Coast Starlight is likely one of the most iconic Amtrak train routes. It runs between Los Angeles and Seattle. The scenery is incredible as you zoom past the shore line of the Pacific Ocean. This train journey is about 35 hours. Ours arrived a few minutes early. In years past this train was known as the “Coast StarLATE” because of it’s constant tardiness.
If you are in a roomette, grab a drink and enjoy the views from your room. If you want a little variety or you are in a Coach seat, you can head to the Sightseer Lounge to take in the views from both sides. This is probably one of our favorite train rides to date. Not only do you get to enjoy the shoreline views but you will also see the beautiful mountains and fertile valleys along the way as you make your way up the coast.
Empire Builder is a glorious ride across the American West. We rode this train from Seattle to Chicago. This train runs along major portions of the Lewis and Clark trail. I felt like I was riding along with the pioneers of the west. You will get a quick stop in North Dakota if you are looking to cross this state off your 50 state list. The ride through Montana will show why they call it Big Sky Country. You will dip into edge of Glacier National Park.
We were not expecting magnificent views on this route but we were surprised as we left Seattle. After a short time we were admiring the shoreline of Puget Sound. The Pacific Northwest is a beautiful area. We also love city views and the ride into Chicago does not disappoint. Be sure to enjoy the ride into the city. This is the only train we rode that was very late. We arrived about 90 minutes after our scheduled time. Overall this was a nice route, the views were great.
California Zephyr is unrivaled as the most beautiful train trip in North America. We rode it from Chicago to Emeryville (San Francisco). After zipping through the heartland, the California Zephyr will take you up into the Rockies. While in the Rockies you will have a quick, fresh air break at the highest altitude station on Amtrak in Winter Park, CO. The conductor warned us about the 10 min tunnel ride under the Western Divide and we did not heed his warning seriously enough. Rob experienced severe allergies soon after exiting the tunnel.
From the Rockies you will zoom up the Sierra Nevadas and admire Donner Pass as you make your way back down and into the Bay Area. This was an incredibly enjoyable train ride. If you are looking to do just one Amtrak Vacation, I would definitely rank this one high. The only issue we encountered was the severe allergies from the tunnel. The staff was great on this train and we arrived to Emeryville on time. The station here is just a few steps away from several hotels as well as restaurants.