Denver – Salt Lake City by train

After many train adventures the train ride from Denver to Salt Lake City was the first I experienced with a friend.

The route from Denver to Salt Lake City is not anymore the same as in 1881, when my great-great-grandfather went around the Rocky Mountains through Wyoming. The train tracks through the Rockies were built in the early 20th century. However, in case of landslides or other hazards, the Amtrak train is rerouted via the old route. We were pretty happy that was not the case though.

About 5 minutes after we left Denver, Katie and I went to the Observation Car, because that’s the place where we wanted to gaze at the Rocky Mountains. We first sat down at one of the tables where we had our carry-on breakfasts but pretty soon, Katie and I moved to one of the panorama seats, where we stayed for the entire ride. We only returned to our seats 5 minutes before our arrival in Salt Lake City.

A very cool feature of the train ride were Woody & Elsie from the Trails & Rails program. They were on the train from Denver to Grand Junction and explained everything we saw along the ride and told lot’s of stories. Katie and I loved it!

Right outside Denver we climed into the Rocky Mountains and after a few tunnels we were right in the middle of them – sourrounded by trees, rivers, lakes and red rocks. It was absolutely beautiful! We soon reached the highest point of our journey and the continental divine in the Moffat tunnel at 9239 feet. After we had left the Rockies I thought the most beauful part of the journey was over – little did I know that the natural beauty and every changing landscapes would continue for the entire ride – a total of 15 hours.

We reached the sharpest curves in the Byers Canyon, which is why a speed limit of 20 mph was implemented – which gave us more time to gaze around! The Gore Canyon that we passed was named after a Lord who came to hunt in the area – complete with his fine china and bathtub in his luggage. The beauty of the Glenwood Canyon inspired the Vistadome wagons – the first panoramic wagons of Amtrak – we could see why!
About midway of our journey we met our sister train, which is the same train going the other direction. Both journeys are timed in the manner that the route between Denver and Salt Lake City are passed during the day – for obvious reasons!

In Grand Junction, the wonderful Woody and Elsie from the Trails and rails program left us, but we were extremly lucky. The new conductor aboard, Shane, came to the Observation Car and basically took over from the Trails and Rails program and explained everything until Salt Lake City (which is not necessarily common for conductors to do so). He knew about everyhting from the wildlife, scenic points and lot’s of movie locations (like Forrest Gump’s road) along the ride. He told us that his whole family is a railroad family and his brother was driving the very train we were sitting in and after showing him my great-great-grandfather’s drawings of the 1000 Mile tree and the Devil’s slide – I got the reaction “Of course I know where that is” for the very first time on the trip.

One of the prettiest parts was the Ruby Canyon, which is only accessible by train or water. We were pretty much on our own for 25 miles and were able to gaze at the beauty for a long time as we were going much slower than usually due to a power outtage. We saw the Colorado – Utah stateline painted on a rock in the canyon.
During the early evening we passed the wide open spaces of Utah, where we saw the Mount Peale (2nd highes in Utah) as well as the Landscape Arch of the Arches National Park – but only super tiny at the far horizon. Riding through those landscapes felt like being on the moon – absolutely fantastic and something I had never seen before.

From the Soldier’s summit st 7500 feet we descended to our final destination Salt Lake City at dark.

The video of the train ride:

2 thoughts on “Denver – Salt Lake City by train

  1. Donna BIschoff says:

    I watched your train video before seeing this post. I am very glad that you were on when they were on-board (they only do it certain days). Yes, it is really interesting to listen to them (usually voluteers who do this for the National Park Service). We took the train from Chicago to Seattle once (2 days/nights so we had a roomette in a sleeper car) and had the privilege of listening to 3 different parks come on during their segment of the route.. Hope you continue to have a fun and safe journey!

  2. Elsie says:

    Sibylle,
    Thank you for your kind words. I have enjoyed your trip nearly as much as you have. Thank you for sharing it
    with me and everyone else.
    Elsie Trails and Rails, Grand Junction, CO.

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