Amtrak California Zephyr Tickets Starting at $99 from Chicago to San Francisco: Tips & Tricks to Save

So, you have been hearing about the Zephyr for a long time now and are finally going to pack your bags and head out on this exciting ride. 

  1. What are the train ticket prices for the California Zephyr route?
  2. How To Get Cheap Train Tickets on the California Zephyr? 
  3. How to get discounted train tickets? 
  4. Other considerations when looking for train tickets on the California Zephyr route.
  5. What are the Pros and Cons of Zephyr train travel? 

Traveling by train is one of the best ways to experience a new place, especially if you’re not in a hurry. 

Whether you want to spend a few hours or several days at your destination, train travel gives you more flexibility. 

You can hop on and off at any stop along the way, giving you the chance to explore different parts of town and see more of the area. 

You can also save money by paying for your train tickets in advance or bringing a small bag to store your belongings.

Amtrak’s California Zephyr is one of the most famous trains in North America. 

Is an Amtrak long-distance passenger train that runs between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area in California. 

The train was introduced in 1949, making it America’s first streamliner and one of its longest trains.

The route is a scenic one and includes some of my favorite destinations in the United States.

The train uses two routes: one from Chicago to Kansas City via Denver (known as “the Overland Route”).

And another from Emeryville, California to Salt Lake City via Reno and Winnemucca (known as “the Pacific Route”).

While there are no overnight stops on this route, and it only takes three days to get from one end to the other, this is not your typical long-distance train. 

The California Zephyr runs through some of the most scenic areas of the United States and Canada, including Nebraska’s Sand Hills, Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin, and Utah’s Wasatch Range.

The train departs from Chicago at 5:15 p.m., arriving in Denver at 8:45 p.m. 

The next morning it leaves Denver at 7:45 a.m., stopping in Salt Lake City at 9:40 a.m., Reno at 6:30 p.m., Sacramento at 10:00 p.m., and Oakland at 4:00 a.m., arriving in Emeryville (near San Francisco) at 7:30 a.m.

The journey from Chicago to Emeryville takes 36 hours and includes overnights in Denver, Salt Lake City, Reno, and Sacramento.

It costs $288 for an economy seat or $128 for an economy sleeper berth (which includes breakfast). 

If you are traveling solo or as a couple, I recommend booking an economy sleeper berth.

If you’re traveling with family members or friends then book an economy seat instead (which is more affordable).

From the most famous coast to coast train trip, the California Zephyr will take you from Chicago to San Francisco in a little over 2 days. 

Find out why it’s so affordable and affordable rail travel tips!

What are the train ticket prices for the California Zephyr route?

One of the biggest advantages of taking the California Zephyr is that it’s affordable.

Unlike some other trains, which charge an extra fee for each piece of luggage, the California Zephyr only charges one flat fee per passenger (one-way, round-trip, or both).

 This means that you could potentially save a significant amount of money by traveling by train instead of a plane.

If you’re looking to take a trip on the California Zephyr, you’ll want to know how to get cheap train tickets. 

For $263, you can get from Chicago to Grand Junction, Colorado—a distance of about 1,000 miles. 

And if you’re already planning on going to Colorado, this is an opportunity for you to make a coast-to-coast trip for less than $500 (and sometimes as low as $260).

This iconic train route runs from Chicago to the San Francisco Bay Area, and it’s a great way to see some of America’s most beautiful scenery. 

The best way to get cheap train tickets on the California Zephyr is to plan your trip and book your tickets as early as possible. 

You can also sign up for Amtrak’s email list to be notified of special deals and promotions. 

And if you’re a AAA member, you can get a discount on your train ticket purchase.

How To Get Cheap Train Tickets on the California Zephyr? 

Well, here’s how you can save money when riding the California Zephyr.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you find a cheaper Amtrak fare.

There are many ways to get cheap train tickets on the California Zephyr. 

First of all, if you’re a frequent commuter, you can buy a monthly train pass from the Amtrak website. 

The most popular pass, called the All-Access Pass, includes unlimited travel between San Francisco, Sacramento, and Los Angeles for one low price. 

