Amtrak Guide

By train travelers for train travelers, coast starlight train: rider guide.

See the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountain Range with a trip on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight route. It’s one of the most scenic in the United States with long-distance travel between Los Angeles and Seattle. Total travel time is 35 hours and you’ll spend one night on the train if you travel between these two cities, or ride this train between other cities in California, Oregon and Washington State.

This website is reader supported and not affiliated with Amtrak. We may earn a small commission from links on this page.

Schedule Highlights

  • There is one northbound and one southbound train each day.
  • Trains depart L.A in the morning and arrive in Seattle the next day in the evening.
  • Trains depart Seattle in the morning and arrive in L.A. the next day in the evening.
  • Overnight, trains are primarily in Northern California.

Things to Know

  • Trains use Superliner rail cars that have two levels.
  • There is a café for all passengers and a dining car for sleeper car passengers.
  • Beaches, wineries and hiking trails are some of the things you can enjoy at stops along the route .
  • You can get off and on the train for a night or more, but you’ll need to book each leg of the trip separately.
  • The Van Nuys Station is a 20-minute drive away from the Hollywood Burbank Airport as an alternate to flying in or out of Los Angeles (LAX) to connect with the Coast Starlight.

The cost of Amtrak tickets varies by type of ticket, distance traveled, time of year, day of the week and how early you book your tickets. Coach seats are the most affordable, followed by roomettes and bedrooms. To view current ticket prices, use the Find Trains feature with your estimated travel dates on the homepage.

As of 2023, expect to pay the following one-way if you travel the entire Coast Starlight route:

  • $100 for a coach seat
  • Over $500 for a roomette
  • Over $900 for a bedroom

What is the best part of the Coast Starlight?

The best and most scenic parts of the Coast Starlight is the journey along the Pacific Ocean in California and through the Cascade Mountains in Northern California and Oregon.

Which side of the train to sit on the Coast Starlight?

To see the Pacific Ocean, sit on the left side of the train when traveling north toward Seattle and on the right side of the train when heading south toward Los Angeles.

To see Mount Shasta, travel northbound and sit on the right side of the train or ideally sit in the observation car.

To see Mount Rainier, sit on the right side of northbound trains and left side on trains departing from Seattle.

Is it better to ride the Coast Starlight north or south?

To view the most scenery, the best direction of travel on the Coast Starlight is northbound, especially in summer. You’ll need to wake up early to see Mount Shasta.

Does the Coast Starlight train have an observation car?

Yes, the Coast Starlight has an observation car that is available to all passengers.

Popular Stops

  • Santa Barbara
  • Paso Robles
  • San Luis Obispo
  • Los Angeles
  • Seattle, WA – King Street Station (SEA)
  • Tacoma, WA (TAC)
  • Olympia-Lacey, WA (OLW)
  • Centralia, WA (CTL)
  • Kelso-Longview, WA (KEL)
  • Vancouver, WA (VAN)
  • Portland, OR – Union Station (PDX)
  • Salem, OR (SLM)
  • Albany, OR (ALY)
  • Eugene, OR – Amtrak Station (EUG)
  • Chemult, OR (CMO)
  • Klamath Falls, OR (KFS)
  • Dunsmuir, CA (DUN)
  • Redding, CA – Amtrak Station (RDD)
  • Chico, CA (CIC)
  • Sacramento, CA – Sacramento Valley Station (SAC)
  • Davis, CA (DAV)
  • Martinez, CA (MTZ)
  • Emeryville, CA (EMY)
  • Oakland, CA – Jack London Square Station (OKJ)
  • San Jose, CA – Diridon Station (SJC)
  • Salinas, CA – Amtrak Station (SNS)
  • Paso Robles, CA (PRB)
  • San Luis Obispo, CA – Amtrak Station (SLO)
  • Santa Barbara, CA (SBA)
  • Oxnard, CA (OXN)
  • Simi Valley, CA (SIM)
  • Van Nuys, CA (VNC)
  • Los Angeles, CA – Union Station (LAX)

Coast Starlight near Ventura California

More Information

  • Coast Starlight Reviews
  • 10 best stops on the Coast Starlight
  • Coast Starlight vs Pacific Surfliner
  • Coast Starlight vs Cascades
  • Coast Starlight vs Empire Builder
  • Most scenic Amtrak routes on the West Coast

Top photo credit: Bruce Fingerhood

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What to Know About the Amtrak Coast Starlight Route

Carissa Rawson

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .

Table of Contents

What is the Amtrak Coast Starlight train?

Amtrak coast starlight train stops, amtrak coast starlight schedule, amtrak seats on coast starlight, if you want to ride the amtrak coast starlight train ….

Sure, cars and planes may dominate transportation throughout much of the United States, but there’s something special about train travel.

Aside from enjoying the relative comfort of legroom (and even beds), those aboard the Amtrak Coast Starlight route get to experience stunning views while they while away the hours to their destination.

Let’s take a look at this famous route, the experience you can expect when you’re aboard and other can’t-miss details for the Amtrak Coast Starlight train.

Amtrak operates a number of iconic routes (including many that go cross-country). Among its best is the Coast Starlight, which travels from Seattle to Los Angeles along the West Coast each day.

The total travel time for the Coast Starlight train is 35 hours, and passengers can select from a variety of room types, including private cabins with beds and bathrooms.

» Learn more: How to get cheap Amtrak tickets

The Coast Starlight makes several stops along its journey, which is part of the reason why it’s a lengthy trip. The train goes through three states: Washington, Oregon and California.

Seattle - King Street Station (SEA).

Tacoma, Wash. (TAC).

Olympia-Lacey, Wash. (OLW).

Centralia, Wash. (CTL).

Kelso-Longview, Wash. (KEL).

Vancouver, Wash. (VAN).

Portland, Ore. - Union Station (PDX).

Salem, Ore. - Amtrak Station (SLM).

Albany, Ore. (ALY).

Eugene, Ore. - Amtrak Station (EUG).

Chemult, Ore. (CMO).

Klamath Falls, Ore. (KFS).

Dunsmuir, Calif. (DUN).

Redding, Calif. - Amtrak Station (RDD).

Chico, Calif. (CIC).

Sacramento, Calif. - Sacramento Valley Station (SAC).

Davis, Calif. (DAV).

Martinez, Calif. (MTZ).

Emeryville, Calif. (EMY).

Oakland, Calif. - Jack London Square Station (OKJ).

San Jose, Calif. - Diridon Station (SJC).

Salinas, Calif. - Amtrak Station (SNS).

Paso Robles, Calif. (PRB).

San Luis Obispo, Calif. - Amtrak Station (SLO).

Santa Barbara, Calif. (SBA).

Oxnard, Calif. (OXN).

Simi Valley, Calif. (SIM).

Van Nuys, Calif. (VNC).

Burbank, Calif. (BUR).

Los Angeles - Union Station (LAX).

» Learn more: 5 things to know about the Amtrak credit card

Looking for a visual of where you’re heading? Here’s a glance at the route map for the Coast Starlight on Amtrak.

coast starlight train round trip

» Learn more: Credit cards can help you save on buses and trains, too

The Coast Starlight train runs once daily in either direction. If you’re starting in Los Angeles, the train departs at 9:51 a.m. and arrives at 7:51 p.m. the next day.

Conversely, the train leaving from Seattle departs at 9:50 a.m. each day and arrives in Los Angeles the next day at 9:11 p.m.

Note that there can be differences in timing as the trains may alter their stops or departure times.

» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now

There are six room types available on the Coast Starlight train.

To travel along the coast as cheaply as possible, opt to book a coach seat for the duration of your journey. You can then choose whether to sit in a lower seat or an upper seat. Lower seats are nearer to the restrooms and don’t require climbing any stairs. Upper seats have better views from the top floor.

Each coach seat reclines, offers ample legroom and has a fold-down tray and electric outlets.

2. Superliner roomette

A Superliner roomette offers a private space for those looking to unwind during their journey. It’s more expensive than a coach seat and provides two comfortable seats that transform into beds at night.

Roomettes also offer upgraded bedding, towels, and linens, plus access to a shower and restroom inside your train car.

Beyond this, the roomette provides a first class attendant, complimentary lounge access, priority boarding and complimentary meals. These rooms can sleep up to two adults.

3. Superliner bedroom

Superliner bedrooms offer twice the space of a roomette and include a sofa and chair that transform into beds. You’ll receive many of the same amenities as a roomette, including a first class attendant, complimentary meals, lounge access and priority boarding.

Aside from more space, the biggest difference between a bedroom and a roomette is that the bedroom offers an in-room sink, restroom and shower. These rooms can sleep two adults.

4. Superliner bedroom suite

The Superliner bedroom suite provides twice the space of a bedroom, but this is only because it’s two rooms that combine together. To that end, you’ll have twice as many beds and two bathrooms from which to choose. These suites can sleep four adults.

5. Superliner family bedroom

The family bedroom is ideal for adults and children traveling together. Along with the amenities you’d expect from booking a bedroom, you’ll have access to two upper beds and two lower beds at night, which transform from seating. These bedrooms can sleep two adults and two children.

6. Superliner accessible bedroom

Accessible bedrooms are located on the entry level of the train and offer space for a wheelchair. However, while Superliner accessible bedrooms include an in-room sink and toilet, they lack a shower.

» Learn more: NerdWallet’s best credit cards for transit and commuters

Amtrak’s route network is expansive, but nothing is quite as charming as the Coast Starlight. During your 35-hour journey, you’ll be able to take advantage of comfortable seating, stunning scenery and good food. What’s not to like?

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2024 , including those best for:

Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

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Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express

Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

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Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

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Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

2x-5x Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

75,000 Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

coast starlight train round trip

Amtrak's 35-Hour Coast Starlight Journey: Here's What You Need To Know

Amtrak Coast Starlight train

With a name like Coast Starlight and a journey spanning 35 hours, expectations are high from the get-go. It is, after all, a much-touted rail adventure , described by Amtrak as "one of the most spectacular of all train routes." There's a good chance that's true, given the sweeping West Coast scenery, luxe onboard dining options, cozy sleeping quarters, and a glass-paneled observation car where views change every minute, unfolding like nirvana on fast-forward.

Whether hype meets reality in a boots-on-rail kind of way is subjective, but all the defining bits and pieces make Coast Starlight a train to remember. The experience differs depending on chosen seating and sleeping comforts, as well as a preference for café fare versus white-tablecloth fine dining. But in the end, it's the same train hurling through surreal star-clad darkness, on the same journey to the same destination.

From the "All Aboard!" greeting (which actually does happen) to cabin comfort, dining, drinking, sleeping, station stops, and all the dreamlike feats of nature along the way, here's a collective and somewhat practical look at what to expect when riding the rails from Los Angeles to Seattle.

The big picture: Planning a Coast Starlight excursion

A deep dive into the Amtrak website is always helpful to get the minutia of planning a Coast Starlight journey, but the primary decisions start with timing and train layout. Whether beginning the journey in Los Angeles or Seattle, the entire route covers a distance of 1,377 miles, with 28 station stops, not including the origin and final destination stations. It takes about 35 onboard hours, subject to unplanned delays. If you prefer a shorter ride, it's possible to join the journey at any station along the way.

Seating is based on the level of service chosen when booking the trip. Coach class seats are unassigned at the time of booking but have plenty of space, no middle seats, lots of legroom, and they recline for relatively comfortable sleeping. Each train car has its own bathrooms. The business class option provides all the amenities of coach class plus a dedicated car, wider seats, more legroom, and complimentary non-alcoholic drinks throughout the journey.

The coveted sleeper cars are considered first-class travel and occupy their own section of the double-decker train, with seating by day converting to bedding at night. All seats come with a reading light, eating tray, and access to electrical outlets. Now for the crucial question: Is there Wi-Fi onboard the Coast Starlight? Plan to disconnect and enjoy the mesmerizing, nature-infused journey like pre-internet travelers from generations past. Cell service works now and then, depending on the carrier.

