Numbers 1-35 on the map
represent the California Zephyr's currently
scheduled stops. Number 36 represents San Francisco that is a short
Amtrak bus ride across the Bay Bridge from the Zephyr's last westbound
stop, Emeryville, California.
Using the following links you
either choose to tour the entire route between Chicago and San
or hop on the train at any station along the way and proceed
in either direction from there. Click here
to start at the beginning or click on one of
below to start from there.
Once on board..... click "next"
(toward San Francisco) or "previous" (toward Chicago) to take
the virtual rail journey at your leisure.
Stations on Amtrak's
California Zephyr Route
To preload the entire
route atlas for faster browsing click
- California Zephyr Route Atlas
files to be downloaded total approximately 15 MB
- Patience Please.
Click on at any time to go
to the "Route Overview
Page" where you may again jump to any station along the route.
Each "station stop" includes a
photo of the station, a local street map, local transportation options,
and links to many more items of local interest. Between station stop
pages there are detailed station to station maps and links to all of
the counties that you pass through along the way. Click on one or more
of these links to discover more about the territory you'll see when
traveling on this diamond of a route that passes through some of the
most pristine regions that our nation has to offer.
The California Zephyr is
sometimes detoured through Wyoming when
track work is being performed on the normal route between Denver and
Salt Lake City. To view city to city maps for this detour click here - California Zephyr Wyoming Detour.
Ramblin' Ray's Route Rhetoric
Starting in Chicago, at 580
feet above sea level, westbound
passengers first journey through the fertile countryside of Illinois,
Iowa and eastern Nebraska known as "America's Breadbasket".
Somewhere in the middle of the night in central Nebraska, this bucolic
scenery changes to the high plains cattle country vistas that will
greet you at breakfast time in eastern Colorado. Take a
glance to the west and watch for the Rocky Mountains to appear on the
horizon. At the very base of the Rockies, at 5,280 feet above sea
level, is the capitol city of Colorado, Denver.
Just west of the Mile High
City you'll begin your ascent up the
"Big Ten Curve" into the Rocky Mountains. Take a look back down at
Denver when you get to Plainview just past Tunnel No. 1. This is as
close as you'll come to flying on this trip! In the next 6 or
miles, you'll pass through 25 more tunnels in the 28-tunnel "Tunnel
District" on your way to the Moffat Tunnel. When you pass beneath the
Continental Divide in this 6.2 mile long tunnel, you will have reached
the highest elevation on the route at the tunnel's apex which is about
9,270 feet above sea level. As you pass through the tunnel note that
the highest railroad ever constructed in the US is somewhere up above
you on Rollins pass at over 11,000 feet in elevation.
Just after exiting the Moffat
Tunnel, look off to the left (facing
the direction of train travel... "port side" for you midshipmen) for a
view of the Winter Park ski area. If Winter Park is your destination,
you'll get off at Fraser just a few miles up the track. If you're
staying on board with us, we'll join up with the Colorado River just
west of Granby, CO in about 1/2 hour and travel along side of it for
the next 260+ miles for one of the most storied portions of the route.
You'll travel through the Gore Canyon (where only trains, wildlife, and
the craziest of kayakers travel), the "Moon River" portion of the
Colorado River in Eagle County, Glenwood Canyon, Glenwood Springs (the
closest stop to Aspen), Grand Junction, and the gorgeous Ruby Canyon
where the Colorado River says goodby as we enter Utah.
The first westbound stop in
Utah is Green River where you can
deboard if Arches National Park is your destination. From there, the
Zephyr heads north past Transportation Mountain to Helper, Utah,
crosses the Wasatch (without help) on its way to Provo and reaches Salt
Lake City around midnight. At many times of the year it's better to
take the eastbound Zephyr that heads south through the Wasatch during
daylight hours if you'd like to see that scenery. The trip in both
directions across the Bonneville Salt Flats between Salt Lake City and
Winnemucca, Nevada is at night. If you wake up in the middle of the
night going really slow, you may be traversing Arnold Loop near Silver
Zone Pass a few miles northeast of Wendover, Utah in Nevada. High
desert lovers will enjoy the trip between Winnemucca and Reno. Ray
always seems to miss the "all aboard" call in Reno and needs to wait
until the next day to get to where he's going. They will leave without
The next jewel you'll
encounter is the portion of the route between
Reno and Sacramento through the High Sierra. From Reno, you'll follow
the Truckee River to Truckee, CA, which is a short hop, skip and jump
from Lake Tahoe and the numerous outdoor activities and resorts in the
area. Get out your camera for the trip up and down "The Hill" (Donner
Pass) through many snowsheds and tunnels. You will likely be treated to
an informative dissertation on the history of the area by volunteers
from the California State Railroad Museum as you ascend over the pass.
You'll get some great shots of Donner Lake below on the way. Heading
down the western slope of the Sierra between Donner and Sacramento,
make sure to get a good view of the American River Canyon which is more
than 1500 feet below the track. You'll meet up with the American River
again in Sacramento on your way into town.
You're sure to enjoy the lush
California greenery on your trip down
into the Sacramento Valley through California Gold Rush country after
spending a couple of days in the desert, mountains and plains. Once you
get to Sacramento, make sure to stop off at the California State
Railroad Museum which is one of the best in the country. It's only a
block or so from the depot. In Sacramento, you may catch the Coast
Starlight or one of the many California Regional trains that service
the State or stay on board and head into the San Francisco Bay Area...
an adventure in itself! By the way, the elevation of San Francisco
varies between 0 and 925 feet above sea level.
The rail travel
distance from Chicago to
Emeryville is about 2,440 miles and takes over 2 full calendar days to
complete... the rail travel time is a little over 52 hours.