Another option is to buy a ticket from another train company and travel it one stop on the California Zephyr. However, this is only possible if you have a railroad pass issued by another company. 

Finally, some people buy round-trip tickets from Amtrak and then transfer to other trains at the destination station.

One thing is certain: getting cheap tickets on Amtrak is not always easy. 

But when you do get them, they’re usually worth every penny!

To get cheap train tickets on the California Zephyr, simply book your ticket well in advance. 

You can also save money by purchasing round-trip tickets that allow you to use them for both directions of travel.

How to get discounted train tickets? 

Train travel is often a great alternative to flying – more affordable and also more relaxing. 

That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you find the best deal when purchasing your train tickets on the California Zephyr route.

Do you love to travel by train, but find the prices a bit too steep? 

Well, there is good news! If you are willing to do a little research and be flexible with your travel plans, you can find ways to get discounted train tickets on the California Zephyr route. 

Here are a few tips:

1. Look for promotions and discounts. 

Amtrak offers various promotions throughout the year, so it is worth checking their website regularly for updates. 

For example, they sometimes offer discounts for AAA members or seniors.

2. Travel during off-peak hours. 

Avoid traveling during peak times if possible, as ticket prices will be higher then. 

Instead, try to take advantage of early morning or late night trains when fares are typically lower.

3. Be flexible with your dates and destination. 

If you have some flexibility in when you travel and where you want to go, you will have a better chance of finding cheaper tickets. 

For example, consider taking a side trip to a smaller station rather than always going straight to your final destination.

4. Purchase your tickets in advance. 

This is especially important if you are planning to travel during peak times. 

Amtrak typically releases their cheapest tickets about three months before departure, so purchasing early will help you save a lot of money.

5. Consider purchasing your tickets through a travel agent. 

Amtrak pays travel agents a small fee for each ticket they sell, but this is often lower than the price difference between what you can purchase directly and those sold through an agency.

6. Know where to look for good deals on train tickets. 

Many people head straight to when buying their tickets, but this can lead to disappointment with high ticket prices and low availability. 

A better option is to compare prices from multiple websites such as these. 

If you do choose to purchase from Amtrak directly, be sure to use a valid Promo Code to receive any applicable savings or discounts!

Other considerations when looking for train tickets on the California Zephyr route.

There are a few other things to keep in mind when looking for cheap train tickets on the California Zephyr route. 

First, try to book your ticket as early as possible. 

The closer you get to your travel date, the more expensive tickets tend to be. Second, keep an eye out for special promotions and discounts. Sometimes, train companies will offer discounts for specific dates or times of travel. 

Third, consider traveling during off-peak hours. 

Trains are typically less crowded and cheaper during weekdays and overnight hours. 

Finally, be flexible with your travel plans. If you have some flexibility in when you travel, you may be able to find cheaper tickets outside of the peak travel times. 

What are the Pros and Cons of Zephyr train travel? 


  • The scenery is breathtaking and unlike anything else in North America.
  • You get to experience a slice of American history on this train that has been running since 1949.
  • It is a great way to see parts of the country that you would not normally have the opportunity to visit.
  • The trip is very relaxing and you can take your time enjoying the journey.
  • The staff on the train are very friendly and accommodating.


  • The trip is very long and can be tedious for some people.
  • It can be quite expensive, especially if you book last minute or during peak season.
  • There are often delays due to weather or other conditions beyond the control of the train company.


With a little bit of planning, you can easily snag cheap train tickets on the California Zephyr.

Today, Amtrak has teamed up with six California cities.

San Jose, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Davis, Sacramento, and Berkeley.

All to promote rail travel as a convenient option for commuters trying to get around the state. 

Each city will be showcasing 12 new pull-out maps of potential rail routes that would connect any two of the metro area.

Three designated rail stations (Union Square in San Francisco, Diridon Station in Downtown San Jose and Sacramento).

By booking your tickets in advance and being flexible with your travel dates, you’ll be able to take advantage of some great deals. 

And if you’re a student or senior citizen, don’t forget to ask about discounts! 

With a little bit of effort, you can save some money on your next train trip.

Brandon York
Brandon York
Articles: 28

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