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Video: Can you travel the whole US West Coast by train?

Here’s the fourth and final video I’ve made on my North American trip, looking at the excellent ‘Coast Starlight’ rail journey.

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(Transcript of the video)

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight service is its flagship route between Seattle and Los Angeles along the west coast of the USA.

It’s a trip that I enjoyed enormously and would thoroughly recommend.

Trains leave south from Seattle and north from Los Angeles every morning and they take two days with the overnight part of the journey in either direction being through Northern California.

This is the timetable going northwards; you can see the route passes by cities such as San Francisco, Sacramento and Portland.

If you want to stop and break the journey, it’s quite possible, but it can be quite expensive if you want to travel in your own ‘roomette’.

I’ve discussed the differences between ordinary seats, roomettes with beds and larger bedrooms in my video about traveling east to west across the USA.

If you’re alone and cost isn’t an issue, I’d recommend getting a roomette like this; these are designed for two people but the upstairs bunk is cosy, to say the least.

If there are two of you I would investigate the even more expensive bedrooms that are available.

If you’re starting from LA, perhaps the best part of the journey happens almost straight away, and that’s the journey along the southern Californian coast.

The train runs alongside the beach for several hours and it’s unmissable; almost everybody on the train just puts down what they’re doing and stares out of the window.

You really do want a seat or a roomette on the west-facing side of the train for this.

Many people have told me that the best way to experience the coast between LA and San Francisco is to drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, and I’m sure they’re right, but on holiday I want to let someone else do the driving and I couldn’t find a coach trip doing that route, so I’d have had to have rented a car. No. I was thrilled that the railway was so scenic.

If you’re in any of the sleeping sections of the train you’ll get three meals a day in the restaurant car; you’ll be sat with other passengers, which is great fun.

I met some super people on the journey and I thoroughly recommend it.

The scenery changes all the time it doesn’t really matter whether you’re going north or south, because in both sections you’ll have one day in Washington state in Oregon, and one day in Central and Southern California.

In both directions it’s Northern California which you don’t really get to see, as that all passes by while it’s dark.

In Oregon and Washington State the scenery is grassland and forest, which is a huge contrast to the ocean.

At any time during the journey if you want a different view, there’s an observation car which you can go and visit.

The Coast Starlight really is a terrific experience, which I’d thoroughly recommend.

You can do it very cheaply if you’re prepared to sleep in your seat for one night, but it’s spending a lot more for the sleeping accommodation options on the train that makes it an unforgettable travel experience.

Just remember that if top bunks are likely to be an adventure too far, get a roomette for one person, or a bedroom if there are two of you.

And to answer the question about whether you can truly travel the entire West Coast by train, well… almost.

Amtrak has services from LA down to San Diego AND from Seattle up over the Canadian border to Vancouver, so you could do all of those; there’s also a light rail service from San Diego to nip down to the Mexican border and there you have it. What are you waiting for?

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