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California Zephyr Experience

You are viewing the 2024 itinerary. Select your departure year
5 days From $713 per person
4.2 stars(29 reviews)
Heritage Tour

Long considered one of the most scenic routes in the United States, the California Zephyr takes you from the beautiful city of Chicago to the City by the Bay, San Francisco, by way of the spectacular Rockies and Sierras.

Travel on your own following a well-planned itinerary

2024 Tour code: TU-CZEW-24

About the tour

Before embarking on your 2,300 mile journey to San Francisco, take advantage of your time in Chicago by visiting the city's famed attractions such as the John Hancock Observation Deck, ride the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier or window shop down The Magnificent Mile. The city also offers a rich cultural experience with its several museums and the renowned Art Institute.

After your stay in Chicago, begin your journey west as you board the California Zephyr towards San Francisco. Along the way, engulf yourself in absolute beauty as you pass through the frontier of the Colorado Rockies. As if that isn't breathtaking enough, as you continue your journey be dazzled by the natural beauty of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. When you finally do reach San Francisco, take your final days of the journey to explore this striking city. Make sure to visit Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, or hop on a cable car for a classic way to experience the City by the Bay.

This tour truly encompasses natural beauty so spectacular it takes your breath away - on a dazzling ride that touches the sky!

Itinerary is available Eastbound from San Francisco to Chicago based on your travel preference.


What’s included


Day 1 - Chicago

Independent arrival into Chicago. Transfer to your hotel, located in the heart of downtown Chicago. Explore the most spectacular areas of the city with a hop-on/ hop-off trolley tour or simply by jumping on the closest Chicago "L" train. Museums, the famous Magnificent Mile, shopping and world-renowned cuisine are all within steps of your hotel. Overnight Chicago.

Day 2 - California Zephyr

Arrive at Chicago's historic Union Station for your afternoon departure. For those passengers with sleeping accommodations, check into Amtrak's First Class Metropolitan Lounge. Once onboard the famous California Zephyr, settle into your private sleeping room as you begin your 2300 mile journey to San Francisco. After settling in, you may want to visit the glass-walled Observation Car or head to the Lounge Car to meet some new friends. Enjoy dinner in the Dining Car as you cross the mighty Mississippi River. All meals on the train are included for sleeping car occupants. Overnight train.

Day 3 - Colorado Rockies aboard the California Zephyr

This morning wake up to a magnificent view of the Colorado Rockies on the horizon. Enjoy your breakfast in the dining car as the Zephyr climbs the front range of the Rockies and heads toward the Great Continental Divide. Be sure to look for wild-life when passing through the ski resort town of Winter Park, Colorado. Continue to take in awe-inspiring scenery and canyons through late afternoon. On board you will enjoy lunch and dinner. Overnight train.

Day 4 - San Francisco Arrival

Today begins the final leg of your journey West as the Zephyr climbs from Nevada to California. By mid-morning, the train arrives in the "The Biggest Little City in the World" of Reno, Nevada. As you cross the border from Nevada into California your climb through the legendary Donner Pass, the high point in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains. Arrival into Emeryville is scheduled for early evening and an Amtrak Shuttle is waiting to transfer you to the Ferry Building in downtown San Francisco. From here you can catch a taxi to your hotel located at fabulous Fisherman's Wharf. Overnight San Francisco.

Day 5 - San Francisco

Wake up in the iconic city by the bay, San Francisco as your tour comes to an end. Spend the day exploring Golden Gate Park, Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, Telegraph Hill, and Jackson Square, either on your own, or with one of our optional tours.

*There is so much to see and do in the city, and the surrounding areas.  Speak to your Rail Specialist is you would like to add post nights to visit Yosemite, go wine tasting in Napa or Sonoma, explore the Coastal Redwoods in Muir Woods, take a food tour, or sail on a catamaran in San Francisco Bay.

Additional information

Pricing Plans

Amtrak accommodations are available in Coach class, Roomette, and Bedroom.

Coach accommodations have spacious reclining seats with leg rests, fold down trays and individual reading lights. 

Roomette accommodations are private, cozy cabins ideal for 1-2 travelers. Daytime configuration features 2 reclining seats beside a picture window, which convert to upper and lower berths at night. A single shower is located on the lower level of each car. (Dimensions: 3'6" x 6'6")

Bedroom accommodations are best for 2 travelers. During the day, relax on a large sofa and 1 reclining chair next to a picture window. Nighttime configuration features an upper and lower berth. Bedrooms include a private en suite toilet, sink and shower. (Dimensions: 6'6" x 7'6")

Please note

Please be aware Amtrak may experience occasional schedule changes and service disruptions.  Vacations By Rail recommends visiting the Amtrak web site prior to your departure for the latest information.

Senior discounts and single pricing are available upon request. Contact a rail specialist for details.  *Arrival and Departure times are subject to change. Please be advised that passengers traveling on California Zephyr Trains may encounter delays of approximately three to six hours due to heavy congestion, speed restrictions and other operating conditions. 


Departure times

Departure times vary based on selected rail vacation. This information will be provided in your final documents. For more information please speak with your rail specialist.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular vacation with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.


Palmer House Hilton, Chicago

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Hotel Riu Plaza Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco

Hotel Riu Plaza Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco

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Amtrak's California Zephyr

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4.2 stars4.2 / 5 · 29 reviews

  1. 5 stars
  2. 4 stars
  3. 3 stars
  4. 2 stars
  5. 1 star


2 stars

Submitted 8/May

Wasn't an experience i expected. Crew seems new or disorganized. Air vent control not working. Had to keep door open all times like traveling in coach.

Collected by Trustpilot


2 stars

Submitted 3/May

The staff on train was very good and accommodating. However, expectations were not managed well at all. We did not know of "chicago hop on and off" until after we made flight arrangements. Therefore, we missed this opportunity. It was not made clear our drop-off in san francisco was a street corner. It was a Sunday night at 9pm. We were directed to a taxi stand and no taxis for 20 mins. We ended up using Lyft. An app we were not familiar with. We were not told of the added fees and taxes at both hotels. While we appreciated Amtrak's willingness to accommodate diet restrictions, the same menu for both days only allowed one and same choice for "vegan" at each meal; and not desserts were vegan. All of these mismanaged expectations impacted the full enjoyment of the trip.

Collected by Trustpilot


4 stars

Submitted 09 Nov 2023

The roommette is spacious enough for two people for the money but would be nice for mattresses and pillows to be a little thicker.

Collected by Trustpilot

Sheila Garrett

5 stars

Submitted 27 Aug 2023

Very comfortable in coach I did think the prise of the food was a bit high

Collected by Trustpilot


5 stars

Submitted 08 Jun 2023

great experience

Collected by Trustpilot


5 stars

Submitted 20 Apr 2023

Great family bonding adventure

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