Amtrak to San Francisco, Part 6: Mountains, Mormons and Home

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Amtrak to San Francisco


It took a whole day to travel from Denver to Salt Lake City, but this was by far the best scenery (predominately the Rocky Mountains) we got to see as we travelled though mountains, tunnels and deserts getting a chance to admire the beautiful scenery of Colorado and Utah. It almost made up for the one- to two-hour delays that I regularly had to wait for Amtrak’s trains. Almost.


It’s not a good sign when you message your friend who has been in Salt Lake City for a year, asking for tips and the best places to go and he simply replies ‘stuff to do in SLC is a hard one, it’s quite a boring city’. With this knowledge in mind it was no surprise that by 2pm I’d run out of stuff to do. Don’t get me wrong, Salt Lake City is a beautiful and fascinating place — a shiny clean city in the middle of a desert. The Mormon section of the city, a massive area called Temple Square, is a fascinating place to explore with free tours and visitor centres to observe the Mormon religion. The Mormons themselves seemed friendly and were more than happy to answer any questions, but I kept feeling I had to make excuses to leave as they offered me Book of Mormon after Book of Mormon.

After filling my morning with a lengthy exploration of Mormon culture and a filling chicken sandwich, I realised I had made a mistake already. It just so happened that I was in Salt Lake City on a Sunday, which I assumed would be their big day of celebration but I found out later from some incredulous locals that this was actually their day of rest and spending time with their family, meaning a lot of things were closed. To make matters more tiresome, the 30 degree heat which had plagued me in the East Coast, and most of the trip, had followed me to Utah and made it a challenge to stay outside for longer than 10 minutes.

Luckily, my Lyft driver told me about an outside mall, the Gateway, which killed an hour or so, and there was a planetarium around the corner which was very interesting. I would also recommend an ice cream place called D-Bar which was a really affordable and great little place to get any flavour ice cream with fruit, chocolate, sweets and anything else you can think of. Finally, to seek respite from the sun, I found an independent cinema which played a very clever satire called Beatriz at Dinner. I was sad that I didn’t have time to explore the surrounding mountains and trails of Utah which apparently make up for the lack of activity in the city centre, but by this point I was ready to return back to San Francisco.


Sites: 3.5/5

Food: 3/5

History: 4/5

Accommodation: 3.5/5

People: 4/5

Overall Experience: 3.5/5



Catching my final 18-hour train back to San Francisco (well, technically Emeryville — a place on the Bay where I then had to get other transport back to San Francisco), gave me plenty of time to reflect on my journey. Considering I paid $459 and was allowed 8 stops across the whole of America in 15 days I was really happy with the distance I covered and the places I got to see. The East Coast was a really interesting place to travel, so different from the relaxed California I was familiar with, instead greeting me with skyscrapers, a frantic pace of life and a fascinating history. Travelling through the rest of America was also interesting and in some ways felt like the America that everyone imagines: the neighbourhoods with picket fences, old markets and an almost archaic quality. Of course this is a generalisation of Omaha and Denver in particular and both were pleasant places, as was Chicago which felt more like an East Coast location than a city in the middle of America.

Exploring the country by myself was a great experience which I will look back on fondly for years to come, I am sure. My only regret was not being able to venture south to Orlando, New Orleans, Nashville and Austin among other places, but with only 15 days to travel I would not have had enough time (or energy for that matter!) to fully experience them. However, having said that I have been lucky enough to visit a lot of America, probably more than most Americans themselves will see. Having studied, lived in and explored the country for a year, I have developed a real love for America and I love how, from state to state, there is such diversity in the landscape, atmosphere and people. And of all the places I was fortunate enough to visit I could think of no better place to study for a year than San Francisco which I really think of as a second home.

I would honestly recommend travelling through America if you have the chance as every place is so different to the next, you’ll never be bored for lack of things to do or experience. Travel by yourself if you want a challenge or travel with friends if you want the company, but just make sure you just get the chance to travel around this beautiful country.

Series Navigation<< Amtrak to San Francisco, Part 5: Omaha to Denver

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