Departure and baggage

On each end of the Coast Starlight journey, passengers navigate the intricacies of big-city train stations in metropolitan Los Angeles and Seattle. Even so, train travel is considerably less stressful than air travel. Amtrak attendants are readily available and provide free baggage assistance and cart transportation to the train when requested.

Check-in is a breeze; forget standing in lines and suffering the travails of security checks and luggage scans. Just show your ticket and identification at the boarding gate. Passengers departing from both Los Angeles Union Station and Seattle Union Station can request assigned seats after arriving at the station — but don't expect the same offer if boarding at other stations along the way.

All passengers on the Coast Starlight train are allowed one personal and two carry-on bags and can also access the free checked baggage service. For an extra fee, you can bring items such as bicycles, skis, surfboards, fishing rods, golf clubs, and baby gear. While Amtrak says to arrive at the station 30 minutes prior to departure, you'll more likely need an hour if bringing along these larger pieces of baggage. Free Red Cap baggage personnel are available in LA, Seattle, and Portland.

It's all about the scenery on Amtrak's Coast Starlight train

Where to begin when describing the scenery along the Coast Starlight route? It's like a moving impressionist painting of silent snowscapes, towering Cascade Mountains , icy streams, crashing Pacific Ocean waves, towering Redwood forests, and the bucolic farmlands of Central California.

Cityscapes interweave with wonders of nature, including the journey's bookend metropolises of Los Angeles and Seattle. The train whizzes towards the San Francisco Bay area, with station stops in cities like Oakland, Sacramento, and the tech corridors of Simi Valley, although not before stopping in Portland, where graffiti art paints its own portraits of life in the Pacific Northwest. You'll see all this from coach seats, sleeper cabins, and especially from the enormous glass windows of the observation car. It's hard to know which seats of the rail car to choose since the scenery pops up on either side as the train twists and turns along the tracks.

Though breaking up the journey with overnight stays is possible, you'll need to purchase tickets accordingly. Depending on your sense of adventure, options include hiking at Klamath Falls, boating in beautiful Crater Lake , and snow sports, river fishing, or whitewater rafting in the Siskiyou Mountain region around the Dunsmuir station stop. Central California offers world-class surfing at Pismo Beach, just minutes from more beaches, castles, dozens of wineries, and an old-time mission in San Louis Obispo. These destinations are all station stops on the Coast Starlight route.

The indulgence of private sleeper cars

Much is made over the expansion of Amtrak's sleeper car service, and the Coast Starlight train is a poster child of sorts, partially due to the 35 hours in which snoozing onboard is pretty much inevitable. Putting classic movies aside, with their romanticized ideals of sleeping under the stars, the real-life version is a bit different.

Sleeper cars on the Coast Starlight come in several configurations, some more spacious than others, but all comprising relatively small spaces. That's especially true for the most compact and affordable roomette sleeper, which measures 3 feet, 6 inches wide and 6 feet, 6 or 8 inches long. Two seats face one another, and they convert to beds, one stretching above the other, like a bunk bed configuration with a small access ladder. That's not to say they're cramped, just cozy. It's still a bed, and it's magical to slumber as the train rumbles down the tracks, peeking at starlit skies and ghostlike landscapes. 

For more space and family-size accommodations, you can upscale to a bedroom sleeper, bedroom suite, family bedroom, or an accessible bedroom with extra width. These have considerably more space and come in varying configurations with in-room sinks, showers, and restrooms. The family room is the largest, measuring 9 feet, 6 inches wide and 5 feet, 2 inches long. Like the roomettes, they come with dedicated attendants.

Dining the rails

Nowhere onboard the Coast Starlight is the difference between coach and first class more evident than in the dining car. Coach and business class travelers have access to a small café on a lower level, serving sandwiches, snacks, breakfast items, and hot selections for microwaving. Beverage options include beer, wine, hard seltzer, spirits, and cocktails. These are on a pay basis, and lines tend to back up during mealtimes. Passengers are free to take food to their seats or common areas.

Then there's "traditional dining" in an exclusive dining car serving first class passengers. Think white-linen tablecloths, glassware, and real plates, along with onboard chef-prepared meals, including three-course dinners and a complimentary glass of wine or cocktail. Options can include oven-roasted salmon, flat-iron steaks, rigatoni Bolognese, and more. The meal includes appetizers and desserts such as Meyer lemon cake and white-chocolate blueberry cobbler cheesecake. Three meals a day are included at no charge with a first class ticket, and guests can opt for meal delivery to their sleeper cars. If supplies allow, passengers in other seating classes may request traditional dining at a per-plate cost.

One notable quirk is that seating in the dining car is communal, meaning all seats at a table will be filled, regardless of whether you've ever met your tablemates. That can be awkward for some Western travelers but more common for international diners. Once the initial discomfort subsides, it's an interesting way to meet new people and hear train-travel stories.

Coast Starlight's crowning glory: the observation car

The best seats on the train, hands down, are in the observation car. Huge windows span the height of the car and curve upward, extending views toward the sky. Plush chairs line the windows, providing front-row seats to nature's glory. Scenes change in increments as the train glides across the country. Surfers riding ocean waves disappear, giving way to fly-fishers in an icy stream or stunning snow-capped mountains and towering evergreens.

An unexpected thing about the observation car is that, regardless of which ticket a passenger holds, all are welcome to take a seat and linger as long as they like. In addition to comfy chairs, a separate section in this car offers spacious tables with the same views, allowing travelers to spread out laptops, papers, books, and drinks.

Electrical outlets keep things charged, but passing views are far more compelling than computer screens. That's why they call it an observation car, and it's well worth setting sights on the window. Don't be surprised when those seats get gobbled up pretty quickly. You might want to secure your luggage and seat, then hightail it to the observation car as soon as possible. One way to snag a spot once seats get filled is to pay attention to upcoming station stops. If a "fresh air break" is called, passengers can disembark for a few minutes, leaving an open front-row seat for watching the world go by.

  • Los Angeles

Your Guide to Riding One of Amtrak’s Most Scenic Train Routes Along the Pacific Coast

The coast starlight offers breathtaking views of the pacific coast. here's everything you need to know about taking the trip..

Amtrak passenger train on tracks running alongside Pacific Ocean beaches near Santa Barbara on the west coast of California

Traveling large swaths of America isn’t especially easy. And while an approximately 35-hour train ride on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight presents its own pain points, it’s also worth it if you can swing it. The Coast Starlight is a passenger train that has been in service since 1971 that currently runs between Seattle and Los Angeles by way of Portland and the San Francisco Bay Area, offering breathtaking views of the Pacific coast along the way.

Booking a ticket

First, plan ahead and book early . According to an Amtrak representative, “Amtrak is having capacity issues as many trains are booking up 60 days in advance.” Second, and maybe most importantly, to experience the Coast Starlight properly, you need to make sure you’re filtering your ticket search to reflect the named train as opposed to Mixed Service, which will take you off the rails and onto the road via bus connections.


Selecting a seat

Amtrak trains provide a variety of seating accommodations depending on the route. The Coast Starlight includes Lower/Upper-Level Coach Class, a Superliner Roomette option, and four different Superliner Bedroom options. Of note, unlike flying, Amtrak  offers ample space in Coach. As for choosing a lower or upper-level seat, that all depends on your disposition. While seats on the upper level may offer a better view, they also experience heavier foot traffic as the train’s throughway among cars. Meanwhile, the lower seats are closer to the restrooms and any larger luggage you may be traveling with.

Roomette and Bedroom options are considered First-Class and come with a dedicated attendant, complimentary lounge access, priority boarding, and complimentary meals. The bedrooms also offer much more space as well as private restroom and shower access in your car.

Insuring your trip

When selecting your Coach Class seat, you will be given three options with increasing prices. These include Saver, which is a non-refundable ticket, meaning a cancel or change fee may apply; Value, which includes refundability options and no change fee; and Flexible, which is 100% refundable before departure with no cancel or change fees. It’s up to you whether you want to pay for the reassurance or roll the dice.

Boarding the train with your baggage, er, bags

Depending on the class of your ticket, you will either be waiting for your train to arrive at a station or in that station’s lounge , which offers a quiet seating area, complimentary non-alcoholic beverages, snacks, and free Wi-Fi. Once your boarding group is called, the options for storing your luggage are as plentiful as the luggage allowance. For specifics, you can check Amtrak’s website , but it’s safe to say the experience runs much more smoothly than anything going on with TSA and those overhead bins. Amtrak's generous luggage policies, which include special items, make it nearly impossible to overpack. Amtrak does provide helpful suggestions for perfect packing , but if you’re looking for more specific tips, especially ones related to overnight train travel, we’ve got you covered .

Riding the rails

I was fortunate enough to snag a sleeper car via the Roomette. If you’re comfortable with a communal restroom and shower, which I am, the Roomette is perfect for a solo traveler in search of a main character moment, which I was. Outfitted with everything from outlets to a selfie mirror, but not Wi-Fi, it was the perfect place to disconnect for an unforgettable experience. The views kept my eyes glued to the window for almost the entirety of the trip save for nighttime, which obscures parts of Oregon and Northern California, but not before I was treated to snowfall that called to mind a Narnia adventure as we passed through pine-filled mountain ranges. That said, if you’re not in a coast-side sleeper, your best bet for the best views is to find a seat on the right side of southbound trains and the left side of northbound trains or to head to the observation car, which offers floor-to-ceiling views of everything along the way. Wherever you find yourself, the move is to sit back and relax as the train weaves its way through the overwhelmingly beautiful tapestry of America, providing ocean views that will literally make you cry. Yes, I did sob. Don’t worry. The train slows down along the water so you can fully take in the beauty, let go of your emotional baggage, and dry your eyes with the provided tissues. 

When you need a break from yourself, however, the dining car is where it’s at, an inarguable highlight of the trip. Included in the price of a room, the dining car can also be accessed for a fee if you’re not in a room. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served at communal tables, meaning you will be paired up accordingly to fill out a four-top. This ride is over a full day long without internet access, so you'll find yourself sitting with other people who have carved out the time for a long, unplugged trip. Often, that means they’re retired. And that means you’re going to hear stories, the sort that come from a life lived. Share your own if you have them. The entire point is to enjoy the conversation as much as you enjoy your meal.

Amtrak Signature Railroad French Toast

Speaking of which, sample menus can be found online , featuring seasonal menu items with various entree, beverage, and dessert selections that assure you will not go hungry. But may I suggest the Amtrak Signature Railroad French Toast for breakfast, the Natural Angus Burger for lunch, and the Pan Roasted Chicken Breast for dinner, and absolutely do not skip the desserts, all of which are delicious. Still hungry? Hit up the snack car for a variety of munchies.

Reflecting on your trip before booking the next

If you’re anything like me, by the time you reach your destination, you will have felt like you lived an entire other life during your journey. After all, it’s possible to see both glittering snow and gleaming waves during the same ride, which is beautiful and trippy. So take stock of all you experienced, making any necessary tweaks before your next long-haul train trip. Or if you decide that another go around isn’t for you, maybe a shorter trip  will do.

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Grounded Life Travel

Amtrak Coast Starlight Route Guide

Allie Marmion

  • 1 Coast Starlight Route Overview
  • 2 Train Info
  • 3 Ticket Options
  • 4 Scenic Views
  • 5 Major Sites
  • 6 Major Stations
  • 7 States Visited
  • 8 Station Reviews
  • 9 Trip Planning
  • 10 Booking Tickets

Coast Starlight Route Overview

The Amtrak Coast Starlight was born from combining two Southern Pacific trains, the Starlight and the Coast Daylight. The train has been in continuous operation since 1971, it was the first to offer direct service between Los Angeles to Seattle.

Amtrak Coast Starlight Route

The Coast Starlight goes between Los Angeles and Seattle via Portland and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Ticket Options

On the Coast Starlight you can purchase tickets in these categories (sample summer fares for 2 people shown):

  • Coach ($225)
  • Business ($316)
  • Superliner Roomette ($592)
  • Superliner Bedroom ($1,168)
  • Superliner Family Bedroom ($1,294)

The Coast Starlight has a special Business Class car with seats that are the same as coach, but are finished differently. In business class you’ll also get free drinks.

coast starlight train round trip

Amtrak often runs 2 for 1 sales on coach tickets as well as roomettes. If you are planning well in advance, check out our guide to getting 2 for 1 tickets during the BOGO sale .

