Train to Town: A Guide to Traveling by Train Across Michigan

Embark on an adventure along lesser-traveled tracks. Here’s where (and how) to explore Michigan by Amtrak train.

A Midwest Amtrak train traveling by flowering trees.
Amtrak Routes in Michigan | Photo Courtesy of MDOT Photo Unit

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Adventure travel takes many forms in Michigan. Cyclists can cruise by bike along Michigan’s vast network of bike trails in the city and in the forest. Hikers can explore the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore or go backpacking on the Manistee River. Anglers can cast a line and fish for salmon on all five of The Great Lakes.

But for a lesser-known yet equally exciting experience in Michigan, travelers can town-hop by train via Amtrak.

In this guide, we share what cities to explore by train across Michigan, and how to plan your own Amtrak adventure.

A Sustainable Way to Travel

Aside from the unrivaled comfort and convenience of traveling by train, visitors and locals who explore Michigan by train also tread with a lighter environmental footprint. A recent report by Amtrak found train travel produces 83% fewer carbon emissions than driving – and up to 73% fewer emissions than flying. From alleviated congestion on highways and in the air to fewer carbon emissions per passenger, traveling by train can serve as a more sustainable solution for exploring Michigan.

A Midwest Amtrak train traveling by a bed of tulips and a "Welcome to Holland" sign.
Amtrak in Holland | Photo Courtesy of MDOT Photo Unit

Amtrak Routes Across Michigan

Whether you're a Chicagoan on your way to New Buffalo, a Metro-Detroiter heading west to the Lake Michigan, or a traveler interested in stopping somewhere in between – Michigan Amtrak operates three unique train routes to travel across the state:

Amtrak Pro Tip: Like a little luxury? Opt for Business Class for access to amenities like refundable tickets (if your travel plans change), free coffee and tea, access to the private Business Class train car, extra legroom, a personal service attendant and bonus points if you’re an Amtrak Guest Rewards member.

4 Michigan Train to Town Itineraries

Snag a ticket for these four train routes to visit lesser-explored destinations across the state.

1. Chicago to New Buffalo

1 hour 15 minutes – via the Wolverine train
Ditch the bustle of Chicago for the tranquil beauty of West Michigan. While in town, eat local at the Terrace Room, bike to Seedz Brewing and shop at the New Buffalo Farmer's Market between Memorial Day to Labor Day. Take a hike at Galien River County Park, a sprawling 86-acre wilderness area, or swim, picnic and relax at New Buffalo Beach lakefront park.

2. Grand Rapids to St. Joseph

2 hours 9 minutes – via the Pere Marquette train
Travel from the second-largest city in Michigan to St. Joseph, a quaint community with small-town charm, sandy beaches and two century-old lighthouses waiting to be explored. Stop into The Market, a year-round indoor farmers market located downtown for fresh produce, craft beer and local music. Or, visit the nearby River Saint Joe in Buchanan, a farmstead brewery serving locally-grown food with a scenic view of the farm. 

3. East Lansing to Port Huron

2 hours 31 minutes – via the Blue Water train
MSU students and capital area Michiganders can head east to explore Port Huron, one of Michigan’s oldest cities and richest with maritime history. Take advantage of restaurants, entertainment and the waterfront along the St. Clair River with stops at the historic Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, a visit to one (or all) of the Port Huron Museums, or time your trip with the annual Bayview Mackinac Boat Race in mid-July. 

4. Kalamazoo to Royal Oak

3 hours 35 minutes – via the Wolverine train
Connect the metropolitan and entertainment epicenters of Kalamazoo and Royal Oak for a weekend getaway filled with music, cultural food and street festivals. Home to The Detroit Zoo, Royal Oak has quickly grown to a popular spot for its walkability and local charm. Check out the North End Taproom for beer, the Royal Oak Music Theatre for bands on tour and Habatat Detroit Fine Art, the oldest and largest glass art gallery in the U.S.

About the Author: Erica Zazo is a Chicago-based freelance writer who loves to write about adventure travel in her home state of Michigan and beyond. Follow her adventures on Instagram.