Aboard the California Zephyr

California Zephyr and the Rocky Mountains.
California Zephyr going around a bend in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado

Denver, Colorado, was always on the cards. But when I came across a story last year, on San Francisco to Chicago (through Denver) being one of the most scenic train routes in the United states, I wished we could travel by train — one way at least. And travel we did,  aboard the California Zephyr.

Davis Amtrak Station from the California Zephyr
Amtrak Station at Davis, California.

The California Zephyr (Amtrak Train) which rolls from San Francisco to Chicago travels through seven states on its charted route. As we were only going as far as Denver, Colorado, it took us through four states and showed some awesome sights along the way. If you were to do a one-way trip on this train, I would suggest travelling from SF to Denver rather than the other way around. That way the scene changes from a big city to the countryside, and then some mountains and deserts before you ride through some lofty canyons.

San Pablo Bay from California Zephyr
San Pablo Bay, California
California's Great Valley - from California Zephyr
Some farmland on the way to Sacramento
Amtrak Station, Emeryville
Sacramento, California.
Sierra Nevada from California Zephyr
Sierra Nevada on the California side.
Truckee River from California Zephyr
Truckee River, California.
Truckee, California

We began our journey from the other side of the Bay — Emeryville, CA. As such, our scenic train ride began with scenes of harbours and factories that chose to come up close to water transportation facilities. As we approached the state capital, we passed Suison Bay, where we saw a fleet of ships from World War II. Then there were farms and ranches and soon we were riding into the conifers of Sierra Nevada. On the mountainous route through Truckee we saw a lot of fall colours in between the evergreen trees. And some snow too. By evening we had crossed into the state of Nevada. And we got to see the station at Reno just before sundown.

California Zephyr taking a break at Reno, NV
Passengers taking a smoking break at Reno, Nevada.
Reno Sunset, California Zephyr
Sunset time near Reno, Nevada

Early next morning when I drew the curtain of my roomette on the California Zephyr, I was greeted by some of Utah’s dry rocky landscapes. We had crossed another state-line in the wee hours of the morning and for the next few hours the huge rock formations we passed,  kept changing in colour and in its vegetation. After a few hours of these majestic scenes, Zephyr coursed its way into Grand Junction and in Colorado we were!

Utah from the California Zephyr
Utah from the California Zephyr
Also in Utah
Grand Junction from California Zephyr
Grand Junction, Colorado.
Colorado River from California Zephyr
Colorado River, Colorado

For most of the rest of the day we passed through the grand Rocky Mountains, the seemingly never-ending Colorado River, dozens of tunnels and quaint little stations until the Amtrak train chugged its way into Denver and made a good, long sojourn. We alighted there. And I must say, our train journey from EMY to DEN on the California Zephyr was an experience like no other.

Route guide, California Zephyr
From the route guide.
This post featured in Blogadda’s  Spicy Saturday Picks
for the first week of December, 2012. Thank you Blogadda. 🙂

Next post on Tipsy From the Trip – a photo feature on the scenes from California Zephyr. 

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  1. Lovely pictures with some nice details

  2. Thank you Divya for taking us on this fabulous train trip from SFO to Denver> The pictures are awesome:)

  3. wow !!!!!!!!!! Its so beautiful !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are so damn lucky ! and thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Ain't I? 😉
      I really do feel very fortunate to have gotten to do this trip. I was excited for weeks before it happened and really enjoyed every bit of the train ride.
      Thank you so much, TTT. 🙂

  4. Those crystalline images left me with no doubt of the breathtakingly scenic rout of California Zephyr. Beauty oozed right from the title to the photographs through the narration. It is hard to find a favourite but the river shots and that of the Utah are wallhangers. Thank you for sharing, Divya.

    • Thank you so much, USP. I did have to do some 'sharpening' here as these pics except for the Sacramento station one, were taken through the glass of the train's window. There's nothing like seeing it in person. The landscapes are gorgeous!
      It was one-of-a-kind of a train journey and I'm still tipsy from it. 😉

  5. Amazing landscape… a flight can never offer these beautiful views and the time one gets to reflect in a train….thanks

  6. Amazing! So well presented!! I loved it! Thank you Divya:)

  7. This is so interesting. In US people travel more by air. But the trains do have their charm.

    Lovely photographs too. Cant wait to read the next installment.Thanks.

    • That's right. Not a lot of people travel this way because it's time-consuming. Our journey from San Francisco to Denver was around 32 hours and the flight back took us a little over 2 hours. 🙂
      But seriously, travelling through these scenic routes is a whole new way of seeing America.
      The photo post will be up soon. 🙂 I'm so happy you liked these pictures.