Meals and Metropolitan Lounge access are included for all sleeper car passengers.

Scenic Views

The Coast Starlight is a grand west coast adventure. It is regarded as one of the most spectacular train routes on Amtrak. The Coast Starlight links two great cities on the west coast, Los Angeles and Seattle. The scenery is unsurpassed, from dramatic snow covered peaks of the Cascades Range to Mount Shasta. You will also be treated to lush forests, fertile valleys and long stretches of the Pacific Ocean shoreline.

Major Sites

Most people vacationing on the Coast Starlight are riding for the views along the coast of the Pacific ocean. You may even get to see Mount Saint Helens and Mount Rainier on the east side of the train as you arrive in or leave Seattle.

Mount Rainier National Park

Major Stations

The major and notable stations on the Amtrak Coast Starlight are Los Angeles, Oakland, Emeryville (San Francisco), Sacramento, Portland and Seattle.

States Visited

The Amtrak Coast Starlight travels from California into Oregon and finishing in Washington. There are many notable stops along this route.

Station Reviews

The Coast Starlight route has terminus stations of Los Angeles on one end and Seattle on the other. Only the Los Angeles station has a Metropolitan Lounge to make your wait before boarding more enjoyable.

Both stations also offer free checked baggage, up to 2 bags per person of 50lbs.

Amtrak Baggage Allowance

Union Station – Los Angeles

Union Station in Los Angeles is the largest railroad passenger terminal in the western US. It opened in 1939 replacing the LA Grande Station and Central Station. The station has been used in many popular films, including Blade Runner, Pearl Harbor, The Dark Knight Rises and Bugsy, to name a few. There are several restaurants where you can purchase food and bring back to enjoy in the Metropolitan Lounge. The lounge at this station is located on the second level just past ticketing and the check in counters. Arrive early to take the time to walk around the station and enjoy some of the history.

Union Station Los Angeles

If you need to stay near the station, the closest hotel is the Metro Plaza Hotel , which is acceptable. For a little better place to stay you could choose the Millennium Biltmore . We stayed there on our last Amtrak trip and recommend it, but this would require a short taxi or Uber to the station.

There is a car rental location on site at the station.

King Street Station- Seattle

The King Street Station is a surprise, as it has a beautiful interior and good location downtown next to the Seattle sports field complexes. There is no food available inside, but there are a few restaurants and cafes within walking distance. There is also no Metropolitan Lounge at this station.

Amtrak King Street Station

The King Street Station may have the most convenient hotel near it in the entire Amtrak system. If you are staying a night or two in Seattle we recommend the Embassy Suites Seattle Downtown Pioneer Square . The hotel is just steps from the Amtrak station and we could see the entrance to the station from our room. On top of that we found the hotel to be amazing and the staff was very friendly to us.

Trip Planning

The Coast Starlight is a great train trip to link with a few other trains. If you are looking for a longer vacation, consider something like our 14 day Amtrak trip . On this trip we took the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle, the Empire Builder from Seattle to Chicago, and the California Zephyr from Chicago back to San Francisco.

You could also link the Coast Starlight with the San Joaquins train to see more of California and visit Yosemite. If you ride from Seattle to Los Angeles you can link with the Sunset Limited and ride across the US to New Orleans.

Note that the Amtrak stations in Los Angeles and Seattle are not near the airports, so if you are flying into those cities to start this route you’ll need to get a cab or Uber to the Amtrak station.

Booking Tickets

Tickets for Amtrak can be booked at or using their app on your phone. Reservations can also be made by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL.

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34 hours on America’s most scenic train. Is it as dreamy as it sounds?

I took Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train from L.A. to Seattle, a 34-hour journey. (Julia Carmel / Los Angeles Times)

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There are certainly more efficient ways to get from Los Angeles to Seattle than sitting in a metal box for 34 hours. But Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train wasn’t designed for people who are in a rush.

Perhaps you’ve come across this train on Instagram, YouTube or TikTok, where people rave about its gorgeous observation cars — called “sightseer lounges” — boasting floor-to-ceiling windows and cinematic views of the Oregonian forest. (“10/10 would recommend the Coast Starlight for the views alone,” one TikTok creator noted , showing off the flowers they drew while gazing at the scenery.)

two women take a selfie holding drinks in a train

But much of the viral footage of the train — which leaves L.A. every day around 10 a.m. and gets to Seattle the following night around 8 p.m. — was taken by travelers who were riding it for a short stretch, or those staying in the sleeper cars, which have beds, private bathrooms with showers and access to the restaurant-style dining car. These “roommettes” and bedrooms, which can run upwards of $600, are far less economical than the $100 coach seats that can be booked if you plan far enough in advance. I wanted to find out if I could really romanticize sleeping in an awkwardly reclined chair and eating countless bags of chips.

So as a man of the people, I convinced my partner to accompany me on the full 34-hour journey in coach seats. Here’s what we wish we knew before getting on the train.

You’re there for the scenery — not the amenities

“Ticket for Seattle, welcome aboard,” our train conductor said with a chuckle as we departed Union Station. “Braver than me!”

There are quite a few reasons why we were some of the only people riding all the way from L.A. to Seattle on a Wednesday in the coach and business cars. The most obvious is that many people would not want to spend a full night sleeping in a chair, but the shared bathrooms, which get progressively worse over the course of the trip, are a close second. More on that soon.

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The Coast Starlight is not Amtrak’s longest route (that would be the 65-hour-long Texas Eagle ), but from start to finish, the train takes about 11 times as long as the three-hour flight from L.A. to Seattle, or twice as long as the roughly 17-hour-long road trip. As we climbed on board, we were sent to our assigned seats (you only get to choose whether you want to be on the upper or lower level). Ours were on the left side of the train, which is a bit more coveted as it faces west and gets better views, but no matter where your assigned seat is, you’ll have access to the picturesque observation car.

People look out the window of a train car

When we pulled into our first stop, Burbank, shortly after 10 a.m., we passed Fry’s Electronics, the video store in Jordan Peele’s “Nope,” with its big crash-landed saucer above the entrance. By the time we got to Van Nuys 15 minutes later, the woman running the cafe in the observation car announced that she was open for business, so we made our way over.

The observation car was already packed with passengers who had rushed in as soon as the conductor finished checking their tickets. On the upper level, there are dining tables and a few dozen seats facing huge windows that curve onto the ceiling. Below it, there’s a small cafe serving snacks and grab-and-go food — think microwave-reheated sandwiches, hot dogs and pre-prepared salads — which is the only food accessible to coach passengers.

“Please wear your shoes when you come into the cafe car,” one staff member said over the speakers as we tried to find seats, which raised the question of why that needed to even be announced.

To be totally honest, the biggest flaw of the trip was the smell of the observation car. Perhaps we caught it on a particularly ripe day, or maybe it was the lack of open windows, but even within the first hour on board, that car was notably stinky.

“I just want to go back to my room,” one child screamed to his mother as we sped along the tracks.

“It’s the Wild West out here,” my partner said while talking on the phone with their boss. A woman walking by started laughing and nodded in agreement.

But soon enough, our noses adjusted and the car became a bit less chaotic. By noon, when we passed Oxnard, the train got incredibly close to the coast, kicking off about three hours of stunning, up-close views along the Pacific Ocean. We decided to take a trip down to the cafe, where we ordered mimosas, sea salt chips and a Rice Krispie Treat to enjoy with the scenery.

The first call for dining car reservations soon went over the loudspeaker, but we were sad to learn that only sleeper car passengers, and some lucky business class passengers, are allowed to reserve a table there.

Hands holding a ham and swiss pretzel roll.

Around 3:30 p.m., following our stop at San Luis Obispo, the staff closed the observation car to clean. When it reopened about 15 minutes later, they lightly scolded everyone for leaving crumbs and hogging seats. “We’re all grown-ups here, please act like one,” the announcer said.

By that time, we had worked up an appetite, so we tried the ham and Swiss sandwiches from the cafe. It was nothing to write home about — as my partner put it, some food just “tastes like nothing” — but it wasn’t offensively bad. We started to wonder what else we were going to eat for the next four meals.

Between Paso Robles and Salinas, we got a bit restless. The reality that we still had more than 24 hours to go on the train seemed to sink in, and when a woman near us pulled a Chipotle bowl out, we started feeling a bit feral.

As we passed a beautiful sunset, we schemed for how we too could get our hands on Chipotle. We decided to take a risk and try to order delivery to the Salinas Amtrak station, which we knew would be the next “fresh air stop.”

View of mountains in the sunset

The plan went quite well (shout out to Jose, our delivery driver in Salinas, who patiently waited at the station for a few minutes), though we agreed to pack our meals and snacks if we ever took another extended train ride.

There’s nothing but time, so you might as well make some friends

After pulling off our Chipotle drop, we started chatting with a man sitting a few seats away from us in the observation car. We learned that our new friend, Aaron Shimoda, was also riding the train all the way from L.A. to Seattle.

Aaron, 23, said he’d already taken two long-haul Amtrak trips before the Coast Starlight: the 20-hour-long trip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Raleigh, N.C., and the 17-hour-long trip from Emeryville, Calif., to Salt Lake City, Utah.

“I could probably fly [to Seattle] for just as much, and it would only take a few hours to get up there,” Aaron said. “But I’m taking the train because I want to actually see the sights.”

Taking time between jobs, he figured it was the perfect time to leave Vancouver and get a rail pass to visit friends and family around North America. Aside from simply loving trains, he said these trips give him an opportunity to see lots of small towns and meet new people along the way.

view of hills behind mountains

“When I was doing my Florida to Raleigh trip, I met a guy on there who was going from Florida to New York because he’s an actor,” Aaron recalled. “We were seatmates, and we started talking, and I shared my fried plantains and half of my Cubano with him. We became really good friends.”

There are some things he wish he knew before embarking on the first trip — “Download movies on Netflix before the train; bring a book; bring snacks; bring a pillow if you have enough space,” he advised — but overall, he finds the views more than worth it.

Aaron said that even after this 34-hour trek is done, he still hopes to take the California Zephyr from Chicago to Northern California one day.

“I would probably want to do it when I have a bit more money so I can actually go and rent one of the sleeper cars,” he said. “So I’m not, like, dead and stinky by the third day.”

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The restless night of sleep is worth the beautiful views

After sunset, the windows in the observation car became far less interesting, sending many passengers off to kill time in their seats. We made out the silhouettes of different small towns, including a garlic-themed truck stop in Gilroy — the garlic capital of the world — which sent us down a Wikipedia rabbit hole. (Did you know Gilroy’s Christopher Ranch ships more than 100 million pounds of heirloom garlic every year?)

By 10 p.m., the conductors dim the lights and stop making announcements for the next eight hours, making it the optimal time to doze off.

But despite all of the coach and business class seats being fairly roomy, it’s nearly impossible to get truly comfortable in them. Sure, you can recline the seat or pop up a footrest, but no adjustments you can make will compare to sleeping in a real horizontal bed.

A passenger in a reclined coach seat.

The longest commercial flight in the world is nearly 19 hours, traveling more than 9,500 miles from New York City to Singapore. Nineteen hours into the Coast Starlight, you’ll be somewhere around Dunsmuir, Calif. — only about 600 miles from L.A. — grappling with the decision of whether it’s worth it to face the less-than-optimal bathrooms for a 5 a.m. pee.

Yet after a few more hours of enduring snoring and bright streetlights, the most beautiful sunrise will flood into your car, giving everything a hazy glow.

A view across the aisle of train, out the window to a sunset

The second day is admittedly a bit more grimy: Anyone in coach or business class who stayed on the train overnight will be unshowered, and some of the bathrooms may smell unspeakably bad. So it goes.

It’s worthwhile, though, because traveling through Oregon is absolutely stunning. In our first hours over the border, we passed forests, gorgeous lakes and mountains, among other natural wonders. The early morning fresh air stops in Oregon are also delightfully chilly, giving everyone a chance to stretch and feel a bit refreshed.

