About a month ago, I had the opportunity to ride the Denver – Grand Junction portion of the California Zephyr as part of an audit of our Trails & Rails program. This specific T&R program is run out of the Intermountain Regional Office and houses about 60 volunteers.

California Zephyr route from San Francisco to Chicago

During this 8-hour portion of the longer train route from Chicago to San Francisco, two NPS volunteers deliver interpretative programing for passengers Thursdays-Sundays from Memorial Day until the end of September. This awesome program is thanks to a partnership between Amtrak and the NPS, and provides passengers with “educational opportunities to foster an appreciation of a selected region’s natural and cultural heritage and renews the long tradition of associating railroads with National Parks” (Amtrak).

Old schoolhouse with a backdrop of golden aspens, viewed from the train

Not only was I able to take the “rail” less travelled and learn more about my home state, I was also able to connect with four of our hard working volunteers and hear about why they love being VIPs! Along the way, I reviewed our volunteers’ script and received positive feedback from the passengers who said the presentation provided a lot of added value to their trip. I would highly recommend this route to anyone passing through (especially as a fall trip—the changing aspens!). A full schedule of all T&R programs throughout the country and more information about the program can be found here.