  8. mere ko yeh sab dekhna hai .. 🙁

    I so want to od thissssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

    beautiful picutresssssssssssssss awesomeeeeeeeeeee 🙂


  9. That sounds like an exciting journey across those beautiful landscapes. Awesome captures, Divya. I love train journeys.


    • It really was ONE great train journey. First of all it was my first proper train journey in the US. Secondly, the landscapes we passed through made that a trip like no other.
      Thanks, Niranjan. There's a whole lot more coming, ok. 🙂

  10. Wonderful shots of the place.

  11. Wow – the abundance of beauty… My eyes just got pasted to the screen. 😀

  12. should travel there by road one day, so that we can stop and take enough photos

    • Actually the train's not too fast, so you can take a lot of not-so-bad pictures. They also have an observation car with huge windows that let you take better pictures.
      Of course if you could get down there, it would be superb for some great photography. 🙂

  13. Lovely landscapes and a great description of your exciting journey… The pictures do most of the talking and add beauty to the great post..

  14. Journey captured beautifully! Lovely landscapes!!

  15. I think Americans know to enjoy life. Such a lovely idea to be able to see all the beauties from the comfort of a train! This was supposed to be our final scenic ride before we moved from the US, but couldnt make it 🙁 I am really kicking myself for missing this. Absolutely stunning views!

  16. WOW…Thanks for taking us on this train journey. The shots you took as the train was winding its way through the Rocky Mountains are just FABULOUS!!
    The scenes are absolutely breathtaking and your brilliant narration makes the travelogue even more interesting!My thirst to read a good travelogue got quenched here.Thanks for sharing…:))

    • I'm totally flattered. :)Thank you sowwww much!
      It was one of my best journeys ever. I was in no hurry to get to our destination. As far as I was concerned, the California Zephyr was an attraction and a destination in itself.
      Wait there's more; will be putting up a whole lot of pictures real soon and making sure that you have a great vicarious trip. 🙂
      Take care until then.

  17. WOW 🙂 it must be quite a ride

  18. You get to go to such awesome places, take me with you..! Lovely pictures and descriptions 🙂

    • We love seeing places so we just make these trips happen. :)Come this way, and we'll go to some awesome place.
      Thank you so much Ghazala. These places have so much character, I just kept clicking away and actually, they need no descriptions. They're simply beautiful.

  19. Stunning captures, Divya! The changing landscape makes for a wonderful visual
    feast and Your narration so wants me to make it to this train someday.

    How long was the train journey? Many thanks for sharing it. 🙂

  20. good collection… each one expresses its best..

    good photography and nice place


  21. Nothing beats a trainride…
    This is why I prefer to spend days on trains instead of hours on flights… Only if Indian trains were a bit more cleaner and less crowded 😛

    & love those fall colors… esp the one with the stream…

    • You're so right, Jitaditya. Nothing beats it.

      I actually do miss the train rides in India. I yearn to hear the sounds of the Indian Railway stations too. 🙂

      Thank you. This trip showed me all kinds of sceneries. I love Fall Colours too. I'm enjoying every bit of it now. 🙂

  22. Those are some amazing pics. I never took a long distance train in US — regret!

    • That was ONE fabulous trip. Not a lot of people do train trips. This was a long journey but as the pictures will tell you, it was worth every bit of it.
      The ride was comfortable too.

      You'd have loved it, Rachna. 🙂

  23. The train is magnificent. I have read about this before D and these picture looks more beautiful than those words describing it.

  24. Whoa.. some great shots there.. my fav. is the truckee river one..

    great post DN.. 🙂

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  26. Interesting post and thank you for sharing. There are things here that I have not thought before.Thanks to make such a cool post which is really very well written.will refer a lot of friends about this. Keep blogging.

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  27. Looks good mate and i have personally experienced this thing because of getting a very decent package that made me get a very good travel deal and i was amazed to experience things that were quite decent so yeah bus from new york to columbus is a perfect way for knowing many things at the same time because it goes ahead we can make a mark.

  28. Oh! California Zephyr is the name of a train !! Thought its about the zephyr in California 😛 Well D a nice post with nice captures… loved the farmlands caught in a blur in motion … and the Colorado river presented a contrast … truly nice photography.

    • Yeah, cool name for a train, right?
      Thanks a ton, Kokila.
      It turned out to be one of my most memorable train rides. So much scenery! So much beauty! It was such a visual treat.

      Thanks again, Kokila. 🙂

  29. Wow! Nice post and the pictures are shot at a perfect timing. Some of them are exquisitely beautiful captures 🙂

  30. Pingback: Postcarded at Maroon Bells | Tipsy from the TRIP

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