The Adirondack travels from New York City, through scenic Hudson Valley, past Lake Champlain before crossing into Canada and on to Montreal. This 12-hour train ride is one of the most scenic Amtrak routes on the East Coast.
Heading north, you depart New York’s Moynihan Train Hall in the morning and arrive in Montreal in the evening. Coming from Baltimore, we grabbed an o-dark-thirty Acela to reach NYC in time to pick up the departing train at 8 a.m. After taking Amtrak’s California Zephyr earlier this year, I became a huge fan of train travel. It seemed an ideal way to travel up to Montreal while enjoying the New York countryside!
Returning from Montreal was dicier with regard to timing. We left Montreal around 11 a.m.; the Adirondack pulled back into Penn Station in NYC at close to 11 p.m., well after any trains back to Baltimore had departed. Instead of booking a hotel, we instead booked the 3:30 a.m. train back to Maryland. We arrived home, completely exhausted, just after the sun rose at 6 a.m.
The Adirondack Route
So while technically NOT a daytrip, this scenic train ride is worth taking! There is no “wrong side” to sit to enjoy the views. Headed north, the water views are on the left side as the tracks parallel the mighty Hudson River, past Croton-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie and Rhineclift up to Albany, where it crosses the Hudson River. On the return ride to NYC, we enjoyed watching the sun set over the Hudson River.
After Albany, the Adirondack heads west to Schenectady before veering back northeast to Saratoga Springs. From there, it’s a brief ride to Whitehall, where, soon afterward, the train starts running along the New York shore of the very lovely and very long Lake Champlain, on the right of the train. You’ll spend most of the next four hours enjoying this beautiful lake, sometimes with only a few feet between the track and the water.
What You’ll See on the Adirondack
The first half of the train ride takes you through the Hudson Valley. I loved that we passed places I recognized and have written about. So many fun daytrip adventures in the Hudson Valley, and this train ride allowed me to enjoy them all over again as we traveled past them on the map.
I recognized Bear Mountain, a scant hour after we left the city, where we took that amazing hike into Doodletown. On the right, we were traveling just below the Hudson Highlands State Park and the Cornish Ruins. Then we passed West Point, on the opposite shore, with Foundry Park on the train’s right. And, of course, the ruins of Bannerman Castle, on an island in the Hudson River on the left, then Madam Brett Park on the right, in close succession.
Soon, we were traveling below the Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie. Some of the big Gilded Era mansions dot the bluffs high above the train tracks: Vanderbilt Mansion and Staatsburg Mansion among them. Then we spotted Esopus Meadows Lighthouse and the Roundout Lighthouse nearer to Kingston.
Once we hit White Hall, you can briefly glimpse the famous Fort Ticonderoga, on my daytrip bucket list (as is, actually, the entire New York side of Lake Champlain).
What To Expect on the Adirondack
The Amtrak Adirondack is a daytime route, taking 10- to 12-hours to journey between New York and Montreal. You’ll find spacious reclining seats that put airlines to shame in coach class. Along with plenty of leg room — yes, you can cross your legs — you’ll also enjoy dining trays, reading lights and electric outlets. There’s also plenty of places to store your bags, even on a full train. On Fridays through Mondays, you’ll find full trains. Tuesdays through Thursdays, there are fewer travelers.
A café car offers the typical beverages and foods. You’ll have the gamut of:
- breakfast foods such as muffins, omelets and loaded bagels;
- lunch items such as Angus Cheeseburger, a Vegan BBQ Burger and Mac and Cheese; and
- snacks such as vegetable crudites with hummus, cookies, chips and candies.
You may also purchase alcoholic beverages, until you hit the Canadian border. Periodically, the café car shuts down briefly, such as at a shift change or as it approaches the international border.
Traveling from New York City to Montreal, you can expect about a 2-hour stop to get through Canadian customs. Returning back to NYC, we were stopped less than 1 hour by US customs.
Know Before You Go
Note that you’ll need identification documents if you plan to ride to the end of the line in Canada. Be patient and polite at the border crossing — they’re just doing their job.
We brought a small carry-on cooler with snacks, drinks and lunch sandwiches, but there are multiple food options, including vegetarian and gluten-free, offered in the café car. The bathrooms, available on every car, were functional and clean.
You’ll want to bring along things to entertain yourself with — books, earbuds, games. But there’s nothing more relaxing than traveling by train, seeing the countryside stream by your window! But really, as you travel past the spectacular views, the journey is the point.