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California Zephyr with Yosemite National Park - Chicago to San Francisco

You are viewing the 2024 itinerary. Select your departure year
8 days From $2,213 per person
4.5 stars(13 reviews)

Explore both big city culture and grand natural wonders with this trip that takes you from Chicago to San Francisco, traversing through the Rockies and Sierra Mountains, topping off with a visit to beautiful Yosemite National Park.

Travel on your own following a well-planned itinerary

2024 Tour code: TU-ZYMW-24

About the tour

The only thing more appealing than a train vacation through the Rocky and Sierra Mountains is one that includes a visit to the waterfalls and Giant Sequoia groves of Yosemite National Park. Your great western rail adventure begins in Chicago with a two-night stay in this Midwest metropolis, providing ample time to explore the highlights such as the Bean in Millennium Park, a Ferris wheel ride at Navy Pier, or a stop to do some shopping in one of the several fabulous stores lining the Magnificent Mile.

After you're done discovering "The Windy City", continue on your train vacation as you board Amtrak's legendary California Zephyr for a two-night rail journey across the plains of the Midwest into the snow-capped Rocky and Sierra mountain ranges to San Francisco. During your two-night stay in the City by the Bay, spend the first part visiting famed highlights such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Fishermans Wharf, or a take a ride on one of the city's classic cable cars.

Conclude your stay in San Francisco with a visit to the famous Yosemite National Park. Known for its dazzling waterfalls and vibrant evergreen forests, discovering the wonders of this National Park is the absolute ideal way to complete this unique rail adventure.



What’s included


Day 1 - Chicago

Arrive in Chicago and spend the day exploring the city at your leisure with a hop on/hop off tour. See Millennium Park, the theatre district, the Art Institute, Navy Pier, the John Hancock Observatory, Willis Tower and other important city landmarks. Overnight Chicago.

Day 2 - Chicago Sightseeing

Admire the architectural gems of Chicago during this 90-minute River Architecture tour. See the city with unobstructed views from a boat cruising along the river. Learn about over 130 years of the city's history and sightsee from a new angle. Overnight Chicago.

Day 3 - Depart Chicago aboard the California Zephyr

Arrive at Chicago's historic Union Station for your 1:50 pm departure and prepare for your train adventure. Once onboard the iconic California Zephyr, settle into your onboard accommodations for the 2,400+ mile journey across the country to San Francisco. As the train chugs across the Midwest, make sure to visit the Sightseer Lounge to meet some new friends and admire the passing scenery. Enjoy dinner in the Dining Car as you cross the mighty Mississippi River. Overnight train.

Day 4 - California Zephyr and the Rockies

Stunning views of the Colorado Rockies await you this morning as the Zephyr climbs the front range of the Rockies. Keep an eye out for wildlife and enjoy the breathtaking scenery from your onboard accommodations, or opt for a more panoramic setting in the Lounge Car. During the summer months, take advantage of the opportunity to learn about the area through which you're traveling during a Trails and Rails presentation conducted by volunteer rangers as you travel from Denver to Grand Junction. Overnight train.

Day 5 - San Francisco

The train arrives in Reno, Nevada mid-morning and continues across the border into California, climbing through the legendary Donner Pass, the high point in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains. The California Zephyr is scheduled to arrive in Emeryville around 4:10 pm this afternoon. Upon arrival, hop a shuttle for your transfer to the San Francisco Ferry building, where you can get a taxi to your hotel located near Fisherman's Wharf. Overnight San Francisco.

Day 6 - San Francisco Sightseeing

Spend the day exploring the City by the Bay on a city tour. Learn about San Francisco's history from the early Spanish settlers and the Gold Rush to today. Highlights include the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods, Chinatown, Haight Ashbury, Coit Tower, Ghirardelli Square and more! Overnight San Francisco.

*Option to swap the city tour with 1.) Mission District Walking Food Tour or 2.) Half Day Sonoma Wine Country Tour*

Day 7 - Yosemite National Park

Discover the wonders of Yosemite National Park on a full-day excursion to Yosemite Valley and the Giant Sequoias. Visit El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Falls and Inspiration Point before driving to a lesser-traveled part of the Park for a chance to hike in the evergreen forest to see the world's largest living things: a grove of Giant Sequoia trees! Overnight San Francisco.

