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Riding Amtrak's Most Scenic Train Route

Riding Amtrak's Most Scenic Train Route

Flying is no fun. Crowded planes full of tiny seats, long lines and decreasing customer service on-flight are just a few reasons flying isn’t what most look forward to.

Last fall, an itch to travel wouldn’t go away. Yet, I could no longer bear spending any more time on a plane or at an airport and was at a loss for what to do.

Then, I discovered the California Zephyr.

The California Zephyr is one of the most scenic train routes in the United States. The 2,438 mile journey begins in Chicago and ends in San Francisco, passing through the Rocky Mountains, Colorado River, Sierra Nevadas and the San Pablo Bay.

The first Zephyr ride launched in 1949, and became a popular ride until the sixties, when train travel began to slowly lose popularity. The route eventually closed down in 1970. Amtrak reintroduced it in the early 1980s.

Route map of California Zephyr

I was apprehensive about the route. Almost 50 hours stuck on a train seemed daunting. Would I get bored? Was it uncomfortable? What if I didn’t like it?

The trip was not only comfortable, but one of my favorite train experiences thus far! Seats in coach class have more space than business class seats on most airlines. I spent most of my time trying to get that perfect photo in the Observation Car, where windows span the ceiling to the floor. I also broke the trip into segments to fight any restlessness.

The Observation Car, where I spent most of my time.

Observation car, California Zephyr

Observation car, California Zephyr

The highlight of the trip was the Denver to Salt Lake City leg, which cut through hills, mountains, rivers and rocky canyons. I barely left the Observation Car and kept my camera glued to the windows for the 15 hour journey (see photos below).

It’s a shame that train travel in the United States is not as popular as it once was. Routes like the California Zephyr give travelers the unique opportunity to access the vast, diverse and remote terrains the country inhabits.

(Top photo by H. Michael Miley)

Little lakes...

Denver to Salt Lake City, Amtrak's California Zephyr

to rolling hills...

Denver to Salt Lake City, Amtrak's California Zephyr

Denver to Salt Lake City, Amtrak's California Zephyr

up mountains...

Denver to Salt Lake City, Amtrak's California Zephyr

Denver to Salt Lake City, Amtrak's California Zephyr

with secluded homes...

Denver to Salt Lake City, Amtrak's California Zephyr

Denver to Salt Lake City, Amtrak's California Zephyr

Denver to Salt Lake City, Amtrak's California Zephyr

to lazy rivers...

Denver to Salt Lake City, Amtrak's California Zephyr

and rocky landscapes.

Denver to Salt Lake City, Amtrak's California Zephyr

Denver to Salt Lake City, Amtrak's California Zephyr

Denver to Salt Lake City, Amtrak's California Zephyr

Denver to Salt Lake City, Amtrak's California Zephyr

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