After a few hours of watching cattle graze, we donned sweaters and moved back to the observation car. It was less crowded than the previous day (leading us to assume most of the folks who got on in L.A. left at some point) but still mostly full with sleepy-headed passengers reading books or making small talk over slightly burnt coffee.

A woman looks out a train window

We found our friend Aaron again and joined him at a table. Our provisions in the morning were a breakfast sandwich (which again, tasted like nothing) and a coffee cake that my partner ordered, which was the star of the show. As we passed Odell Lake around 10 a.m., Aaron told us that he finally thought he found the right angle for sleeping on trains and pointed out a fellow passenger who brought a full duvet into the coach car.

The train started to move up the Cascades and into the Oregonian wilderness. Our conductor got on the P.A. system and told us good news and bad news: We would be traveling through 22 tunnels as we moved through the mountains, but smoke from fires in the region would turn the car stuffy.

Smoke over mountains

The woman running the cafe passed us surgical masks, which helped to stifle the scent, but the next few hours as we traveled through smoke and fog were eerily silent and quite hot. When my partner went downstairs to grab more chips, the woman said, “You’ve gotta wonder how they even made these tracks.” She made a good point; the views were gorgeous and a bit precarious as we traveled over cliffs and through the tunnels.

A little after noon, we cleared the wilderness and made it to Eugene, Ore. The atmosphere was still smoky as ever — that was the day Seattle and Portland were named as the two places with the worst air quality in the world — but as the impossibly high evergreens turned into small cabins and farmland, our stomachs started to grumble in protest.

A person with their arm around another at a train car

My partner went to take a nap, but as Aaron and I sat and admired the Pacific Northwest, I wondered exactly what I would eat for the next eight hours. I didn’t have it in me to order another “nothing” sandwich, and I couldn’t stomach another bag of chips. When my partner returned a few hours later, Aaron suggested something radical: What if we pulled off another food delivery scheme when we arrived for our next fresh air stop — Portland — a little before 4 p.m.?

It was just crazy enough to work. His selection was PDX Sliders, a highly rated burger joint that would make it to the station in just enough time. There was fear in the air that our delivery plans would be similar to the flight of Icarus: We could coordinate a food delivery once, but twice ? Too bold.

As we approached the station, a conductor came on the speaker once more to offer words of warning to the passengers: Make sure you stay near your car at the fresh air stops, because “yesterday four people wandered off and missed the train.” An alarming thing to hear when planning a food grab.

But once again, our plan succeeded without a hitch. When the train pulled into Portland, passing bridges and scenery best known to us from the “Portlandia” intro, Aaron ran into the station and retrieved our food. The burgers tasted like the sweet flavor of victory.

The last few hours were enjoyable, as the concept of actually arriving at our destination was finally within reach. As people filtered in and out of the observation car, we stayed planted at the table we’d been at since about 9 a.m., eagerly awaiting the final announcements.

The Takeaway

Prettiest stretch: Klamath Falls, Ore., to Eugene, Ore. The stretch that made us stir-crazy: Somewhere after San Francisco, when we had to stare into the darkness until we got sleepy Most useful thing we brought: Neck pillows (we ordered ours two days before we left) Most useful thing we wished we brought: More prepared food to eat on board Best thing we ate in the cafe car: Streusel coffee cake ($3.50) We weren’t mentally prepared for: The bathrooms Was it all worth it? Absolutely

The cafe sold alcohol — mostly beer and whatever creative cocktail could be made with the juices on board — so we decided that once we reached Tacoma, Wash., we’d celebrate the end of our journey with a toast.

Like most experiences, the train ride to Seattle is not as romantic and picturesque as the supercut you see of it on social media. As any passenger will tell you, things inevitably go wrong (and some bathrooms will be grosser than you’d like). But if you’re lucky, you’ll have a few moments that are so special that all the others eventually fade to a blur. As the conductor gave one final announcement that he was kicking people out of the observation car and sending us back to our assigned seats, the three of us poured prosecco into plastic cups and cheers’d to our long journey.

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Julia Carmel is a former Los Angeles Times reporter who wrote about travel and West Coast experiences. They previously worked at the New York Times covering nightlife, culture and queer communities.

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Amtrak Coast Starlight: 25 Things To Know Before You Go

Traveling by rail is one of the scenic and memorable ways to experience the natural beauty and splendor that this country has to offer. One of the most famous routes is the West Coast passage between Seattle, Washington, and Los Angeles, California, traversed on a daily basis by the iconic Coast Starlight.

Prior to booking a trip on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, it is important to do your research to ensure a properly planned journey that is free of worry and full of unforgettable experiences. Here are 25 things to know before you go.

While the notion of traveling by train may seem like a romantic endeavor that harkens back to simpler times, there are many things that can (and do) go wrong without proper planning, particularly if this is your first time traveling on an overnight rail passage. Here are some important things to know that can help make climbing on board the Coast Starlight an experience of a lifetime.

The Coast Starlight Serves 29 Train Stations

While stops like Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland are the headliners on the Coast Starlight passage, there are actually 29 train stations in total interspersed along this world-famous railway route. The state of California leads the way with 17 stops, followed by Washington and Oregon with 6 stations apiece. Here is a sampling of the unique destinations that can be found by traveling on the Coast Starlight:

  • Vancouver, WA
  • Klamath Falls, OR
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Oakland, CA
  • Paso Robles, CA
  • Santa Barbara, CA

The Coast Starlight is not only a prime way to visit cosmopolitan cities like Seattle and Los Angeles, but also the perfect way to discover hidden gems on the West Coast.

amtrak trains

There Is a Wide Range of Accommodations

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight has a total travel time of 35 hours, meaning that it is an overnight trip. To this end, this train offers a number of accommodations to fit any travel budget and provides varying amenity levels. These options include:

  • Lower and upper-level coach class (non-sleeper)
  • Business-class (non-sleeper)
  • Superliner roomette
  • Superliner bedroom
  • Superliner bedroom suite
  • Superliner family bedroom
  • Superliner accessible bedroom

Sleeping quarters start off with the modestly appointed roomette and progress in amenities to the more lavish bedroom suite , which can accommodate four guests and features two private in-room bathrooms and showers.

Travel With Your Bicycle

For the adventurous traveler who prefers a more intimate mode of sightseeing while disembarked, the Coast Starlight is a bicycle-friendly train. Subject to these restrictions, bicycles are welcome on board:

  • For carry-on or train side bicycles , the maximum weight is 50 pounds and tire widths must be 2 inches or less
  • For checked bicycles , the maximum weight is 50 pounds and the maximum dimensions are 70” L x 41” H x 8.5” W

One of the unique aspects of traveling on a train like the Coast Starlight is that you can bring your own personal mode of transportation with you to gain an up-close perspective on every destination you visit.

amtrak coast starlight

There Are Daily Departures

The Coast Starlight train offered by Amtrak is actually two passages, one heading southbound from Seattle, WA to Los Angeles, CA, and the other traveling the same route in reverse going northbound. Trains depart daily and run according to the following schedule:

  • Northbound trains depart Los Angeles around 10:00 am and arrive the following evening around 8:00 pm in Seattle
  • For trains operating in the opposite direction, southbound departures embark from Seattle around 10:00 am and arrive the next night around 9:00 pm in Los Angeles

All told, the entire trip on the Coast Starlight train, regardless of direction, is roughly 35 hours.

Pets Are Allowed (But With Limitations)

Cats and dogs are welcome on board the Coast Starlight train but there are some very important rules to keep in mind when booking a trip with your furry travel companion :

  • There is a strict weight limit of 20 pounds which includes the animal and its approved carrier
  • Pets are only allowed on routes lasting 7 hours or less
  • Ticketed cats and dogs must accompany their owners on the train – they cannot be checked in as baggage
  • Animals must be at least 8 weeks old and have proof of all required vaccinations
  • Official Amtrak documents like a pet release and indemnification agreement must be signed by the pet owner

Perhaps most importantly as far as trip planning is concerned, there is a maximum of 5 pets allowed per train, so if you want to bring your cat or dog with you on your next Coast Starlight journey be sure to reserve your companion’s spot as early as possible.

Amtrak’s Baggage Policy Is Flexible

While travelers flying to their destinations can expect to pay exorbitant baggage fees while grappling with checked luggage and carry-on size restrictions, the Coast Starlight offers a far more relaxed policy when it comes to passenger baggage. Each traveler is allowed :

  • 2 checked bags
  • 2 carry-ons
  • 2 personal items

All of these items are included in the far and aside from compliance with certain size limitations, there are no fees or imposing restrictions.

amtrak superliner

The Coast Starlight Does Not Offer Free Wi-Fi

One of the biggest selling points of traveling by rail on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight is the opportunity to unplug from the whirlwind of everyday life and enjoy a scenic journey along the Pacific Coast. Which is good because passengers may have no choice but to put their devices away as there is no free wi-fi service offered on this train.

(It is worth noting that even on trains and routes offering free wi-fi, the service reportedly has serious limitations and is incapable of supporting activities like streaming movies or downloading large files.)

Pack a Power Strip for Your Room

If you are planning to book a sleeper room be forewarned that there is a good chance that your accommodations may have but one electrical outlet . If you have multiple devices to keep charged, or will be sharing the room with a companion (who will surely have devices of their own) be sure to pack a power strip to distribute the juice as needed and keep those essential electronics running.

Dining Options Onboard the Coast Starlight

With a duration of roughly 35 hours for the full route running between Seattle and Los Angeles, knowing your dining options will be an important aspect of your trip. There are essentially two ways to go when it comes to eating on board the Coast Starlight :

  • Café service – this dining option is available to all passengers and comprises snacks foods, beverages, and pre-packaged meals (i.e., microwaveable, re-heatable, or instant) that can be purchased
  • Traditional dining – for passengers traveling in private rooms, traditional dining is included in the ticketed fare and consists of breakfast, lunch, and a 3-course dinner served in the dining car (complimentary room service is also available)

For the full experience of traveling by train, splurging on a private room to dine in an elegantly appointed dining car may be worth the extra expense.

Amtrak sleeper cars

The Roomette Is an Economical (but Cramped) Way To Go

As far as private rooms with a bed are concerned, the superliner roomette is the most economical option available on the Coast Starlight. While this level of accommodations does include full meal service (with wine, water, and soft drinks), the room itself is quite modest and does have its limitations:

  • Bathrooms are shared with other roomette passengers (as opposed to bedrooms which have private facilities)
  • There are two sleeping bunks , one up high and the other down below (both require the assistance of an attendant to prepare for the night)
  • Once the bunks are set up for the night, getting out of them (particularly the top bunk) in the middle of the night can be a chore

While the accommodations may seem less than ideal, staying in a roomette on the Coast Starlight can add to the whole railcar experience.

Coast Starlight Is a Great Way To Find Hidden Gems

With so many stops along its nearly 1,400-mile route, the Coast Starlight provides a unique opportunity to visit and experience hidden gems in California, Oregon, and Washington, including lesser-known destinations like:

  • Eugene, Oregon
  • Sacramento, California
  • Oakland, California
  • Paso Robles, California
  • Oxnard, California

The beauty of traveling on the Coast Starlight is being able to get off the beaten path without venturing very far from its storied route.

amtrak engine

The Sightseer Lounge Car Is One of the Train’s Highlights

Of all the features of the Coast Starlight, one of its most talked-about highlights is the experience of sitting in the sightseer lounge car and taking in the awe-inspiring views of the Pacific coastline and other natural wonders through windows that stretch from the sides of the car all the way up to the ceiling.

For many passengers, this is not only the most memorable part of their own personal journey but perhaps the singular aspect by which the Coast Starlight truly lives up to its name.

Choosing the Right Time of Year To Travel

One of the appealing aspects of traveling on the Coast Starlight is the unique opportunity it affords to experience hundreds of miles of Pacific coastline and other natural wonders that would otherwise be largely hidden from view.

