From towering skyscrapers to the Golden Gate Bridge – experienced travellers say the California Zephyr is one of the most beautiful train trips in all of North America. As you climb through the heart of the Rockies, and further west through the snow-capped Sierra Nevadas, you may find it hard to disagree.
The Zephyr runs daily between Chicago and San Francisco, coursing through the plains of Nebraska to Denver, across the Rockies to Salt Lake City, and then through Reno and Sacramento into Emeryville/San Francisco. The scenic highlights include the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada Mountains, Moffat Tunnel, Colorado's Gore, Byers and Glenwood Canyons, Winter Park, Truckee River, Donner Lake, San Pablo Bay and the Carquinez Strait.
Day 1 Chicago
Fly from the UK to Chicago with British Airways, where you will stay for 2 nights
Day 2 Chicago has something for everybody.
Spend your time enjoying the world-class shopping on the ‘Magnificent Mile’, striking architecture, beautiful beaches, fantastic music and nightlife and wonderful museums.
Day 3 Chicago to Omaha, NE (approx. 9 hours)
Board the California Zephyr this afternoon and settle in to your Superliner Roomette, including all meals on board. The roomettes have two chairs that convert into bunk style beds at night and there are shared bathroom facilities. Other classes of service are available. Your journey today will take you across Illinois and Iowa and into Nebraska. Crossing the mighty Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and the Mid-west plains, the Zephyr will bring you into Omaha. Spend one night in Omaha.
Day 4 Omaha to Denver, CO (approx. 8 hours overnight)
You will have the whole day in Omaha today, before you late evening departure to Denver. Omaha played a central role in the history of transportation across America and is known as the ‘Gate City of the West’. It has a historic downtown area, Old Market and is the hometown to such actors as Fred Astaire, Marlon Brando, Nick Nolte and Henry Fonda. There is a wealth of state history at the Durham Museum, located in the magnificently restored Union Station. Within a couple of hours of Omaha, you can visit Winnebago Indian Reservation and see the bison herd, buy native American art and jewellery and learn more about life on a reservation.
Day 5 Denver, CO
Arrive in Denver early this morning where you will stay for two nights. Known as the ‘Mile High City’ at an elevation of 5280 feet at the 13th step of the State Capitol Building, Denver is a cosmopolitan city with a Western flavour. With a back-drop of the Rocky Mountains the city also offers great nightlife and dining, Western stores, boutiques and shopping malls as well as interesting museums and galleries. What’s more it also boasts more than 300 days of sunshine a year
Day 6 Denver, CO
Enjoy the outdoors and take a trip to the spectacular Red Rocks Amphitheatre, or rent a bike and discover some of the 850 miles of bike paths and the numerous city parks. Take a tour including a stop at the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave on top of Lookout Mountain and get a fantastic view of the city.
Day 7 Denver to Salt Lake City, UT (approx. 15 hours)
Board the train this morning and continue on the California Zephyr through the Rocky Mountains. You will pass through Moffat Tunnel, 6.2 mile long and cutting the distance between Denver and the Pacific Coast by 176 miles when it opened in 1928. Today’s scenery is stunning and takes you through the mountains and canyons of Colorado, including Glenwood and Gore Canyon, Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction, and into Utah with its red sandstone cliffs. You will arrive in Salt Lake City late this evening and stay for one night.
Day 8 Salt Lake City to Sacramento, CA (approx. 15 hours)
Spend your day in Salt Lake City, before your overnight train to Sacramento. The city is surrounded by mountains and the views are spectacular. Salt Lake City is the world headquarters of the Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and if you have timed your journey to be here on a Sunday you can attend the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra’s live broadcast at 9.30am. The choir also rehearse on a Thursday evening. The Historic Temple Square area is the city’s top attraction with guided tours of the historic sites, interactive exhibits, art displays and parks and gardens. For any one interested in genealogy, a visit to the Family Search Center is a must.
Day 9 Sacramento, CA
Arriving in the capital of California in the early afternoon, why not make your first stop the California State Railroad Museum with its historic exhibits showcasing how the Transcontinental Railroad has shaped the lives, economy and culture of Americans. Stay one night in Sacramento and sample some of the city’s great restaurants and local brew-pubs.
Day 10 Sacramento to San Francisco, CA (approx. 2 ½ hours)
Spend the morning in Old Sacramento, with its boardwalk and Gold Rush-era buildings on the banks of the Sacramento River. There are plenty of shops, galleries and restaurants, as well as the Sacramento History Museum which gives a great insight into the local native inhabitants, the early settlers, followed by the Gold Rush and then later the area’s agricultural boom. Take the early afternoon train to Emeryville and then the Amtrak Thruway Bus service into San Francisco where you will spend your last two nights.
Day 11 San Francisco, CA
San Francisco is a compact city and easy to get around on foot, by cable car or street car line. Enjoy Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge and Union Square. Why not take a boat across the bay to Sausalito and get a great view of the city from one of the many waterfront cafes and bars. Other sightseeing alternatives are Segway tours or bicycle tours.
Spend the morning doing some last minute shopping at the Westfield Mall or the shops around Union Square, before heading for the airport for your flight back to the UK.