California Zephyr – Simply Breathtaking (Day 2, 3)

Day 2

I woke up on the train early in the morning. It was not very comfortable or good night of sleep. But the breakfast and coffee on the train was OK. I knew the train was going through Rocky Mountains today so I was very excited. And it didn’t let me down.

How many times in your life you can have this view with your breakfast!

The train went through Salt Lake City at midnight. It woke up me with travelers getting on/off the train. The train spent the whole day navigating in canyons and mountains. We spent a lot of time on the observation train to get a really nice view. But the reflection on the windows ruined most of my pictures. I wish I had a polarized filter!

Before entering Colorado, we were mostly in desert and canyons, which Utah is famous for. Not many plants and trees, but the formation of terrain was amazing. Occasionally we could see some raptors or vultures flying around.

The best shot I could get of the birds as the train was moving.

After Grand Junction, we got into huge mountains territory. My eyes were too busy looking at all the beautiful sceneries. The train went through many small villages in the mountains, and I was surprised how far human’s reach is, even in those places that are so far away from civilization.

The track follows Colorado River for a long time, where there are many people enjoying the water, either in kayaks, canoes or rafters where water is fast. A tradition they do to the passengers on the train is to show their booties 🙂 Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of that.

Colorado River in the mountains, with people in water activities.

The train was approaching Denver as the sun went down. It was the golden time for photography. I was amazed at the topology of the terrain when I got a peek of Denver downtown out of Rockies. Everything was so flat, and vast amount of land in the view. That was another “wow” moment in the trip, and I personally think it’s the highlight. Normally I’d like to look at 3D views on Google Maps, or Google Earth, to see the geography of the States. Even on the map, I am amazed how different and diversified the terrain is. But at the moment when I could see the huge mid-west land, I felt fortunate and lucky to be part of that experience.

Downtown Denver from Rockies.

The train stopped at Denver Union Station and passengers are allowed to get off the train and walk around. It was about 15-20 mins break. We got off the train and walked around in the station. Most of the business were closed. But the train station itself was a beautiful architecture. The train was delayed about an hour before arriving into the Denver station. But I got a very nice shot of the train track in the evening.

It was dinner time after we got back on the train.


At night we went to the dining car and watched Harry Potter marathon.

Day 3

We’d arrive at Chicago on Day 3 and most of the scenery on day 3 was boring – too flat, endless of corn fields. The only exciting part was crossing Mississippi River!

Not long after crossing the river, the train started to slow down and arriving at Chicago! We can see the skyline.

That was the end of this incredible train trip. It’s definitely very unique and the train brought us to many places where you simply can’t go by car or hiking. And the scenery from the west coast to the mid west was breathtaking. From the San Francisco Bay to Sierra Nevada, from Utah canyons to the Rockies, this train trip is simply the best. And we got a pretty good deal with the promotion in the pandemic. With almost everything on the train free (food, water etc.), it’s way cheaper than travelling by airplane or driving.

The only thing I’d complain a bit was my sleeping quality on the train was pretty bad. So it’s definitely worth it to try it once. But I wouldn’t take it for another time.

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