Day 8 - Return Home

Your California Zephyr and Yosemite National Park vacation comes to an end today. Check out of your hotel and transfer on your own to the airport or railway station for your return travel home.

Additional information

Hotel Accommodations

Hotels are centrally-located, well-appointed properties such as the Palmer House Hilton, Chicago and Hotel RIU Plaza Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco. 

Pricing Plans

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

Coach accommodations include a reclining seat with leg rest.

Roomette accommodations include a private cabin featuring two comfortable seats beside a picture window during the day, converting to an upper and lower berth at night. Bedroom accommodations feature a sofa and chair by day, and upper and lower berth by night.

Bedroom accommodations also include a sink and self-enclosed toilet and shower. All travelers have access to the Sightseer Lounge. Roomette and Bedroom accommodations include all meals aboard the train. 

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.

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. Chicago Historical Tour is not available on Thursdays and substitution of equal value would occur. The Giant Sequoias hike on the excursion to Yosemite is dependant on snow levels and trail 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.


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4.5 stars4.5 / 5 · 13 reviews

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


5 stars

Submitted 23 Oct 2021

We enjoyed the experience. Considering the unavoidable space restrictions on a train, the goog use of all spaces was impressive.

Collected by Trustpilot


4 stars

Submitted 13 Oct 2021

It would have been a 5 stars , if we had decided to rent a room, not a roomette, sharing toilettes and shower was not good .

Collected by Trustpilot

Kelly T, Greenbush, MI

5 stars

Submitted 11 Sep 2021

Better than I could have imagined. Grame our agent is super at what he does. It was the best experience I have ever had. Will be scheduling something real soon. Thank you for making it the best vacation ever.

Collected by Vacations By Rail

Kelly T, Greenbush, MI

5 stars

Submitted 11 Sep 2021

Better than I could have imagined. Grame our agent is super at what he does. It was the best experience I have ever had. Will be scheduling something real soon. Thank you for making it the best vacation ever.

Collected by Vacations By Rail


4 stars

Submitted 08 Jul 2019

Vacations by rail was great! Our travel representative, Suzanne Saba, was awesome! She was very helpful in planning the trip! All of our paperwork came in plenty of time before we left so that we had time to review it. Both hotels in Chicago and San Francisco were awesome! No complaints about the accommodations. Our train steward, Rashid Davis, was the best! He was so helpful, entertaining and just awesome! The bedroom is very small, but we managed it for 2 days. Needed to be cleaner, but it is an older train. Food was very good and all wait staff were great! The only thing we would change about the train was take a shorter time. 2 days was too long, plus the train was 3 1/2 hours late arriving in San Fran. We also realize that we would not be able to see all of the beauty without being there for 2 days. The arrival into San Fran was a little confusing. A bus was there for us, but no announcement was ever made once we got on bus to where we would be dropped off. We were dropped off at Pier 39 which is a couple of blocks away from hotel, we should have been aware of that. All of the tours were good in Chicago. In San Fran, we took the hop-on-hop-off and that was great. We chose not to take the Yosemite tour the next day because it is an all day(12 hours) tour. Was too much riding for us since we had been on train for 2 days.we did call Extranomical tours and they were able to change us to 2 other tours for the next day which was great! I think that all travelers should be offered an option of Yosemite of 2-3 others because it is such a long day! You?re only in San Fran for 1 day on Sat, 12 hour tour on Sun and then home on Monday. Please tell this to all persons taking this tour. I hope that these comments will be helpful in booking other folks. We would definitely book with vacations by rail again!

Collected by Vacations By Rail

Pauline Weidenkopf

5 stars

Submitted 07 Jul 2019

Everything was wonderful. The good was very good, the scenery was breathtaking. Our cabin attendant was great. The tours in Chicago and San Francisco were very good. The trip to Yosemite was very informative. Our driver was very knowledgeable. She knew the history of the park. She stopped several times to explain points to interest. We never felt rushed. I would whole-heartedly recommend this trip.

Collected by Vacations By Rail

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