California Zephyr Amtrak


The California Zephyr is a long-distance passenger train operated by Amtrak between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area (at Emeryville), covering a distance of approximately 2,438 miles. The journey takes more than 2 days or around 51 hours where you’ll spend 2 nights while on the train. The train passes through several states, including Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California, offering breath taking views of the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. 


The train travels from Chicago Union Station to Denver, Colorado, where it switches from BNSF to Union Pacific tracks. It then crosses the Continental Divide via the Moffat Tunnel and follows the Colorado River, passing through the Book Cliffs and the Wasatch Mountains before reaching Salt Lake City.From Salt Lake City, the train travels through Nevada and into California, following the south shore of the Great Salt Lake and crossing the Bonneville Salt Flats. It passes through the Sierra Nevada mountains, including Donner Pass, and ends its journey in Emeryville, a suburb of Oakland.


  • Journey duration: The full trip from Chicago to San Francisco takes approximately 51 hours.
  • Time zones: The train crosses through three time zones, so be prepared to adjust your watch.
  • Wi-Fi availability: There’s no Wi-Fi on board, so plan accordingly for entertainment and connectivity.
  • Smoking policy: The train is entirely non-smoking, including in sleeper cars and vestibules.
  • Baggage allowance: Each passenger can bring two personal items and two carry-on bags for free.
  • Stops and stretches: There are several longer stops where you can briefly disembark to stretch your legs.
  • Observation car: Don’t miss spending time in the observation car for panoramic views of the scenery.
  • Power outlets: All seats and rooms have access to power outlets for charging devices.
  • Shower facilities: Sleeping car passengers have access to shower rooms in each car.
  • Dining reservations: If you’re in a sleeping car, you’ll need to make reservations for meals in the dining car.


This train offers diverse lodging options. Roomettes provide versatile spaces with daytime seating that converts to bunk beds for night time use. Bedrooms offer more spacious sleeping quarters with additional in-room features. Travelers can savour gourmet meals in the dining car, which serves three-course dishes alongside complimentary drinks. For those seeking casual refreshments or a place to mingle, dedicated café-lounge cars are available.


The California Zephyr is renowned for its stunning scenery, particularly in the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. Some notable landmarks and attractions along the route include:

Moffat Tunnel: A 6.2-mile-long tunnel under James Peak, the highest point on the route.

Colorado River: The train follows the river from Winter Park Resort to Ruby Canyon, offering breathtaking views.

Book Cliffs: A scenic stretch of the train route that follows the southern rim of the Book Cliffs.

Wasatch Mountains: The train crosses the Wasatch Mountains, cresting at Soldier Summit before descending into the Wasatch Front.

Sierra Nevada: The train passes through the Sierra Nevada mountains, including Donner Pass.


California Zephyr Accommodation Rates:

  • Coach: $150-$300
  • Roomette: $700-$1,300
  • Family Bedroom: $1,400-$2,300
  • Bedroom: $1,600-$3,300

Roomettes, Family Bedrooms, and Bedrooms include meals, water, and coffee.

Note: Prices fluctuate seasonally, with peak rates during summer months.

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