Riding The Rails: Taking The Train From Chicago To Arizona

Looking to travel from the Windy City to the Grand Canyon State by rail? If you’re rushed for time, here’s the quick rundown: Amtrak operates two long-distance routes from Chicago to Arizona – the Southwest Chief to Flagstaff and the Sunset Limited to Tucson. The journey takes 2-3 days each way.

This in-depth guide provides everything you need to plan your Chicago to Arizona train trip. Learn about routes, fares, schedules, and onboard amenities. Discover the top sights and destination advice for stops along the way. Get tips for booking your tickets, preparing for the journey, and maximizing comfort on the train. Whether you’re seeking to relax or have an adventure, our insider’s perspective helps you make the most of your rail journey to Arizona.

Chicago to Arizona Train Routes

Traveling by train from Chicago to Arizona offers a unique and scenic way to experience the beauty of the American Southwest. Two popular train routes connect these two destinations: the Southwest Chief and the Sunset Limited.

Southwest Chief

The Southwest Chief is a legendary cross-country train route that takes you from Chicago to Los Angeles, passing through Arizona along the way. This route is operated by Amtrak and offers breathtaking views of the Midwest, the Great Plains, and the stunning landscapes of New Mexico and Arizona.

As you journey through Arizona on the Southwest Chief, you’ll have the opportunity to see iconic landmarks such as the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest National Park, and the historic Route 66. The train stops in several cities in Arizona, including Flagstaff and Kingman, giving you the chance to explore these vibrant communities.

With comfortable seating, spacious observation cars, and onboard amenities like dining cars and Wi-Fi, the Southwest Chief ensures that your journey is as enjoyable as the destination itself. So sit back, relax, and let the train take you on an unforgettable adventure through the heart of America.

Sunset Limited

The Sunset Limited is another popular train route that connects Chicago to Arizona. Operated by Amtrak, this route takes you from Chicago to New Orleans, with stops in Arizona’s major cities including Tucson and Phoenix.

On the Sunset Limited, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the stunning desert landscapes of Arizona, with its vast expanses of cacti and rugged mountains. The train offers panoramic windows, allowing you to take in the breathtaking scenery as you make your way through the state.

Whether you choose the Southwest Chief or the Sunset Limited, traveling by train from Chicago to Arizona is a truly unique and memorable experience. It allows you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the journey while taking in the diverse and beautiful landscapes of the American Southwest.

For more information on train routes, schedules, and ticket prices, visit the official Amtrak website.

Planning Your Train Trip

Booking Tickets

When it comes to booking tickets for your train trip from Chicago to Arizona, there are a few options available. One of the most convenient ways to book tickets is through the official website of Amtrak, the national rail service provider.

Their website allows you to easily search for available trains, select your preferred class and seating options, and make the payment securely. Alternatively, you can also book tickets through third-party travel websites or visit the ticket counter at the train station.

It’s important to book your tickets well in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. This will ensure that you secure your preferred train and seating options, as well as potentially benefit from any early bird discounts or promotions.

Schedules and Time Considerations

Before finalizing your train trip, it’s essential to consider the schedules and time factors. The journey from Chicago to Arizona typically takes around 40 to 50 hours, depending on the specific route and train you choose.

It’s important to check the train schedules and departure times to ensure they align with your travel plans.

Keep in mind that train schedules are subject to change, so it’s always a good idea to double-check closer to your departure date. Additionally, be prepared for potential delays, as trains can sometimes experience unforeseen circumstances that may affect the arrival time.

When planning your trip, consider factors like the duration of the journey, layovers, and any specific time constraints you may have. It’s always better to have some flexibility in your schedule to accommodate any unexpected delays or changes.

Food and Lodging

During your train trip, you’ll have access to onboard dining services, which offer a variety of meals and snacks. Amtrak trains typically have a dining car where you can enjoy a hot meal while enjoying the scenic views along the way.

Additionally, there are also snack bars or cafes available on most trains, where you can grab a quick bite or a refreshing beverage.

If you prefer to bring your own food, you are more than welcome to do so. Many passengers opt to pack their own snacks or even bring a small cooler with sandwiches and drinks. Just make sure to check the guidelines provided by Amtrak regarding food and beverages allowed on board.

When it comes to lodging, there are different accommodation options available on Amtrak trains. You can choose from coach seats, which provide a comfortable reclining seat for the duration of the journey, or opt for a more luxurious experience in a sleeping car.

Sleeping cars offer private rooms with beds, showers, and access to various amenities.

It’s important to note that sleeping car accommodations come at an additional cost and should be booked in advance due to limited availability. If you decide to go for a sleeping car, you’ll have the added benefit of having a dedicated attendant who will assist you throughout the journey.

For more information on train amenities, food options, and accommodations, you can visit the official Amtrak website at www.amtrak.com.

Onboard Experience

Seating and Sleeping Options

When taking the train from Chicago to Arizona, passengers have a variety of seating and sleeping options to choose from. For those looking for a comfortable and spacious seat, the standard coach class is a great choice.

With ample legroom and adjustable seats, passengers can relax and enjoy the journey. For those who prefer a bit more privacy and comfort, there are also sleeper cars available. These cars offer private rooms with beds, allowing passengers to get a good night’s sleep while traveling.

