The long, gray highway has nothing on the whistle-tooting, easygoing nostalgia of a train ride. For travelers keen to see Toronto, Amtrak offers the Maple Leaf Route: a beguiling day's journey that meanders through quaint East Coast spots on its way between the high-flying urban centers of New York City and Toronto. The route slips along the stately Hudson River Valley, the rolling hills of New York's wine-growing regions and the jutting topography of the Finger Lakes. Not long before its final destination, the route glances close to America's beloved postcard classic: Niagara Falls.
Trails & Rails
The Maple Leaf Route is part of Amtrak's Trails & Rails program, a heritage-emphasizing partnership between Amtrak and the National Park Service that's focused on natural and cultural educational opportunities. Rail travel already qualifies firmly in the "green" camp, and Trails & Rails extends that environmentally friendly pedigree to connect travelers to explore national parks and protected areas along the route. The Trails & Rails section of the Maple Leaf route extends from Albany to Syracuse, New York. This segment introduces travelers to the historic Erie Canal Way National Heritage Area, as well as the Fort Stanwick National Historic Site in a part of the state that boasts more than 500 miles of historic waterways, bike trails and walking paths.
All Maple Leaf trains provide passengers with free, non-broadband Wi-Fi. This basic service allows passengers sufficient access to check email and browse the web, but bandwidth limitations prevent streaming or downloading large files. Spacious coach seats have individual electrical outlets and ample legroom. The Maple Leaf trains also feature a cafe car, which serves food, drink and alcohol for an additional charge. Table seating offers a cozy perch to enjoy the food and the passing view.
Because the Maple Leaf is not an overnight route, there are no berths available on the route's trains. Instead, passengers choose between seating in coach or business class. The latter provides cozier seats with a bit more wiggle room, but does not upgrade Internet access or views.
Trip Length and Frequency
Amtrak schedules daily departures for the Maple Leaf route. The full trip between New York City and Toronto takes 12 hours and 30 minutes, plus any additional border-crossing delay. Interesting places such as Syracuse, Rochester and Niagara Falls are passed along the way.
The Maple Leaf route requires a U.S.-Canada border crossing. Because the crossing requires a document check for every passenger, delays may occur on account of customs and immigration procedures. Make sure to have a passport or trusted traveler card when crossing.
When making a reservation for the Maple Leaf route, each passenger will be asked to provide personal information - including date of birth, gender, citizenship and passport details. Inaccuracy or incompleteness of this information leads to extensive questioning at the border crossing, so double-check before submitting.
Americans traveling on the Maple Leaf should arrive at the station about one hour before departure for border-related paperwork processing. At the border, each passenger must present the official with an original of the same documentation that was described during the reservation process. Non-American and non-Canadian citizens should allow about two hours for additional paperwork.