The California Zephyr Route

The California Zephyr Route

The California Zephyr route was originally from San Francisco to Chicago; covering 2,523 miles across 7 states in just 2.5 days. The route of the California Zephyr traversed some of the most spectacular scenery in the United States. And the trains were scheduled to pass through its most magnificent parts in daylight.

Scenic highlights included: Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevadas, Moffat Tunnel, Colorado’s Gore, Byers and Glenwood Canyons, Winter Park, Truckee River, Donner Lake, San Pablo Bay and the Carquinez Strait.  Each California Zephyr consist included 5 Vista-Dome cars from which passengers could view the scenery from a birds-eye view. There was never a chance to miss out on the passing landscape of America.

“Westbound, the departure from Chicago is in mid-afternoon with arrival in mile-high Denver about breakfast time the next morning. All day the route is through the majestic Colorado Rockies, with their snow-capped peaks, rock-walled canyons, evergreen forests, and tumbling streams. Salt Lake City is reached in the evening, and next morning the Zephyr enters California through Beckwourth Pass in the heart of the mighty Sierra Nevada. For 120 miles the tracks follow the twists and turns of the enchanting Feather River Canyon, where countless scenic thrills make this one of the enjoyable highlights of the entire trip. Oakland, San Francisco, and the Golden Gate are reached in the afternoon. Eastbound, passengers aboard the Zephyr likewise traverse the delightfully scenic regions between dawn and dusk. Leaving San Francisco in the morning, all of the beauties of the Feather River Canyon and the Sierra may be seen before nightfall. Arrival in Salt Lake City is in the early morning, and after a full day’s trip through the Rocky Mountains, Denver is reached in the evening. Shortly after noon the next day is “journey’s end” at Chicago Union Station.” –Excerpt from a brochure that outlined a route guide, stylized map, photographs and text.

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To this day, folks can still ride the California Zephyr route via Amtrak.

CVSR’s group traveling aboard the Zephyr’s on their last journey across will be taking the Southwest Chief Route on train number 4. Although it does not follow the same route as the California Zephyr, it still shows the beauty of the west from Los Angeles to Chicago. Follow our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates on where the cars are, tours of the train cars, and Q&A opportunities. Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is thrilled to be taking this step in our first-ever capital campaign! Learn more about our inaugural capital campaign here.

The first opportunity for guests to ride CVSR’s recently acquired Zephyr cars is at Steam in the Valley. More information here.

The California Zephyr train cars will also be available for Fall Flyer, Beer and Wine Tasting and THE POLAR EXPRESS™. 

Katie Brewer

Katie Brewer



Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad train rides will resume October 1 with the Fall Flyer followed by THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Please see our COVID-19 Safety information.