or International Peace Park Tour. Final tour will be confirmed at the time of the booking
Old North Trail Tour: This morning drive over Marias Pass, with wildlife viewing at Goat Lick and a stop at the historic Izaak Walton Inn. After an optional lunch at Lake McDonald Lodge, tour the grand cedar and hemlock forests that lie within the Lake McDonald Valley. Ascend to the high alpine region of the Going-to-the-Sun Road at Logan Pass and down into the St. Mary Valley. Stop at the Wild Goose Island overlook for another incredible photo opportunity. The tour finishes with grand vistas of grassland, prairie and mountains as you arrive back at your hotel.
International Peace Park Tour: Begin your morning on the Old North Trail, one of the oldest highways in the world. See unparalleled views as you wind along Montana plains and peaks. Visit the incredible Many Glacier Valley along the way to Waterton Lakes National Park and the historic Prince of Wales Hotel. Arrive just in time for the optional Afternoon Tea served in the lobby, overlooking the Waterton Valley with views looking back into Montana. Return along the base of Chief Mountain, the spiritual landmark of the Blackfeet Indians. A Passport is required for this tour.
Most of the day to relax and enjoy the scenery and then this evening we re-join the Empire Builder train and spend the night continuing with our westward journey.
Early this morning we travel the Cascade Mountains via the 7.8 mile Cascade Tunnel bored under Stevens Pass and then as we approach the coast we journey for approximately 30 miles beside Puget Sound. Then crossing the Salmon Bay Inlet we come to Seattle named the “Emerald City” for its famed access to a pristine mountain wilderness.
2 nights Seattle, WA
With some of the World’s most stunning wilderness and waterways surrounding Seattle it is amazing how much wildness survives within the city limits! This morning’s tour is fun, educational and informative as it leads you around the city following the “Emerald Necklace” of city parks, woodlands, neighborhoods, locks, college campuses and shorelines. You will have the opportunity to spot for Pacific Northwest birds and wildlife, including expert interpretation of local and natural history, culture, geology, urban ecosystems. Take in the historical Pioneer Square area of old Seattle, learn of the Great Seattle Fire, the Klondike Gold Rush and hear the history of the Space Needle, Smith Tower, Pike Place Market, catch a glimpse of the Olympic Sculpture Park, a nine-acre open and vibrant green space for art! Enjoy morning tea while taking in the iconic views of the city at Kerry Park. Next drive along Magnolia bluff spying stunning homes and the majestic Pacific Madrones on the way to the 534-acre Discovery Park, the largest park in Seattle! The site is one of breathtaking majesty overlooking Puget Sound and offering spectacular views of both the Cascade and the Olympic Mountain ranges. Enjoy an optional nature walk at the park to view some of the local flora, fauna, wildlife, and birds. While in Fremont we make a sweet stop at the only organic, fair trade, bean-to-bar chocolate factory in the USA and sample confections that delight your palate, ignite your imagination and inspire you to think and act sustainably!
Your tour ends today as you take your flight home