The California Zephyr Amtrak route travels between Chicago and Emeryville, California through the scenic Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevadas. Rivers, canyons, deserts and cityscapes add to the beauty of this multi-day trip through the states of Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California.

Things to Know

  • No WiFi
  • You have to connect with an Amtrak bus, taxi, Uber or Lyft or other form of transit to get to and from San Francisco.
  • Get a roomette or bedroom for a more comfortable experience if you are traveling the entire route (you’ll be spending two nights on the train).
  • There is an observation car. Get there early for the Colorado portion of the journey.
  • Exit at the Denver Amtrak station if you want to rent a car and explore the Rocky Mountain National Park, or check out other Colorado Amtrak trip ideas.


Visit the Amtrak timetable for the California Zephyr to plan your trip. You can also view current schedules via Google Maps or when booking your tickets. Schedule highlights:

  • Zephyr trains run daily (one train in each direction)
  • Trains more or less travel through Nebraska overnight.
  • Trains depart Chicago in the afternoon and Emeryville, California around 9 a.m.
  • The beautiful Rocky Mountain scenery begins early in the morning, especially on westbound trains.


TripAdvisor has over 800 reviews of the California Zephyr. Highlights include:

  • Restrooms could be cleaner
  • Trains can have large delays
  • Great views in the Rocky Mountains
  • Trains could use a bit of an interior upgrade
  • Overall fantastic train ride based on cross-country scenery
  • Good food, but a little expensive (note: you only have to pay for meals if you sit in coach)

Major Stops

  • Sacramento
  • Reno
  • Provo
  • Salt Lake City
  • Denver
  • Omaha
  • Chicago



  • Mississippi River
  • Missouri River
  • Colorado River
  • Colorado Ski Resorts
  • Rocky Mountains
  • Reno casinos
  • National Railroad Hall of Fame
  • California State Railroad Museum
  • Iowa Wesleyan College
  • Winter Park Ski Resort
  • Gore Canyon
  • Glenwood Canyon
  • Brigham Young University
  • Mormon Temple
  • Donner Lake (Donner Party historic site)
  • San Francisco (via bus shuttle or car)

More Information

Amtrak routes with observation cars
7 things to pack for your Amtrak trip
Amtrak to Yellowstone National Park
Most scenic Amtrak routes on the West Coast