So in this respect, it is important to choose the right time of year to travel on this train if taking in the views is one of your major reasons for going in the first place. For instance, booking a trip during the summer months when there is ample daylight well into the evening hours will maximize your enjoyment of the natural splendors that can be seen while on board the Coast Starlight.

pacific parlour

Seniors Can Travel at Discounted Rates

For adventure seekers 65 years and over, Amtrak offers senior discounts on the Coast Starlight and other popular routes. Generally speaking, the senior discount amounts to a 10% savings but it should be noted that certain restrictions do apply (e.g., the senior discount cannot be used with Saver or Flexible Fares or toward the purchase of Business Class seats on the Coast Starlight).

There Are Also Discounted Fares for Kids and Students

In addition to seniors, younger travelers can also qualify for discounted fares on the Coast Starlight. Here’s how these discounts work:

  • Children between the ages of 2 to 12 years can travel for 50% off of the lowest available adult fare when accompanied by a ticketed adult (over the age of 18)
  • Students between the ages of 17 to 24 years with a valid student I.D. can receive a 15% discount on a standard adult coach fare when booking at least one day before departure on the Coast Starlight

When it comes to nurturing respect and appreciation for the natural beauty and splendor of the Pacific Coast you can never start those Coast Starlight passengers too young.

Booking a Sleeping Car Berth Has Its Perks

While one night spent in a coach or business class seat (as opposed to a sleeping bunk) may not seem like a horrible way to spend the night on a 35-hour train ride, booking a sleeping berth on the Coast Starlight has its perks, including:

  • Preferential seating times in the dining car (with all meals included in the fare)
  • Although train seats are considerably larger than their counterparts on airlines, they nevertheless present challenges as far as getting comfortable for a night’s sleep
  • With over two dozen stops during the journey and a number of them occurring in the late night and early morning hours, passengers in non-sleeper accommodations will likely find themselves being awakened at every stop by people disembarking and boarding the train
  • Every sleeping berth has at least one electrical outlet to use for charging devices but not every non-sleeper seat will be near one
  • Sleeping car passengers have access to wi-fi as part of their higher fare while coach passengers do not have wi-fi access at all

Sleeping accommodations on the Coast Starlight may pale in comparison to the bedding in a posh hotel but given the realities of train travel, they may nevertheless be worth every penny paid for them.

The Views Truly Are That Breathtaking

Regardless of the overall experience, if there is one aspect of riding on the Coast Starlight that would earn a consensus thumbs-up from all travelers, it would be the breathtaking views . Here is a small sampling of the sights you can expect to take in:

  • Pristine beaches and coastlines
  • Surf that seems to come right up to the tracks
  • Peaceful valleys with winding streams and glistening lakes
  • Snow-capped mountains and vast stretches of wilderness

The incredible sights offered by the Coast Starlight are not limited to natural scenery. The city lights of metropolitan areas like San Francisco also make for a memorable experience.

amtrak views

Riding Coach Is for the Brave and Hardy Traveler

As many a brave and hardy travel blogger has commented, spending the night aboard the Coast Starlight in a coach seat is an adventure in and of itself and one that typically produces a certain degree of regret the next morning. As one traveler has noted, if offered a second pillow by the car attendant, do not hesitate to accept.

Socializing With Other Travelers Is (Almost) Unavoidable

Although somewhat tempered by pandemic-era travel restrictions, traveling on the Coast Starlight (and any overnight route for that matter) makes socializing with other passengers practically unavoidable.

There was a time when meals in the dining car placed strangers at the same table for every meal and even now, like it or not, the intimate settings of the sightseer lounge car and the tight confines of the coach and business class cars are highly conducive to striking up a conversation with fellow passengers.

Amtrak’s Cancellation and Refund Policy

As anyone who has flown on any airline can attest, unexpected changes to travel plans can not only wreck an entire itinerary but also take a big bite out of your bank account with exorbitant fees for changing or canceling a flight reservation.

By comparison, if you book a trip on the Coast Starlight and need to make changes to your plans, you will find Amtrak’s cancellation and refund policies considerably more forgiving. For instance:

  • For any ticket purchased , a full 100% refund will be credited back via the original form of payment if the booking is canceled within 24 hours of purchase
  • Certain lower-priced tickets (e.g., the Saver and Flexible Fares) allow for a 75% refund in the form of a voucher or a straight credit if a cancellation is requested within a certain time period after purchase
  • Business Class tickets can be fully refunded if canceled prior to departure with no cancellation fees
  • For Sleeper accommodations , refund amounts will vary depending on the amount of time prior to departure that the cancellation request is made

Even the most meticulously made travel plans can unexpectedly go awry. With a booking on the Coast Starlight comes some peace of mind that you will not be throwing your money away if changes need to be made.

amtrak coast starlight

Amtrak Guest Rewards

Akin to the frequent flyer programs offered by virtually every airline in existence, Amtrak’s Guest Rewards program allows repeat passengers to earn points with each booking that can be used for:

  • Class upgrades
  • Companion ticket discounts
  • Discount coupons

Booking certain types of tickets (for instance, a Business Class seat) can boost the number of points earned per trip. It is worth checking Amtrak’s site to see which accommodations qualify for Guest Reward bonuses for the trip you are planning to take.

Book Ahead To Save on Fares

With so many things in life, it pays to purchase early and this rule of life certainly applies to booking a trip on the Coast Starlight. There is a potential 20% savings to be had if tickets for this train are purchased ahead of time, but certain restrictions do apply:

  • This discount applies to the Saver Fare and the purchase must be made at least 7 days in advance of travel
  • All sales are final (no changes or refunds will be permitted)
  • Certain blackout dates apply (e.g., Thanksgiving weekend) and there are limited seats at this pricing

If you are traveling on a budget or simply want to try riding the Coast Starlight to get from point A to point B, then booking ahead of time may be a great way to take in amazing sights while saving some money.

There is No Hopping On and Off the Train

One question that a number of travelers have pondered before embarking on their first Coast Starlight journey is whether disembarking at the various station stops is permitted. It is important to understand that the Coast Starlight’s route runs from Los Angeles in the south to Seattle in the north with a number of stops and destinations in between.

The temptation to engage in impromptu sightseeing along the journey might be difficult to resist.

However, during the booking process you will be required to purchase tickets for the specific itinerary (including the number of stops and their duration) you plan to travel. In other words, unless you are ticketed to get off and on at a particular station, then your stay at any stop (which can be as brief as 10 minutes) will be limited to the time it takes for other passengers to detrain and come on board.

amtrak train

Things May Not Always Go According to Plan

If there is one thing that is certain about traveling by train, such as on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight (or any passenger train for that matter), it is the need to accept the fact that there will always be an element of uncertainty with this mode of transportation and the best policy is to be prepared for the unexpected.

Given that rail cars must travel along train tracks, any time there is an obstruction or impediment on the rails, it must be cleared before the train can safely travel through. In the case of the Coast Starlight, the route winds its way through three states, diverse climate zones, different elevations, and various types of topography. Which all to say that any number of things can happen that can cause delays, such as:

  • Downed trees laying on or near the tracks
  • Snow or ice blanketing the rails

Fortunately, with the number of trains traversing the route and the nearly 30 stations positioned throughout, there is a good network for gathering intelligence on any situations that have the potential of causing delays.

There Are Hundreds of Routes To Choose From

Although the Coast Starlight is famous for traversing the West Coast between Los Angeles, CA and Seattle, WA, it also services a number of cities and stations along this storied route. Travelers can plan itineraries that include many destinations in California, Oregon, and Washington that lie along the Coast Starlight route. These are some of the most popular passages :

  • Los Angeles, CA to Emeryville, CA
  • Santa Barbara, CA to San Jose, CA
  • Seattle, WA to Vancouver, WA
  • Portland, OR to Tacoma, WA
  • Seattle, WA to Portland, OR

With 29 train stations in total along the Coast Starlight route, the number of unique travel itineraries that can be created among these stops is seemingly limitless.

Final Thoughts

Taking a ride on the rails with the Coast Starlight is not a journey for every traveler. But if you are looking to experience something new, this iconic train route may be the perfect way to mix things up while providing a unique perspective on the natural splendor of the West Coast. Just be sure to pack that power strip and head over early to the sightseer lounge to grab a good seat.

Lifelong Rail Enthusiast and Owner of Worldwide Rails

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coast starlight train round trip

Bex Band

Amtrak Coast Starlight Review // + Top Tips on the Best Seats [2024]

by Bex Band | Last modified on Mar 3, 2024 | Travel , USA

Amtrak starlight review

This is my honest Amtrack Coast Starlight Review after taking the train Northbound. It was a surprisingly fun jounrey! Although I wish I’d known a few simple hacks to make the most of my time on the Amtrack Coast, read on to find out more.

The Coast Starlight is an Amtrack passenger train running the length of the West Coast of the US. From Los Angeles to Seattle, with many stops in between.

I took this train with my husband at the end of our epic Kicking the States adventure. We’d kick-scooted the entire length of the USA. We needed to get back to Vanvouver where we started for our return flight.

Our legs were tired, and we wanted to enjoy the views in a more relaxed way. We were also conscious that we wanted to find an eco alternative to flying. The Starlight seemed like the perfect solution! So we bought a ticket for its full length.

We actually began in San DIego where we bordered a train to Los Angeles. And at the end of the Starlight journey, we jumped on a ferry to take us to Victoria for a few days sightseeing before taking a final ferry back to Vancouver.

It was just meant to be a practical transport option. But the Amtrak Coast Starlight completely surpassed all my expectations and turned into one of the highlights of our trip!!

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Table of Contents

coast starlight train round trip

How much does the Amtrak Coast Starlight cost?

When booking the Amtrak Coast Starlight, there are 5 different options available:

  • Saver : Saver Fares are the lowest available and deeply-discounted fares and require advance purchase. Saver Fares are limited.
  • Value : Available on all Amtrak routes, Value Fares are the regular rate for fares and offer several refund options. Value Fares are limited.
  • Flexible : Flexible Fares, ideal if your plans change, are fully refundable and modifiable without cancellation fees.
  • Business : Business Class offers an affordable, enhanced travel experience with extras like more legroom and non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Premium : Premium services include Acela First Class, an upscale travel experience, and private rooms on most long-distance routes.

We booked our tickets online a month before we travelled for $162.

We were travelling the full route from LA to Seattle via Portland and the San Francisco Bay Area, opting for the cheapest option – a Saver seat. If you are after a bargain, it is possible to sometimes get tickets as cheap as $100 if you book several months in advance (usually at least 3 months).

There is an option to upgrade your seats.

Business Class for as little as $120.

And a Private Room (think tiny hotel room on a train!) starting at $660.

Checking into the Coast Starlight

The full train from LA to Seattle takes 33 hours in total….it’s a long ride!

Before heading to the Angeles Union Station, we went to a supermarket and stocked up on all the food and drink we could for our journey. We arrived at the station 2 hours before ‘departure’.

First, we needed to check in. Large bags have to be checked in to be stored elsewhere on the train (like on a plane), and they are very strict on weight allowance, so check this in advance. Each passenger is allocated the following:

Each passenger may bring two personal items, 25 lbs. (12 kg) and 14 x 11 x 7 inches each, and two carry-on items, 50 lbs. (23 kg) and 28 x 22 x 14 inches each, onboard.

They also had quite strict rules about what is and isn’t allowed in your checked-in bag (food and drink, for example, are not allowed, so you need to have that in your ‘hand luggage’). It took a long time to check in – we were queuing for over 40 minutes. This was mostly because many people before us had heavy bags and had to take things out and re-pack to meet the guidelines.

Once that was done with we were able to use the comfortable Amtrak lounge until the train was ready to board. You get an allocated seat, so you don’t need to rush to the train to get a good spot.

Economy of the Amtrack Starlight

Amtrak Coast Starlight review

We debated paying for the sleeper option but decided it was too expensive. I was worried that the economy option was going to be really uncomfortable, especially for such a long journey. It turned out that the seats were very spacious both width wise and also in terms of legroom.

Much more spacious than I was expecting.

