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.
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.
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.
- Mountain Grind is an award-winning café that serves up local and organic goodness.
- Try Volario’s for Italian fine dining.
- Hernando’s Pizza Pub carries on a Winter Park tradition since 1967.
- Stay Winter Park for a home away from home, in a condo nestled at the base of the mountains.
- 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:
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.
- The Pullman. Try the Mac and Cheese and a Simple Greens Salad with apple, feta, and crazy-delish spiced pecans.
- Indulge in an enormous omelet with fresh-made salsa at Daily Bread Restaurant. (Find Daily Bread on Facebook.)
- In a Victorian home set in downtown Glenwood Springs, you’ll sleep well at Best Kept Secret B&B.
- Or for an incredible view in a luxury suite, stay at the Courtyard by Marriott.
- Take a tram up the mountain and ride thrilling rides like the Alpine Coaster at Glenwood Caverns and Adventure Park.
- Or try fishing, kayaking, hiking, and aerial sports.
Spa & Wellness:
- Soak in the healing goodness at Iron Mountain Hot Springs.
- Soothe yourself at the only known natural vapor caves in the U.S. at Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves.
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.
- 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.
- The Grand Vista Hotel offers clean comfort, great food, karaoke most nights, plus all the amenities at an affordable rate.
- Stroll the downtown area and view the artwork.
- Check out Two Rivers Winery.
- Make the short drive to the Colorado National Monument for fantastic views.
- Find out about the real Wild West at Museum of the West.
Originally published in the May 2017 Evolving Magazine.