Road Trip with a Train
One particular summer, we were in the peak of taking road trips with our kids, so we thought we’d try something a little different. We thought it would be cool to go on a long-distance train ride! We booked a train ride from Albuquerque to Fresno, California, however it’s not a direct route, and so it ended up making for a fascinating family adventure lol.
We rode the “Southwest Chief” Amtrak train for 16.5 hours from ABQ to LAX. Then we rode a bus for 2.5 hours from Los Angeles, through the hills of California to Bakersfield. Here, we boarded a fancy newer Amtrak train called “San Joaquin” that took us the remainder of the way to Fresno (2 more hours). By the time we reached Fresno, I felt like a professional traveler!
For the first leg of the train ride, we had a “superliner roomette”. Have you ever been in a “roomette”? The space is a 3.5’x6.5’ sized room with two bunks. Our room was conveniently located near one of the joints and the swaying and squeaking of the train did not lull me to sleep lol. I had better luck with attempting to sleep in the “Quiet Car”. Anyhow, sleep aside… the train was still a fun part of our journey.
Upon arriving in Fresno, we obtained our rental car and hotel room. Our primary destination for this quirky road trip was Sequoia National Park & Kings Canyon National Park, both of which are located in California’s southern Sierra Nevada Mountains (about an hour and a half drive from Fresno).
Sequoia NP was established in 1890 by President Benjamin Harrison, in an effort to protect the giant sequoia trees from logging. It is America’s second national park, following the famous Yellowstone NP (1872). Amazingly, 50 years later, in 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established Kings Canyon NP. The two adjacent parks cover 1,353 square miles of land; ninety-seven percent of which is designated and managed as wilderness.
One of the main attractions of the Sequoia Grove is the General Sherman Tree, located in the “Giant Forest”. This is the world’s largest tree, if you measure in volume; it stands 275 feet tall, and is over 36 feet in diameter at the base. Needless to say, General Sherman is a must see!
Another famous Sequoia attraction is known as the Tunnel Log. In 1937 a random giant sequoia tree naturally fell across one of the roads in the Park. The next year, a tunnel was cut through the fallen log, so cars could drive through it. When it fell, the tree stood 275 feet high and was 21 feet in diameter at the base. The specific age of the tree is unknown, but it probably exceeds 2,000 year old.
Be Round Trip Ready: Part of the fun of road tripping is not having an itinerary, and just exploring where the roads take you. However, we did pre-plan some of this journey, and had pre-booked our flights for the trip home. All said and done, the train ride over to California has been a fun bucket-list memory for me and my family.