Each seat comes with a socket, table, light and footrest. I was also surprised that the seat reclined so far backwards (far more than on a plane for example). When sleeping I was able to curl up and have my legs entirely on the footrest (which comes up to be flat against the seat level).

I was amazed by how well I slept!

The Coast Starlight Amenities included luggage storage ahead and also toilets, which were always clean when I used them.

Saver seat on the Amtrak Starlight Train

The viewing deck

The best feature of the Amtrack Coast Starlight is definitely the famous observation car where there is an impressive viewing deck. This room has large curved windows, allowing you to really take in the scenery as it passes by. Half of the room is made up of sofas and chairs that face outwards at the view. The other half is the dining car with tables and chairs.

Throughout the train ride, you also have volunteers delivering short lectures about the places you are passing. Amazing!!

This room is available for everyone to use for free and works on a first-come-first-served basis. There was always somewhere to sit, although the sofas can get full, and you get a few hoggers! The only annoying thing about going to the observation car for the viewing deck is having to take all your valuables with you when you go, as you don’t want to leave them unattended.

coast starlight train round trip

Should we have gone Business or Premium?

Definitely not!! For business, you get benefits like more legroom and non-alcoholic drinks. I could stretch my legs out all the way without knocking the seat in front (and I’m 5″9 with long legs!). The extra room wasn’t needed. As for the soft drinks – you can just pick these up easily before the journey.

Would I have slept better in a Premium sleeper car? Almost certainly. But I had a really good night’s sleep, and I liked that I could people-watch in the day as passengers went up and down the aisle. I don’t think a private room would have had the same feel. Unless you’ve got a special reason for needing a sleeper car and a proper bed, like a back problem, then I really don’t think it’s worth paying 3 times the price.

coast starlight train round trip

So…is Amtrak Coast Starlight worth it?

I literally loved every minute of this train ride. I thought by the end of 33 hours I would be itching to get off (I’m quite a restless person), but I could have happily done another day on the train.

The views are just spectacular – passing farmland, coastline, endless trees and mountains. The comfortable seating meant I got a good night’s sleep and had some enjoyable hours watching Netflix, which I had downloaded before leaving. Note that WiFi is only available for those in business or first class.

Amtrack’s viewing deck provided a change of scenery on the train and an excuse to stretch my legs. I also liked using the tables in the dining car to eat during meal times as it’s more comfortable than in your seat.

I actually can’t believe how cheap the tickets are for this journey. The Amtrak Coast Starlight is not just a form of transport but also an experience in its own right and a great way to take in the vast beauty of the West Coast of the USA.

Amtrak Coast Starlight review

If you still need convincing, check out this nice review on YouTube. You’ll see all the different seat options and have a taster of the views you’ll get to look forward to:

My top tips for travelling on the Amtrack Coast Starlight

Use these tips to make sure you make the most of your journey on this West Coast train ride:

  • As soon as you know your dates, book your tickets. You may be eligible for the cheaper advance prices.
  • The schedule for the train can be found here .
  • Download the Amtrak app to your phone. It’s a great way to make the booking and to keep the confirmation to hand without needing to print anything.
  • When checking in, ask for a seat on the LEFT SIDE OF THE TRAIN (assuming you are travelling from LA to Seattle. If you are travelling the other direction, then ask for the right side). This way you will have the coastline views!
  • Food and drink are available on the train but it is expensive and not so varied. We chose to bring all our own food. The guy managing the restaurant was happy to give us hot water for free, so we were able to eat noodles and other ‘add hot water’ meals. I don’t know if they would always allow this or if we just got lucky with a nice attendant! I guess you could always order a tea with the tea bag separately if they said no!
  • There are water taps available, so bring a reusable bottle. Also, bring a reusable coffee mug if you want hot drinks….do your bit for the environment!
  • It can get a bit cold on the train with the aircon, especially at night. We had sleeping bags with us and got them out at night time. I think I would’ve been really cold without mine, so bring plenty of layers and blankets if you can.
  • If you’ve got the space, a pillow would be a real luxury item.
  • Before boarding the train we spent 2 nights in Los Angeles enjoying Disneyland (we stayed at Clarion Hot el , which was within walking distance from the parks and a taxi ride from the train station). If you are looking for a cheap place to stay in Seattle once you arrive, I can also recommend the Green Tortoise Hostel.
  • The best time to get a sofa or chair in the viewing room was early in the morning or when the train was leaving a station (people go back to their seats to check their bags). It was most busy during meal times.

coast starlight train round trip

Are you planning to ride the train?

I hope my guide has convinced you to book a ride on the Starlight! Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions or tips you’d like to share.

You can stay updated with my adventures and advice on Facebook  and  Instagram . Or you can subscribe to my YouTube channel . I give all my advice for free on my website.

I give all my advice for free on my blog, spending countless hours working on useful guides. If you want to say thanks, you can buy me a coffee !

Good luck with your Amtrack adventure!

Bex Band

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Courtney Burnett

Hi there! Your blog was very helpful! Does the train make any stops along the way? I was wondering about being able to hop off for an overnight stay and then get back on the next day.

Bex Band

Yes it does! I’m not sure if the ticket allows you to get off…you may need to buy them separately 🙂

Carol lnman

I love Coast Starlight … I have a bedroom … all meals are included … I go from Tacoma WA . to Salinas California … about a 26 hour trip … Some times a bit longer because of freight trains … But not a big deal … Every year l ride Coaststarlight … relaxing and most of all a beautiful trip and the porters and Conductors are so kind and very helpful! … I will keep on taking Coaststarlight every year to California!


Great work. Thinking of doing the same trip with an 8 year old. Thoughts appreciated and thanks

I think they’ll love it! Just be well prepared with snacks, a few games and maybe a film and you should create an adventure they’ll remember for years!


We booked this trip in Business Class for this coming April.

Do you know if seats are assigned, or do you run the risk of losing your seat if you leave it empty?

We are a family of four, what do you think the chances we’ll be able to seat near each other?

I believe for Business you should have an assigned seat. Once everyone is sat there is no risk of your seats being taken – we regularly left our seats to go for a wander and would just leave a coat there to make sure they weren’t taken. I’d suggest being in your seats if you reach a stop as this is the only time anyone might take the seats or there’s a risk of items being stolen.

Marie B

I would love to do the trip from Seattle to San Fran but it always shows that I have to do a part with the bus and it seems like a hassle getting off all my luggage from the train to a bus shuttle to make the last bit of the trip to San Fran…

We didn’t take buses at any stage – definitely possible to do it all via roads 🙂

Diane Bauman

Your blog was very informative. We are coming off a cruise from the San Pedro cruise port and want to go right to the Amtrak Union Station. Do you know if Amtrak offers complimentary transportation? I saw a review from 2013 that said they did, but that was so long ago. I appreciate any of your help

I don’t know – you’d need to check with them directly.


I don’t know if this is a dumb question but I’ve been wanting to take a train ride and I’m dying to visit Washington! If you leave from LA does the train bring you back to LA? I’m a little confused with the booking and I don’t want to get stuck in Seattle! Thank you for all the information!


Don’t know if you’re still looking for an answer, but you need to book a return trip if you want to go back to LA. Be it the train again or a flight ticket.

Arturo Velasquez

Thank you for your help. I am taking this trip later this month.

Susan D Lombard

I’m wondering how many stops are there along the way?

You can see a list of all the stops under ‘route’ on this Wiki page:


Update on the Amtrak Train, they now only allow one personal item and two carry on but beyond that, thanks for the review, really helps with planning!

Thank you – I’ve updated the information on the page 🙂

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coast starlight train round trip

My wife and I took a 35-hour train ride from Los Angeles to Seattle. These were the 5 best and 5 worst parts of the trip.

  • Over the course of 4 days, my wife and I rode a train up and down the West Coast for over 70 hours.
  • The Amtrak ride was relaxing and enjoyable and had great views. 
  • But the old bathrooms and lack of access to the dining car in coach weren't great. 

At the end of July, my wife and I took a train to Seattle for a college friend's wedding.

coast starlight train round trip

Instead of paying at least $600 per person for a roundtrip flight from Los Angeles to Seattle, we opted to ride Amtrak's Coast Starlight.

The double-decker train travels to and from Los Angeles and Seattle, and the journey is about 35 hours each way. This meant that, of our six-day trip, only two days were actually spent in Seattle.

We paid $504 round trip for our reserved coach seats because if we couldn't afford over $1,000 worth of plane tickets to get to Seattle in only a few hours, we definitely couldn't afford to sleep horizontally.

I am, admittedly, a train lover. I was excited for this trip, and although it mostly lived up to its reputation as one of the most beautiful and enjoyable train rides in the US, it also had its downsides.

Here are five highlights and lowlights from the Coast Starlight.

BEST: Amtrak's generous baggage policy

coast starlight train round trip

Unlike with flying, the baggage restrictions were pretty loose and we didn't have to pay extra to store a bag or bring more than one. 

On the Coast Starlight , each passenger was allowed to bring up to two bags (50 pounds each) and two carry-ons (25 pounds each). On our particular trip, no one checked or weighed our bags, so the above restrictions were not actually enforced. 

Despite the generous policy, there were only two of us, and lugging eight bags would've been a lot. We packed five bags total – three we kept with us for laptops, reading materials, headphones, food, etc., and two we stored on the first floor of the train, which you can access at any time.

One of our stored bags contained everything for Seattle and the other contained our "sleeping supplies" — earplugs, eye masks, slipper socks, a blanket, small pillows, and a change of clothes.

WORST: The train's old and not-so-clean bathrooms

coast starlight train round trip

We took numbers 11 and 14 of the Coast Starlight trains – and they were a few decades old. In my opinion, a makeover would not be a bad idea for these trains .

Although most of the train was clean and comfortable (especially, and most, fortunately, our seats), the bathrooms were another story.

Located on the first floor of each car near the baggage storage, there are small, airplane-like bathrooms and one changing room with an attached bathroom. We peed and changed in the bathrooms as quickly as possible, not wanting to stay any longer than necessary.

BEST: The observation car and its stunning views

coast starlight train round trip

One place on the train we never wanted to leave, however, was the observation car. This car consists of two important levels – the cafe on the first floor and the observation deck on the second. 

The observation deck is, by far, the best feature of the Coast Starlight. It is an experience like no other .

In this section, you can seat yourself at a booth with a table, or chairs facing the massive windows that stretch from the floor all the way up, curving into the ceiling. 

Some of the most breathtaking views of this ride included the California coast, where you're so close to the ocean you feel like you can taste the salty sea air, and the Oregon mountains and lakes.

Grab a glass of wine and a book, and it becomes truly incandescent.

WORST: Coach doesn't get to access to the dining car

coast starlight train round trip

At the cafe, anyone can purchase snacks, microwaved meals, and – mostly important – reasonably priced alcohol. I saw a a 375-milliliter bottle of wine for $16.

The food was fine. There are options like mac and cheese, cheese pizza, a vegetarian tamale, and a plain bagel with cream cheese.

It's nothing like the food quality and service of the dining car, which is only available to those in sleeper cars and business class . There, you can enjoy grilled Atlantic salmon and a cocktail.

Though a problem of any major transportation company, this disparity in quality depending on your wealth or lack thereof, definitely soured some of the experience.

Fortunately, the aforementioned generous baggage policy includes allowing passengers to bring their own food and drink . Both ways, my wife and I packed cold meals requiring no heating, snacks, and drinks. We bought food and drink from the cafe car a few times, but not nearly as much as we could have. This helped us save a bit of money.

A representative for Amtrak told Insider that traditional and flexible dining "have been positioned as an exclusive and complimentary service for our customers in private rooms—with the goal of providing an elevated, first class experience for these high-paying customers." 

They also said Amtrak has plans to refresh its "cafe menus on long distance routes" with new, fresh items next month.

BEST: You can truly sit back and relax

coast starlight train round trip

My wife and I considered getting to Seattle via road trip at first. As Angelenos, it's almost second nature to us to be in the car.

