Heart of the West - 8 Day Tour
Experience the best of the west on this 8-day escorted rail tour. Traveling roundtrip from Chicago aboard Amtrak’s Southwest Chief and California Zephyr long-distance trains, see awe-inspiring sights like the Grand Canyon; Monument Valley, one of the most definitive images of the American West; and, Mesa Verde National Park, home to outstanding cliff dwellings.
Day 1 – Southwest Chief to Arizona
Meet your tour manager and fellow travelers at Chicago’s Union Station, board the famed Southwest Chief, and prepare for your 3:15 pm departure. As the train begins to travel through the cornfields of the Midwest, take time to explore your surroundings including the glass-walled Sightseer Lounge car, offering spectacular views of the passing scenery. Overnight train. (D)
Day 2 – En Route to Flagstaff
When you awake this morning, the Southwest Chief will be traveling into Colorado, headed for new Mexico and Arizona. Enjoy a short train-side walk during a stop in Albuquerque this afternoon, continuing on to Flagstaff, where we’re scheduled to arrive at 8:46 pm. Overnight Drury Inn. (B, L, D).
Day 3 – The Grand Canyon
Travel by motorcoach this morning to the Grand Canyon, one of the Natural Wonders of the World. We’ll have the opportunity to view the Canyon from several observation points including the Watchtower offering views of the Colorado River, the Canyon, the Painted Desert, and Kaibab National Forest. Later this afternoon, we travel 155 miles to Kayenta. Overnight Hampton Inn. (CB, D)
Day 4 – Monument Valley
The highlight of today is a drive through nearby Monument Valley. This region provides the most enduring and definitive images of the American West. The isolated red mesas and buttes surrounded by empty, sandy desert have been filmed and photographed countless times over the years for movies and advertisements. The area lies entirely within the Navajo Indian Reservation on the Utah/Arizona border. Enjoy lunch on your own before continuing our travels to Durango, the commercial center for ranching and mining enterprises in southwest Colorado and gateway to the picturesque San Juan Mountains. Overnight Doubletree Hotel. (B)
Day 5 – Mesa Verde National Park
This morning we travel west by coach to Mesa Verde National Park, one of the nation’s major archeological preserves. Many large canyons seam the Mesa Verde area. In the shelter of the hundreds of caves eroded in the cliffs are some of the world’s largest and best-preserved cliff dwellings, occupied around 1200 A.D. Overnight Doubletree Hotel. (CB, D)
Day 6 – Durango & Silverton Excursion
A high point of our tour occurs today when we board the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad for the journey through the remote wilderness of the San Juan National Forest, following the winding Animas River through the breathtaking mountain scenery. The 45-mile, 3 ½-hour rail journey ends in Silverton, a typical Wild West mining community with an infamous past. There will be time to walk along Blair Street with its false-fronted buildings typical of the Old West and have lunch on your own. Overnight Grand Vista Hotel. (CB, D)
Day 7 – Colorado Rockies
After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll transfer to the Amtrak station in time for the 11:03 am departure of the California Zephyr bound for Chicago. Settle into your onboard accommodations and relax as the train whisks you through breathtaking scenery. Overnight train. (B, L, D)
Day 8 – Tour Concludes in Chicago
The California Zephyr rolls across Iowa and enters Illinois, headed for a late afternoon arrival in Chicago where your tour comes to an end.