West of 105 Magazine - - Outdoors -

For a dif­fer­ent, but equally scenic, ride jump aboard the Cal­i­for­nia Ze­phyr at Den­ver's Union Sta­tion and head West of 105 - lit­er­ally.

Once dubbed “the most talked about train in Amer­ica," the Cal­i­for­nia Ze­phyr is one of the most beau­ti­ful train trips in the coun­try, and the Colorado por­tion of the jour­ney is the best part.

As the train heaves out of Den­ver and starts its jour­ney west, the land­scape quickly changes as you be­gin to climb into the Colorado Rock­ies.

Just un­der three hours af­ter de­part­ing from Den­ver, the train ar­rives in Win­ter Park, the so-called “ice­box of Amer­ica.” Skiers use the train in win­ter to get straight to Win­ter Park Ski Re­sort from down­town Den­ver. The re­sort is also the por­tal for the 6.2-mile Mof­fat Tun­nel which cut the dis­tance be­tween Den­ver and the Pa­cific coast by 176 miles when it opened in 1928.

Next is South Boul­der Canyon which sees the Ze­phyr pass through 29 tun­nels be­fore even­tu­ally meet­ing and fol­low­ing Fraser River through the re­mote Fraser Canyon. There is a brief stop at Granby which is fol­lowed by Gore Canyon. Its steep walls ascend 1,000 feet on each side over the river, which has Class V white­wa­ter, so look out for kayak­ers and rafters. You will prob­a­bly get plenty of waves (you may see more than that as rafters have been known to bare their back­sides to the train). The train car­ries on to Dot­sero, the mid­point of the jour­ney.

Glen­wood Canyon is per­haps the most beau­ti­ful part of the jour­ney. Rugged and scenic, the 12.5-mile gorge on the Colorado River is the largest canyon on the up­per Colorado River. The high cliffs are dot­ted with aspen and ever­green trees. Glen­wood Springs is next and is a great place to stop. Lo­cated at the con­flu­ence of the Roar­ing Fork and Colorado Rivers, the area is very pop­u­lar with lovers of the great out­doors. There are also six world-class ski re­sorts within a 60-mile ra­dius of the town, mile-upon-mile of moun­tain bike trails, white­wa­ter raft­ing, back­pack­ing trails and Glen­wood Cav­erns. Wild West le­gend Doc Hol­l­i­day spent the fi­nal months of his life here.

Pal­isade and De Beque take those en­joy­ing the Colorado por­tion of the train to­wards the end of the line. Pal­isade is known for its peaches and vine­yards (read more about wine on page 58), while De Beque is a cen­ter for projects to pro­tect the re­main­ing wild horses and bur­ros in the area, which in­cludes con­struc­tion of a pub­lic cor­ral for care of in­jured and sick mus­tangs await­ing adop­tion.

Fi­nally, the train pulls in to Grand Junc­tion. Colorado Na­tional Mon­u­ment, a se­ries of canyons and mesas sim­i­lar to the Grand Canyon, watches over the city and is a must see if you have time. Pow­der­horn ski re­sort is nearby, too, as is Grand Mesa, one of the world's largest flat top moun­tains.

As an added bonus, the Cal­i­for­nia Ze­phyr op­er­ates the Trails & Rails pro­gram be­tween Den­ver and Grand Junc­tion. The pro­gram is a part­ner­ship be­tween the Na­tional Park Ser­vice and Am­trak and of­fers pas­sen­gers that chance to lis­ten to and ask ques­tions of the ranger that trav­els on the train.

The en­tire route of the Ze­phyr takes pas­sen­gers be­tween Chicago and the San Fran­cisco Bay Area, but for us it be­gins in Den­ver and ends in Grand Junc­tion - or vice versa. The train leaves Den­ver ev­ery day at 8.05 am and is sched­uled to ar­rive in Grand Junc­tion at 4.10 pm. The re­turn jour­ney leaves Grand Junc­tion at 10.23 am and ar­rives in Den­ver that evening at around 7.10 pm. am­

Photo: Bryan Bech­told

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