Perhaps that's why it didn't appeal to me as much, or it's because my wife, the long-distance driver, would have to do most of the labor as driving long, monotonous stretches makes me tired.

On the Coast Starlight, however, you get to sit back and relax .

We downloaded TV episodes onto our iPad (and finally started Apple TV+'s "Loot") and podcasts onto our phones. We also packed books in our bags.

Let me tell you – reading Sappho while high on a train is a life-changing experience.

Throughout over 70 hours on the train, we stared out the window, took naps, and let ourselves indulge and go slow. We didn't stress about the little things. It was a surreal and much-needed change of pace for a few days.

WORST: It's hard to sleep at a a 45-degree angle

coast starlight train round trip

When you're awake, coach seats on the Coast Starlight are rather comfortable. The seats themselves are like armchairs — they recline back further than airplane seats and have a leg rest you can pop up to stretch out.

In the evenings, once we'd brushed our teeth, changed into slipper socks, and grabbed our blanket, it was easy to get cozy and watch TV as the train bounded on.

Sleeping is a different story . It's possible and still, again, better than sleeping on a plane in economy, but it's not comfortable.

We contorted ourselves into pretzels, tucking our knees into the spaces of the other until we finally dozed off. Earplugs and eye masks seemed absolutely necessary, given the train stops, letting people on and off, throughout the entire night.

On the way to Seattle, I slept so poorly that I almost used Amtrak's BidUp service. With this, you can "bid" for better seats on your upcoming ride, including upgrading to business or sleeper. If you win, you'll be charged your bid amount and your ticket will be upgraded.

Ultimately, though, I decided it wasn't worth the money.

BEST: You can meet new people and also have privacy

coast starlight train round trip

Trains are great because they welcome extroverts and introverts. It's easy to meet people in the common spaces of the train .

On our first day, we went down to the cafe to get coffee and met a woman taking her mother, who has cancer, to see Journey in concert. Near our seats on the way up, we met a family from Kentucky – their twin boys had just celebrated their 18th birthdays and their present was this West Coast adventure.

Privacy, however, is also easy. There are only two seats per row, meaning no awkward third like on many planes. Whenever my wife and I were at our seats, we were never bothered and were always free to simply cocoon in our little train haven.

WORST: There was no Wi-Fi available, not even to purchase

coast starlight train round trip

Listen, I hear you. There's no Wi-Fi on planes either — at least, not for free. On the Coast Starlight , however, you can't even buy Wi-Fi.

For the most part, this wasn't a problem. It was nice to step away from all the notifications and distractions the world brings us every moment of every day on our screens. Plus my wife and I prepared by downloading media beforehand and packing books.

But we also decided to use this trip as a working vacation and it was frustrating at times when our mobile hotspots dipped in and out, or our download of the newest episode of "The Challenge: USA" suddenly crashed.

BEST: The Trails & Rails service was informative

coast starlight train round trip

One of the best legs of the Coast Starlight journey is Washington — not only for the green scenery, but also for the presence of the National Park Service.

Operating for over two decades, Trails & Rails is a service of the National Parks where volunteers "share stories about national, state and local parks as well as places of interest" along the route.

Washington's Klondike National Park supplies volunteers to share information and answer any questions you may have. 

Our volunteer on the route home was Simon, who told us the volunteers read a big book full of information before embarking and have to "thread the needle" between historical facts and family-friendly information. (For context, many stories in Washington center on Indigenous tribes and their stolen history.)

WORST: Travel delays are always unfortunate

coast starlight train round trip

On our way back to LA, we were maybe 45 minutes from our stop when the train came to a halt in Oxnard, California. It wasn't a station — we were simply stopped on the tracks. The conductor announced via speaker about 20 or 30 minutes into this stop that, because of police activity ahead, we had to wait.

There was no way of knowing how long it would be and it pushed our journey well over 70 hours on a train. At that point, as much as I had been enjoying myself, I wanted so badly to get off.

Delays can happen with any travel, but being confined to the train during the delay definitely became stifling and tight for me.

Fortunately, our mobile hotspot was working and we were able to livestream that night's episode of "The Bachelorette" since we were supposed to be home by 8 pm. Instead, we returned home closer to 10 pm. 

coast starlight train round trip

  • Main content

coast starlight train round trip

7 Pacific Coast Amtrak Routes With Scenic Summer Views

  • Whether it's beach vibes in SoCal or mountain magic in the Northwest, Amtrak's scenic routes cater to every adventurer's summer dreams!
  • From breathtaking Cascades to the California Zephyr's rocky adventure, Amtrak promises a smooth ride with diverse accommodations and amenities.
  • Travelers can hop on board for epic scenery, culinary delights, and outdoor excursions along the picturesque Pacific Coast this summer!

The Pacific Coast: nothing fancy—only summer! Summer on the Pacific Coast means gorgeous rugged coastal views, lush mountains, enchanting waterfalls, azure waters of the Pacific, volcanoes, and the rich cultural attractions that globetrotters can find in the West. Such amazing summer escapes are made possible by Amtrak, which offers spectacular train rides throughout the Pacific Coast region with plenty of magnificent stops in charming towns and bustling cities, promising some of the best Amtrak routes in the summer .

Whether travelers want Amtrak train rides that make stops at beautiful beaches or train trips with Amtrak that make scenic mountain stops , America's favorite rail service has them all! Travelers can go for scenic train trips on the West Coast worth trying this summer and take advantage of the great weather, culinary delights, and the great outdoors.

Here are some of the best Pacific Coast Amtrak routes with scenic summer views, unmatched adventures, and unforgettable experiences!

Amtrak's accommodations, amenities, menu, and local guides vary by train. Some trains may also feature forward and backward-facing seating. Amtrak doesn't guarantee preferred seat orientation.

Scenic Berkshires Amtrak Route Is Coming Back This Summer

Vancouver, british colombia to eugene, oregon, onboard amtrak's cascades.

Vacationing from British Columbia? Amtrak's Cascades takes travelers to the unique cities of the Pacific Northwest, breathtaking landscapes, and scenic views this summer! Onboard Amtrak's European-style trains, this route introduces travelers to the wonders of the majestic mountains, cascading waterfalls, alpine meadows, volcanoes, blue bays, seas of tulips, lava fields, and enchanting rainforests.

From Vancouver, which boasts free tourist attractions to see, the Cascades glides through Washington's bustling city of Seattle and the culturally rich city of Tacoma, known for its world-renowned glass art. Travelers will then continue to Portland, Oregon's largest city, which also offers plenty of off-the-beaten-track things to do , such as exploring the Columbia River Gorge’s majestic waterfalls, then to Eugene—all with the best views of Mount St. Helens!

San Luis Obispo To San Diego

Onboard amtrak's pacific surfliner.

Ready for SoCal? Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner treats globetrotters to an authentic Southern Californian escape on a 9-hour, 351-mile journey, hugging the rugged SoCal coastline. Whether travelers are up for biking, surfing, swimming, or gastronomy, this route is a perfect summer train ride with the best ocean views!

From the visitor-approved things to do in San Diego , which is steeped in history, the spectacular Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, and LA's glitz and glamour to the pristine beaches of Santa Barbara, known as the American Riviera with the backdrop of the Santa Ynez Mountains, this Southern California train ride is one for the books!

Nearby wineries also call for amazing wine sampling, particularly in the beautiful town of San Luis Obispo, where travelers can take in the culinary delights and exciting outdoor excursions! Nothing like a SoCal kind of summer shenanigan!

The Pacific Surfliner has a size limit for carry-on bags, which must be smaller than 28 x 22 x 11 inches.

Chicago To Portland/Seattle

Onboard amtrak's empire builder.

This route is a great blend of the Midwest and the Pacific Coast onboard Amtrak's Empire Builder , along the Lewis and Clark trail, giving globetrotters 46 hours of unmatched adventures and scenic summer views along the way!

Amtrak offers travelers the best experiences of the American West—from the views of the mighty Mississippi and the enchanting wilderness to the North Dakota plains, the breathtaking Mt. Hood and Beacon Rock, the buttes and bluffs, and all things spectacular in the West!

The train also glides through the Big Sky country of Montana, which means one thing: Glacier National Park, Montana's beautiful range , then to Spokane and Seattle, or travelers can experience the greatness of the Columbia River Gorge toward Portland, Oregon, for the gorgeous summer views!

Cheap Amtrak Tickets Can Be Yours This Summer If You Follow This ONE Trick

Seattle to los angeles, onboard amtrak's coast starlight.

Here's the grandiosity of a West Coast train adventure onboard Amtrak's Coast Starlight ! Known as one of the most exciting train routes, the Coast Starlight passes through the beautiful cities of the San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Barbara, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, Klamath Falls, and Portland.

Along the way, travelers will fall for the dramatic summer views of the Cascade Range and Mount Shasta, which have cooled down from the winter blues, the raw beauty of the valleys, vast forests, and the unforgiving stretches of the Pacific Ocean shores.

In Klamath Falls, travelers can feast their eyes on the sapphire waters of Crater Lake, Oregon's bluest lake , or explore the vineyards, enjoy beach-combing on the beaches in San Luis Obispo, or visit the Farmers' Market!

San Francisco Bay Area To Bakersfield

Onboard amtrak's san joaquins.

Linking California and the San Joaquin Valley, Amtrak's San Joaquins introduces passengers to the spectacular Californian region, ensconced by the coastal mountain ranges and the best of the Golden State's National Parks: Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, and the Death Valley National Park.

Traversing between the deep San Francisco Bay and its surrounding area, which is dotted with unique attractions , and Bakersfield and throughout the charming Southern California towns, travelers will have a chance to experience these spectacular attractions through Amtrak's Thruway Buses. Plus, see the beautiful towns of Stockton, Modesto, Merced, Martinez, and Fresno.

Explore four of America’s greatest national parks, feast on the scenic summer views of the valley, and get closer to the almond groves, peach orchards, and more for a farm-fresh experience this summer!

Riding the San Joaquins allows travelers to connect to other destinations. At Bakersfield, they can connect to Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, and more. Amtrak does the booking and ticketing.

Auburn To San Jose

Onboard amtrak's capitol corridor.

Dreaming about Northern California? Amtrak's Capitol Corridor makes this dream come true! For travelers who only have a day to spend for a quick summer escape, they can board Amtrak's Capitol Corridor trains, which will take them throughout the Sacramento region and the San Francisco Bay Area.

This route takes 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete, but, of course, travelers can spend more time with the incredible attractions in the region to get the best out of summer!

Get closer to Old Town Sacramento and learn about the rich history of the railroads in the West at the California State Railroad Museum, one of the top things to do in Sacramento for history buffs .

Also, nature and great outdoor lovers will fall for the best experiences that Oakland offers—from the world-class bonsai garden on Lake Meritt to the Floating White House, or the unique local culture and delightful eats in San Jose, where travelers can also enjoy the hills for the thrills of wine trails and bike trails against the Santa Cruz mountains!

The Capitol Corridor trains are equipped with a limited number of bicycle racks, which allows travelers to bring their bikes onboard as unboxed, carry-on baggage.

7 Epic Round-Trip Amtrak Vacations In The US

Chicago to san francisco, onboard amtrak's california zephyr.

Got two days or more for summer on the Pacific Coast? Ride Amtrak's California Zephyr for spectacular summer shenanigans through the core of the Rockies, the majestic peaks of the Sierra Nevada, the glistening Truckee River, the San Pablo Bay and the Carquinez Strait, Donner Lake, and some of Colorado's unmatched scenery and attractions. Imagine the scenic summer views along the way!

Running between Chicago and San Francisco, which offers fantastic things to do and everything nice worth seeing , the Zephyr is considered one of the most scenic train routes in North America, and for good reason! Traversing through the unforgiving plains of Nebraska to Denver, the Zephyr also takes travelers to Reno, Sacramento, Omaha, and Salt Lake City.

This route also offers connections to San Francisco and Oakland stations through the Thruway Bus Service at Emeryville, California, so travelers will have the best and most unforgettable summer getaway on the Pacific Coast!

