Rockies Zephyr Train Trip ] Go up one Level ] Week 1: Denver to Monument Valley ] Week 2: A GeoPaleo Adventure ] [ Rockies Zephyr Train Trip ]


After the Paleo class we took the Amtrak California Zephyr train through the Colorado Rockies from Grand Junction to Denver.

This train follow the path of the Colorado river upstream (which used to be called the Grand River, hence Grand Junction).
It then cuts through the top of the mountains at Moffat Tunnel and then descends to Denver.
A full description of the train ride is at the bottom of this page.
Most of the pictures I took are from the observation car showing the train rounding curves through canyons


Picture of Beaver Dam on Colorado River

End of Colorado Trip >>> ] Go up one Level ] Week 1: Denver to Monument Valley ] Week 2: A GeoPaleo Adventure ] [ Rockies Zephyr Train Trip ]


The Gunnison and Colorado Rivers meet here. Grand Junction is the gateway to Mesa Verde National Park, the Colorado National Monument and Grand Mesa National Forest.


Roaring Fork River meets the Colorado on the right. The infamous gunslinger Doc Holliday is buried here. Glenwood Springs was also a favorite of Teddy Roosevelt, who stayed at the Colorado Hotel and enjoyed the revitalizing waters of the Yampa Hot Springs.



This station is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. The vast meadowlands in this area make up a region called Middle Park. Evidence of aboriginal people has been found at nearby Windy Gap Dam dated at 3000 B.C. – 1200 A.D., predating American Indians. Silver Creek ski area and Winter Park are across the valley to the right.



This is the station for the nearby Winter Park Ski Resort. The Fraser River cuts a swath through Arapahoe National Forest and Fraser Canyon. The town of Fraser proudly calls itself the “Icebox of America” because of its winter temperatures of -50°F. The Devil’s Thumb is a rock formation on top of the ridge to the left.



This tunnel is 6.2 miles long and takes approximately 15 minutes to go through. It is at this point that the train crosses the Continental Divide and is at an elevation of over 9000feet. Note: The train crew will make an announcement asking all customers to find a comfortable seat and not move between cars while the train is in the tunnel.



The Mile High City is breathtaking to behold, and the Amtrak® station is in the midst of it all. You’ll be within walking distance of Coors Field, restaurants and hotels in this vibrant downtown area. Note: At the Colorado/Nebraska State Line, change your watch between Mountain and Central Time; one hour later if going east, one hour earlier if going west.


A review from someone who has taken the trip from East to West..


As soon as they let you onto the train go to your seat then head IMMEDIATELY for the dome car. If you either go back to your seat, to your room, or to the restroom for even a minute, you will NOT be able to get a seat in the prized dome car. The dome has HUGE windows on it that almost completely cover the sides and top of the car allowing passengers to more readily view the exquisite scenery. The best views as the train ascends the mountains can be seen from the LEFT side of this car.
( RIGHT if going East) As the train rises into the mountains, you will get a MAGNIFICENT view of both Denver and the plains, providing a sharp contrast to the majestic mountains.

Ascending into the Rocky Mountains. Within about two hours, the train will cross the continental divide via the Moffett Tunnel. This tunnel is nine miles long. As the train enters the tunnel, you will be cautioned not to exit the car you are in. Head this warning otherwise other passengers will clobber you. They will do this because while the train is in a tunnel, the exhaust fumes do not dissipate into the air. So when the doors between the cars are opened, carbon monoxide will enter the cars. One lady was bound and determined to go into the next car. She held the door open while a bunch of passengers told her to shut the door and stay in the car. She just stood there with the door open. So, a few of the passengers panicked, grabbed her, and threw her away from the door before she knew what hit.

At this point, no matter how warn it was in Denver, it will probably be quite chilly up here. There was a brief stop in Granby, Colorado. The conductors let us get off of the train for a few minutes. I can remember having fun throwing snowballs. It was great. The scenery in this area is a combination of snow and greenery.

Glenwood Springs. The train stopped briefly in Glenwood Springs Colorado. Glenwood Springs is noted for its natural hot springs. There is a two-block long pool that is warmed by the hot springs. This pool is visible from the train. Since the water is so warm, people swim in it year round.

As the train travels through the canyons in this area, you will know why they put windows in the TOP of the dome car. The reason is that you will have to look up through the glass ceiling to see the tops of the canyon walls. The canyon walls on the side seem so close that I thought that if I could open a window, I could touch the rocks! The colors in this area are golden yellow and red. I am not joking when I say red. The rocks are RED. The greenery has been left behind miles ago. There was one point where we saw a car that was stuck half way down the cliff. I really wondered if there was someone in that car who needed help. When I brought this to the attention of one of the train crew, I was told, that the car had been there for over 10 years. So, don't freak if you see that car. When I saw that car, I thought about medical care in remote areas. The next doctor may be 100 miles away. Also, rescuing people from the side of a cliff is much different from having an ambulance pull up to one's home to get them.

Grand Junction

As the train nears Grand Junction, the train exits the canyons, you know that you are in the desert. However, mountains can be seen in the distance. The two predominant mountains are the Grand Mesa and the Book Cliff Mountains.

End of Colorado Trip >>> ] Go up one Level ] Week 1: Denver to Monument Valley ] Week 2: A GeoPaleo Adventure ] [ Rockies Zephyr Train Trip ]