• Recommendation- best way to see the Rockies?

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

  by Thumped
I would like to take my wife on a trip from Denver to San Francisco. Is this the best route to take to view the Rockies?

I realize some of the trip will be at night but I've never rode a train before and looking for advice.

Thanks in advance.

  by Dakguy201
Yes, you will see the Rockies almost all of your first day (you will leave Denver about 8 in the morning). The afternoon of the second day takes you through the Sierras, which are also great.

The only other western route that offers anything similiar is the Empire Builder,which eastbound out of Seattle or Spokane goes through the Rockies at Glacier National Park, but it is not nearly as long in mountain country.

  by Otto Vondrak
[moved to Amtrak Forum for more exposure-omv]
  by jp1822
California Zephyr westbound is the best way to view not only the Rockies, but you also get treated to daylight viewing (if train is relatively on time) of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range (from Reno to Roseville). This is a spectacular train route. It was said that the Canadian Pacific Railway had the "Canadian" to show of to its country's visitors, and the United States had the California Zephyr to match it.
  by wigwagfan

There are two current threads covering the same/similiar discussion - this is the active thread. For the convenience of those who wish to reply, here are the posts from the locked thread:
Tom V wrote:Looking for opinions as to the best scenic trip, I've never traveled Amtrak to the West. Only long haul Amtrak trips I've taken have all been either the Silver Star or Silver Meteor to Florida from NJ several times in the '80s and '90s.

I was thinking of a Spring/Summer vacation for my wife and I, fly to Chicago for a couple nights then jump on the California Zephyr or Empire Builder to the West Coast and fly home.
EricL wrote:Most will tell you that the scenery on the Zephyr can't be beat. However, as the Builder is the "premier" train, going that way will likely mean a 'refurbished' sleeping car - assuming you are going that way - and a "real" dinner from the diner.
jp1822 wrote:Scenery is better westbound on the California Zephyr whereas scenery is better eastbound on the Empire Builder (nice scenery both in/out of Seattle and Portland, so that's a toss up).

Could you work out a circle route whereas you take the California Zephyr west to the San Fran Bay area, then take the Coast Starlight north to Portland/Seattle, and onto the eastbound Empire Builder.

With its re-launch, the Empire Builder typically has better service and time keeping. But you can't beat the scenery of the westbound California Zephyr in late Spring/Summer season. Even if running a couple hours late, you'll still get daylight running through the Rockies and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges. Just make sure the CA Zephyr is not on a detour through Wyoming, as UP likes to do trackwork on the route through the Rocky Mountains in warmer weather. Not sure when this can be predicted though.

You could do a same day connection between the westbound CA Zephyr and northbound Coast Starlight, if the trains are operating pretty much close to schedule (keep in mind, last point to transfer to the Coast Starlight from the CA Zephyr is at Sacramento). However, I would spend a day or two in Portland or Seattle before connecting to the Empire Builder, and no way would I try a same day connection to the Empire Builder FROM the Coast Starlight. You'll now be treated to a LONG bus ride between Klamath Falls and Pasco, WA. You'll also miss out on the Pacific Northwest scenery on the Coast Starlight from Klamath Falls to Portland/Seattle.

I've had all kinds of sleepers on the CA Zephyr - refurbished or overhauled Superliner 1's (same used on the Empire Builder), Superliner II's, and overhauled Superliner II's. So that can vary. Meals are supposed to be better on all long distance routes these days. Course I have not taken a trip out West on the CA Zephyr in a while now. Typically I have gone west on VIA Rail's Canadian, vacationed and/or worked in Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest, and then returned eastbound via the Empire Builder. Just make sure you get up early to view Glacier National Park if travelling on the Empire Builder eastbound! No sleeping in late!

  by FatNoah
I did the westbound Zephyr in April and highly recommend it. It was my first trip through the Rockies & Sierra Nevada and my jaw was on the floor for the entire trip.

  by Noel Weaver
I think the best way to see the mountains is through Canada. The train
has at least adequate capacity, good food and fantastic scenery. It is
well worth the extra distance to get to it. You will also get to ride the
fantastic stainless steel Budd built equipment including domes.
I suggest the North American Rail Pass.
Noel Weaver