7 Pacific Coast Amtrak Routes With Scenic Summer Views

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12 epic train journeys around the world

The Bernina Express in Switzerland and Italy riding over a bridge

The destination is only as good as the journey. A great train trip doesn’t just take you from one place to another, it allows you to explore the world at a slower, and more sustainable pace. Venture out on a great cross-country expedition while soaking up sweet panoramic views through floor-to-ceiling windows, or go back in time on a historic locomotive.

Are you ready to hop on board? Here are some of the most epic train journeys in the world, plus tips on the best routes, travel times, onboard services, and things to do along the way.

1. Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, Europe

The Venice-Simplon Orient Express Train riding through the countryside in Europe

Travel time: Two days (for their Classic Routes)

Train journeys: The Classic Routes go to and from Venice, London, Verona, and Paris. Check their website for the full list of train journeys available .

Be transported to the glamorous Golden Age of Travel in historic carriages, carefully restored from the 1920s. On the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express , explore Europe in style onboard this lavish locomotive, complete with plush interiors, stellar service, and lively ragtime tunes by the resident pianist. Dress in your Sunday best and enjoy a sumptuous four-course table d'hôte menu paired with their sommelier’s choice of wines. Then take your night to the Bar Car for decadent cocktails and spirited conversations among newfound companions. Turn in for the night in one of their luxurious suites, fitted with lush beds and ensuite bathrooms.

Most of their classic routes between the major European cities—like Geneva , Innsbruck , Venice , and London —take two days but if you’re in for an epic ride, look out for the annual six-day Paris to Istanbul expedition that’ll take you on a journey through Budapest and Bucharest .

2. Glacier Express, Switzerland

The Glacier Express in Switzerland riding on top of a bridge

Travel time: Eight hours

Train journeys: From Zermatt to St. Moritz (and vice versa)

Catch Switzerland’s most spectacular manmade and natural wonders from the comfort of your train seat with the Glacier Express . The train connects Zermatt , Switzerland —home to the iconic Matterhorn and Gornergrat —to St. Moritz , a stunning and luxurious alpine resort town. You’ll be journeying through 91 tunnels, crossing 291 bridges, and catching sights like the Rhine Gorge, Oberalp Pass , and other lakes, valleys, villages, and pastures through your cabin’s floor-to-ceiling windows.

Upgrade to the Excellence Class experience to take this scenic train ride to the next level. You’ll be guaranteed the best window seats in the house, a five-course menu with wine pairings, and exclusive access to the in-house bar.

3. Alaska Railroad, Alaska, United States

The Alaska Railroad in Alaska riding through the mountains in Alaska

Travel time: 2.5 to 12 hours one-way

Train journeys: To and from Anchorage, Fairbanks, Talkeetna, Hurricane, Grandview, or Seward. Check their website for the full list of train journeys available .

Explore Alaska's sprawling countryside mountains on the Alaska Railroad . It offers train journeys all year round, with daily routes during summer from May to September. The flagship “Denali Star Train” is great for wildlife spotting in summer, stopping by Denali National Park and Preserve along the 12-hour journey between Anchorage and Fairbanks . The “Coastal Classic Train” between Anchorage and Seward is also great for beautiful coastal scenery, fjords, fishing, and hiking. Here’s a tip: upgrade to the GoldStar Service for glass-domed cabins with panoramic views, an upper-level outdoor viewing deck, meals, and drinks.

Don’t worry if you’re visiting in wintertime though. You can still experience an epic train journey through Alaska on the “ Aurora Winter Train ” which offers stunning views of the state’s magical snowy landscape and even the chance to see the northern lights.

4. Eastern & Oriental Express, Singapore

A passenger looking out of the Eastern & Oriental Express train

Travel time: Four days

Train journeys: Round trip from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Taman Negara, Langkawi Island, or Penang Island. Check their website for the full list of train journeys available .

Be swept away on a grand journey through Malaysia on the Belmond-operated Eastern & Oriental Express . Your four-day journey begins in Singapore and up north through lush jungles, charming towns, and relaxing islands. The “Wild Malaysia” journey is great for wildlife lovers, stopping at Taman Negara National Park , one of the oldest tropical rainforests and home to the endangered Malayan tiger. On the other hand, the “Essence of Malaysia” journey has a little bit of everything. You’ll make stops at the cultural hub of Penang and Langkawi’s Pulau Payar Marine Park , where you can snorkel with colorful sea creatures and other exciting water activities.

Along your train journey, feast on a four-course fine dining experience each night with a table d'hôte menu that features Malaysian flavors. Then, continue the night in the jazzy Bar Car for champagne and signature cocktails. Seats are limited so travelers recommend booking your train journey a few months in advance.

5. Serra Verde Express, Curitiba, Brazil

The Serra Verde Express coming out of a tunnel in Brazil

Travel time: Four hours

Train journeys: From Curitiba to Morretes (and vice versa)

Wind through the lush greenery, waterfalls, canyons, and mountain passes of Brazil on the Serra Verde Express , one of the most famous railways in South America . Constructed over a hundred years ago, the train connects Curitiba to the historic coastal city of Morretes . While there aren’t many amenities or services available onboard, some carriages have sliding windows that allow the aromas of the rainforest to waft into the cabin, letting you fully immerse your senses.

To make the most of your journey, we recommend booking a round-trip package that includes a tour of Morretes . You’ll get to explore the city’s history, churches, markets, and colonial homes before ending the day with a barreado (a Brazillian beef shank stew) lunch by the Nhundiaquara River .

6. Rocky Mountaineer, North America

Rocky Mountaineer train on its train route through forests

Travel time: Two to fifteen days

Train journeys: From Vancouver to Banff or Jasper in Canada, and from Moab to Denver in the U.S. Check their website for the full list of train journeys available .

Go on a majestic journey across the Rockies on the Rocky Mountaineer in North America. Choose from three epic routes through Canada like the “Journey Through The Clouds” trip, which takes you from Vancouver and past Fraser River , Hell’s Gate , Pyramid Creek Falls , and the mighty Mount Robson en route to Jasper .

For the best 360 views, upgrade to the GoldLeaf experience which features cabins with wraparound glass dome windows and a huge outdoor viewing platform. While most of the journeys take two to three days, there are round-trip packages that go on for up to 15 days, taking you from Vancouver to Whistler and back.

7. West Highland Line, Scotland

A West Highland Line on its journey through forests next to a river

Travel time: 3.5 to 5.5 hours

Train journeys: From Glasgow to Oban, Fort William, or Mallaig

Explore the scenic west coast of Scotland on the West Highland Line where you’ll whizz past mighty glens, vast lochs, and majestic mountains. From Glasglow , journey up north to Fort William and Mallaig and past scenic spots like Monessie Gorge, Ben Nevis , and the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct , better known as the Hogwarts Express railway in the Harry Potter films.

The westward route from Glasgow takes you to the port town of Oban , passing by the historic Kilchurn Castle , the beautiful Falls of Lora , and the scenic Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park . Keep your eyes peeled and you might even spot some adorable red deer hiding among the trees.

8. The Lake Titicaca Train, Peru

A woman posing in front of the The Lake Titicaca Train

Travel time: Ten hours

Train journeys: From Cusco to Puno (and vice versa)

Travel between Cusco and the port city of Puno on the PeruRail Titicaca train . Also known as The Lake Titicaca Train, the journey takes you across the amazing landscapes of the Peruvian Andes and down towards the magical Lake Titicaca , one of South America’s biggest lakes. From your train carriage, the scenic views are paired with amazing onboard experiences. You can watch live Peruvian music and dance performances, feast on a three-course gourmet meal, and have a spot of afternoon tea. The highlight? Enjoying a Peruvian cocktail on the semi-open observatory Bar Car.

Once in Puno, don’t miss a visit to the mystical Uros Floating Islands . These islands are home to the indigenous Uros people who have made their homes entirely out of totora reeds.

9. Bernina Express, Switzerland and Italy

A woman and child admiring the view rom their train window on the Bernina Express

Travel time: 1.5 to 4.5 hours

Train journeys: From Chur or St. Moritz to Tirano or Poschiavo (and vice versa)

Ride the Bernina Express and explore the snowy Swiss Alps from your warm train cabin. You’ll ride on Europe’s highest railway tracks, across UNESCO World Heritage Sites, over the magnificent Landwasser Viaduct , and past natural wonders like Lago Bianco and Palü Glacier.

Take the 4.5-hour classic route that connects Chur in Switzerland to the Italian town of Tirano . At this small commune next to the Switzerland-Italy border, you’ll get to visit historic sights like the Santuario della Beata Vergine di Tirano , an ornate church with interesting historical artifacts and intricately painted ceilings. If you’re in Milan , take a day trip to St. Moritz with the Bernina Express tour package . It includes a tour of St. Moritz, round-trip transfers, and hotel pick-ups to and from your accommodation in Milan.

10. Coast Starlight Train, United States

The interior of the Coast Starlight train

Travel time: 35 hours

Train journeys: From Seattle to Los Angeles (and vice versa)

Given that this train route runs daily, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t experience the Amtrak Coast Starlight Train at least once in your lifetime. This West Coast train adventure takes you from Seattle to Los Angeles , passing by stunning sights, from the snowcapped peaks of the Cascade Range and Mount Shasta to the Golden Gate Bridge and the sandy beaches of Santa Barbara .

Don’t worry, all meals are provided for on the train, including a three-course dinner menu featuring seasonal ingredients. There are coach class seats available but consider treating yourself to a good night’s sleep during the long journey ahead with their Superliner rooms and suites that come with convertible beds. If you need to stretch your legs on the 35-hour journey, hop off at San Luis Obispo in California for a wine tasting in a vineyard or outdoor adventures at Klamath Falls in Oregon .

11. The Ghan, South Australia and Northern Territory

The Ghan on its train journey through the countryside of Australia

Travel time: Two to four days

Train journeys: From Darwin to Adelaide (and vice versa), and Darwin or Adelaide to Alice Springs

The Ghan is an incredibly epic and luxurious once-in-lifetime experience that takes you on a journey through Australia . Go for the four-day cross-country expedition that will take you from Darwin in the Top End , all the way to Adelaide down south, passing through some of the most remote parts of Australia. You can explore more of the Australian outback with off-train experiences to Katherine and Coober Pedy , or opt for the shorter train expeditions that end in Alice Springs , a perfect base to explore the Red Centre .

Onboard, you’ll be treated to regionally inspired meals and world-class wines aboard the stylish cabins. Then take the conversations to the social lounges, fully stocked with games, books, and booze for endless fun. For ultimate luxury, go for the Platinum experience which includes cabins with expansive window views, ensuite bathrooms, and personalized service.

12. Deccan Odyssey, India

The dining car of the Deccan Odyssey train

Travel time: 15 days

Train journeys: From Delhi to Mumbai, or Mumbai to Kolkata or Hyderabad (or vice versa)

Journey across India on the luxurious Deccan Odyssey . Watch the diverse landscapes of India unfold before you as you relax in the glamorous cabins and dig into decadent Indian and international dishes. If you ever get bored of the views, the train even has a sauna and spa where you can get a traditional Ayurvedic massage, a gym, and even a hair salon.

For majestic palaces and cultural wonders, the “Splendours of Nothern India” route will take you from Delhi to Mumbai , through the scenic lakes in Udaipur and of course, the extravagant Taj Mahal in Agra. If sunkissed beaches and sunsets are more of your thing, the “Madras Mail” route might be perfect for you, passing through the coastal cities of Goa , Kochi , and Pondicherry en route to Hyderabad from Mumbai.

Explore more epic train journeys

coast starlight train round trip


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    The Coast Starlight is a great train trip to link with a few other trains. If you are looking for a longer vacation, consider something like our 14 day Amtrak trip . On this trip we took the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle, the Empire Builder from Seattle to Chicago, and the California Zephyr from Chicago back to San Francisco.

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    Here are some of the most epic train journeys in the world, plus tips on the best routes, travel times, onboard services, and things to do along the way. 1. Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, Europe. Travel time: Two days (for their Classic Routes) Train journeys: The Classic Routes go to and from Venice, London, Verona, and Paris.