The sleeper journey on the legendary California Zephyr takes you from Chicago to the ‘mile high’ city of Denver, a 1,038 mile (1670 km) trip through some of the most beautiful scenery in North America.
The railway system has played an important role throughout the history of the USA, enabling the easier transport of goods and people across a vast continent. This also means that some great long distance trips can be taken, and one of those, is on-board the California Zephyr. This daily train runs between Chicago and San Francisco, and takes just over 50 hours if there are not any delays. Run by Amtrak, the train includes superliner passenger cars, sleeping cars and dining cars.
Many people believe that the California Zephyr is one of the most beautiful train journeys in the USA, and it is certainly hard to disagree with them. Including the Rockies, Sierra Nevadas, plains and lakes, the scenery it passes by is quite simply amazing. The facilities on-board the train are of a standard high enough to match, and the availability of bedrooms on the superliner cars places it in the luxury trains category.
The journey begins at Chicago’s Grand Union station by checking in. Those people who are treating themselves to a luxury train experience will need to check into the Amtrak First Class lounge. From there, they will be directed to the room on the California Zephyr which will be their home for the next two days. Once everything is packed away, it might be a nice idea to head to the Observation Car. This specially designed car is glass walled to enable a unique viewing experience of the passing landscape, and can be a great place to start conversations with new friends, as can the attached Lounge Car. In the evening, a meal can be taken in the dining car, before the train crosses the Mississippi River and people start heading for bed.
The second day of the railways holiday aboard the California Zephyr begins with some magnificent views of the Colorado Rockies. This provides some great background scenery over breakfast in the dining car, and then throughout the day, the train heads towards the Continental Divide. Time spent in the observation car may offer the chance to see some wildlife as well as views of canyons and areas of outstanding natural beauty. Meals can once more be taken in the dining car.
After another night spent on the California Zephyr and breakfast, the final stage of the journey across the USA begins as the luxury train heads up from Nevada and into California via the Donner Pass. This is the highest point in this part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and from here, the train carries on through to Emeryville where it terminates in the evening.
A trip on the California Zephyr really is an amazing experience that offers a great way to see a snapshot cross section of the USA. The train runs throughout the year, although Amtrak themselves divide it into two seasons. Season one, which runs between April 01 and Oct 31 is marginally more expensive than season two, which runs between Nov 01 and March 14. The train is currently scheduled to leave Chicago at 14.00 every day, to arrive at San Francisco in the early afternoon. Due to the length of the trip, delays can happen from time to time, and so it is recommended that international travellers leave plenty of time if they intended to take flights back to their home countries.