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California Zephyr with Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

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4.1 stars(14 reviews)
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Uncover the natural treasures in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, including towering mountains, sparkling lakes, geysers, and hot springs on a refreshing rail and drive vacation.

You are viewing the 2023 itinerary. Select your departure year
20232023
9 days From $2,233 per person
Travel on your own following a well-planned itinerary

2023 Tour code: TU-ZYSW-23

About the tour

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks offer some of the most impressive natural sights, and they are yours to discover on this best of the west rail and drive vacation. Admire the expansive Teton Mountains, Old Faithful bursting to the sky, waterfalls and hot springs, and of course, an outstanding variety of wildlife, including grizzly bears, bison, and elk. 

Your grand adventure begins with a classic overnight rail journey from Chicago to Salt Lake City aboard the legendary California Zephyr. The following four days are filled with independent explorations by car. Perhaps take time to discover Salt Lake City's famous sites, such as Temple Square and the historic State Capitol, before embarking on a scenic drive into Wyoming. Here, the cowboy town of Jackson brims with western charm, and Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks showcase their natural treasures. When your national park explorations conclude, return to Salt Lake City and board the California Zephyr for your onward journey to San Francisco.

 

Highlights

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 - Depart Chicago aboard the California Zephyr

Get set for your Wild West adventure as you board Amtrak's California Zephyr at Chicago Union Station. Settle into your onboard accommodations, sit back and relax as the train begins its journey west. Walk through the train to the glass-walled Sightseer Lounge car for panoramic views of the passing scenery. Overnight train.

Day 2 - Arrive in Salt Lake City

Spend the day enjoying the changing scenery from your onboard accommodations or the Sightseer Lounge car, the train's social center. Follow along on your route map as the train makes its way through Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado on its way to Utah. Arrive in Salt Lake City this evening and transfer independently to your centrally located hotel. Overnight Salt Lake, UT. 

Day 3 - Drive to Jackson

Transfer on your own to the Salt Lake City airport and pick up your rental car. Visit some of Salt Lake City's famous attractions, such as the Mormon Temple and historic State Capitol, before driving to the cowboy town of Jackson. Walk the wood-plank sidewalks, take a picture by the elk antler arch, and enjoy its excellent shops and restaurants. Overnight Jackson, WY. 

Day 4 - Grand Teton & Yellowstone National Parks

Jackson is the gateway to Grand Teton National Park. Enjoy a leisurely drive through the park, stopping to admire the spectacular mountain scenery, on your way to Yellowstone National Park. En route to your accommodations in West Yellowstone, stop to see some of Yellowstone National Park's scenic wonders, including West Thumb Geyser Basin. Overnight West Yellowstone, WY.

Days 5-6 – Explore Yellowstone National Park

You have two full days to explore the natural wonders in Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is the largest active geyser field in the world and home to the most, Old Faithful. There are also many colorful hot springs and pools, such as the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Norris Geyser Basin. Explore the Upper and Lower Falls or take a hike on one of the many trails throughout the parks 1,300-mile trail system.

Wildlife spotting is the main event. The park is home to abundant wildlife. Grizzly and Black bears, bison, elk, wolves, coyotes, and eagles are just some of the animals that call this national park home. See how many you can spot! Take a drive through Hayden Valley for the chance to encounter roaming bison. Overnight West Yellowstone, WY.

Day 7 - Return to Salt Lake City

Begin your scenic drive back to Salt Lake City. Return your rental car at the airport and taxi on your own back to the Amtrak Station for an evening departure aboard the California Zephyr. Overnight train. 

Day 8 - Arrive in San Francisco

On today's train journey, pass by the Sierra Nevada Mountains, historic Donner Pass and quaint towns before arriving in Emeryville, CA. Connect to San Francisco's Ferry Building on the Amtrak Thruway Bus. Overnight San Francisco, CA.

Day 9 - San Francisco

Your vacation concludes today. Ask a rail specialist about extending your stay to explore the "City by the Bay." Named one of the world's top cities, San Francisco is a cultural and culinary wonderland, where the spirit of the Gold Rush continues to fill the air. From the Golden Gate Bridge and Chinatown to Alcatraz, ride the cable cars, see the world's most crooked street and stroll around Fisherman's Wharf. You won't be able to resist the sweet treats at The Ghirardelli Chocolate Ice Cream Shop at Ghirardelli Square. And be sure to cruise around San Francisco Bay, where you're sure to leave your heart. 

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.

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.

Hotels

Holiday Inn Express Salt Lake City Downtown

Holiday Inn Express Salt Lake City Downtown

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Hotel Riu Plaza Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco

Hotel Riu Plaza Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco

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Yellowstone Park Hotel, West Yellowstone

Yellowstone Park Hotel, West Yellowstone

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Train

Amtrak's California Zephyr

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Reviews

4.1 stars4.1 / 5 · 14 reviews

  1. 5 stars
    (6)
  2. 4 stars
    (6)
  3. 3 stars
    (1)
  4. 2 stars
    (0)
  5. 1 star
    (1)

THOM GEIST

4 stars

Submitted 18/Oct

In general it was wonderful. The train was comfortable and the scenery amazing. Hotels were all just fine. It was very disappointing that we had no access to the dining car on the train. If we had been told of that in advance we had missed it. We would not do another train trip of any length without that availability.

Collected by Trustpilot

RAYMOND GOCHENOUR

5 stars

Submitted 18/Oct

The trip was wonderful,the hotel at Yellowstone was very nice a three star hotel after being spoilt With five star hotels it seemed a little lacking but overall everything was wonderful. The train was really cool enjoy the ride a little hard to sleep on but loved it off

Collected by Trustpilot

LOU ANN MONTGOMERY

1 stars

Submitted 17/Oct

We never got to take the second leg of our trip from Salt Lake City to San Francisco due to the POTENTIAL rail strike and Amtrak did not give us a voucher towards future travel. We had to schedule our own flights at emergency cost to us and this was not only stressful, but ended up costing us MORE than the original refund of just the train ride!!!! We have not been satisfied with any response!

Collected by Trustpilot

ALLEN JONES

4 stars

Submitted 22/Sep

We really enjoyed the Zephyr from Chicago to Salt Lake City. The accommodations were fun, the meals were mixed - some very good; others not so much, the service by all Amtrak staff very good. The scenery was outstanding! Hotels in Salt Lake & Yellowstone were very nice. Unfortunately our trip was interrupted by the railroad strike (that never happened). Vacations by Rail has handled it very professionally and quickly. I also bought trip insurance and have filed a claim (still waiting for a resolution from them).

Collected by Trustpilot

Richard Pardo

3 stars

Submitted 15/Sep

SLC does not have a working AMTRAK station. It does not open until 10 PM and there is no cab service at the station. (You have to call for service). No warning was given about either of these short comings in the VACRAIL information. You should consider either adding that or correcting the paid for service to the local hotel for my package.

Collected by Trustpilot

Lana B, Houston, TX

5 stars

Submitted 03 Sep 2021

The package put together by Vacations By Rail went above and beyond what I could have done on my own. They really considered logistics when booking overnight hotels and rental car pick up/drop off. Overall as our first experience with long distance rail travel, I am very happy we chose Vacations By Rail.

Collected by Vacations By Rail

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