Riding the Train from Denver to Grand Junction on Amtrak’s California Zephyr: Colorado by Rail

Sometimes the mountains call to you. When they do, one way to experience their majesty is a train ride from Denver to Grand Junction, stopping in Winter Park and Glenwood Springs on the way.

 

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The Colorado view from inside a sleeper car on the California Zephyr.

 

Departing Denver on Amtrak’s California Zephyr, you’ll slowly climb the Rocky Mountains to Winter Park. Then, from Winter Park to Glenwood Springs, the train passes through canyons only accessible by rail. For four stunning hours, you’ll follow the Colorado River, see wildlife, pass through a multitude of tunnels, and experience a winding tour through the Rocky Mountains. And finally, on to Grand Junction where the scenery changes again to mountain views and peach vineyards. The train ride is a glorious part of the adventure, but there’s plenty to do and see in each city, so plan to stay a couple days in each.

 

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Passengers gather in the observation car to enjoy the Colorado scenery.

 

WINTER PARK

 

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Downtown Winter Park, Colorado.

 

You’ll notice the change in altitude immediately after detraining in Fraser, Co., for a short bus ride to Winter Park. The Lift bus service runs on a regular schedule throughout the area so you won’t need a rental car to get around. They even have a downloadable APP to track where the bus is at any time. Winter Park offers adventurous fun, fine dining, and a quaint, walkable town.

Dining:

Lodging:

  • Stay Winter Park for a home away from home, in a condo nestled at the base of the mountains.

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    The view from my condo at Stay Winter Park.

Activities:

  • Winter: Skiing, Snow Cat Tour, Snowmobiling
  • Summer: Hiking, Biking, Boating, Art, Fishing
  • Shopping in the heart of Winter Park at Cooper Creek Square

Spa & Wellness:

GLENWOOD SPRINGS

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After one of the most visually stunning train rides in the United States, from Winter Park to Glenwood Springs, you’ll detrain in Glenwood Springs in a mountain hamlet. This breathtaking valley is surrounded by mountains and has the Colorado River running through it.

Dining:

  • The Pullman. Try the Mac and Cheese and a Simple Greens Salad with apple, feta, and crazy-delish spiced pecans. 20170312_122225
  • Indulge in an enormous omelet with fresh-made salsa at Daily Bread Restaurant. (Find Daily Bread on Facebook.)20170310_085442

Lodging:

  • In a Victorian home set in downtown Glenwood Springs, you’ll sleep well at Best Kept Secret B&B.

    Greenery at Best Kept Secret B&B
    Greenery at Best Kept Secret B&B.
  • Or for an incredible view in a luxury suite, stay at the Courtyard by Marriott.

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    View from a King Suite at Courtyard by Marriott.

Outdoor Activities:

Spa & Wellness:

GRAND JUNCTION

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Grand Junction is known in part for its wineries and produce. If you visit in the summer, be sure and try their local pride: tomatoes and peaches.

Dining:

  • Step back in time at the Main Street Diner. Leave room for a root beer float. You’ll be glad you did.
  • You’ll find locally-sourced, organic ingredients at Café Sol. The Asparagus Bisque with a small Cobb Salad is divine. 20170314_134344

Lodging:

  • The Grand Vista Hotel offers clean comfort, great food, karaoke most nights, plus all the amenities at an affordable rate.

Activities:

Originally published in the May 2017 Evolving Magazine.

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