Luggage Policies

When it comes to luggage policies, Amtrak, the national train service provider, has some guidelines in place to ensure a smooth and hassle-free journey. Each passenger is allowed to bring two carry-on bags and two checked bags, with specific size and weight restrictions.

It’s important to pack efficiently and consider the limited storage space available on the train. Additionally, it’s a good idea to keep essential items in a smaller bag that can easily be kept with you at your seat.


Traveling by train offers a unique and enjoyable experience, and part of that experience is the amenities available onboard. Passengers can take advantage of amenities such as onboard dining options, allowing them to enjoy a delicious meal while taking in the scenic views.

There are also lounge cars where passengers can relax, socialize, and even enjoy a cocktail or two. Additionally, many trains offer Wi-Fi, allowing passengers to stay connected throughout their journey.

It’s important to note that the availability of amenities may vary depending on the specific train and route.

Major Stops and Sightseeing


One of the major stops along the train route from Chicago to Arizona is Albuquerque, New Mexico. Known for its rich Native American and Hispanic heritage, Albuquerque offers a diverse range of attractions for visitors to explore.

One must-visit destination is the historic Old Town, where you can stroll through charming adobe buildings, browse unique shops, and enjoy local cuisine. For nature enthusiasts, the Sandia Mountains provide a stunning backdrop for outdoor activities such as hiking and mountain biking.

Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the vibrant culture of Albuquerque through events like the annual International Balloon Fiesta, where hundreds of colorful hot air balloons fill the sky.


As the train continues its journey, the next major stop is Flagstaff, Arizona. Nestled in the Coconino National Forest and surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty, Flagstaff is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.

Hiking enthusiasts can explore the iconic trails of the San Francisco Peaks or take a scenic drive along the famous Route 66. For those interested in history and culture, a visit to the Lowell Observatory is a must.

This renowned research facility offers guided tours and stargazing sessions, allowing visitors to gaze at the wonders of the universe. Flagstaff is also home to a vibrant downtown area, with a wide range of shops, restaurants, and art galleries to explore.


The final major stop on the train journey from Chicago to Arizona is Tucson. With its warm climate and stunning desert landscapes, Tucson offers a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural attractions.

One of the highlights of a visit to Tucson is the Saguaro National Park, home to the iconic saguaro cactus. Hiking trails wind through the desert, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with these majestic plants.

History buffs will enjoy exploring the Mission San Xavier del Bac, a beautiful Spanish colonial mission that dates back to the 18th century. For those interested in art and culture, the Tucson Museum of Art and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum are must-visit destinations.

Each of these major stops along the train route from Chicago to Arizona offers its own unique attractions and experiences. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or culture, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

So hop on board, sit back, and let the train take you on an unforgettable journey through the Southwest.

Tips for Riding the Rails

Packing Essentials

When embarking on a train journey from Chicago to Arizona, it’s important to pack wisely to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable trip. Here are some essential items to consider:

  • Comfortable Clothing: Opt for loose-fitting, breathable clothes that allow for easy movement.
  • Layering: Trains can vary in temperature, so it’s a good idea to pack layers that can be added or removed as needed.
  • Snacks and Drinks: While many trains offer dining options, it’s always wise to bring along some snacks and beverages to keep you fueled throughout the journey.
  • Entertainment: Don’t forget to pack your favorite books, magazines, or electronic devices to keep yourself entertained during the trip.
  • Travel Essentials: Don’t forget items like a neck pillow, earplugs, and a sleep mask to ensure a restful journey.


Long train rides can provide ample opportunities for relaxation and entertainment. Here are some ideas to keep yourself entertained during the journey:

  • Books and Magazines: Catch up on your reading list and immerse yourself in a captivating novel or magazine.
  • Music and Podcasts: Create a playlist or download your favorite podcasts to enjoy during the trip.
  • Games and Puzzles: Engage in some brain-teasing activities like crosswords or Sudoku to pass the time.
  • Scenic Views: Take advantage of the train’s large windows and enjoy the stunning scenery along the way.
  • Socializing: Strike up conversations with fellow travelers and make new friends during the journey.


While some trains offer dining cars with delicious meals, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead for your dining needs during the journey:

  • Research Dining Options: Check the train’s website or speak to customer service to get an idea of the available dining options and their timings.
  • Bring Snacks: Pack some light snacks and beverages to enjoy between meals or in case you get hungry during odd hours.
  • Try Local Cuisine: If the train makes stops along the way, consider trying some local cuisine at the stations for a unique dining experience.
  • Meal Reservations: Some trains require reservations for meals, so make sure to check if it’s necessary and book in advance if needed.
  • Dietary Restrictions: If you have any specific dietary restrictions or allergies, inform the train staff in advance to ensure they can accommodate your needs.

Remember, riding the rails from Chicago to Arizona is not just a means of transportation, but also an exciting adventure. By following these tips, you can make the most out of your journey and create unforgettable memories.


Crossing the country by rail from Chicago to Arizona offers a relaxed pace and unique perspective of the American landscape. Advance planning for tickets, accommodations and rail-friendly packing will ensure a smooth journey. Settle in to the rhythm of the rails and enjoy extraordinary scenery and destinations between the heartland and the desert on this epic transcontinental trip.

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