Amtrak's Coast Starlight: Train from LA to Seattle

Has anyone taken Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train from LA to Seattle?

*A Grand West Coast Train Adventure, en route daily between Los Angeles and Seattle, the Coast Starlight train passes through Santa Barbara, the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento and Portland. Widely regarded as one of the most spectacular of all train routes, the Coast Starlight links the greatest cities on the West Coast. The scenery along the Coast Starlight route is unsurpassed. The dramatic snow-covered peaks of the Cascade Range and Mount Shasta, lush forests, fertile valleys and long stretches of Pacific Ocean shoreline provide a stunning backdrop for your journey.
I’m planning a trip to the Seattle area in late July, and I’m thinking about flying into LA a couple days early and taking this train. It will require some extra planning and hotel stays, though, so I’m wondering if anyone else has done this route and what they thought…?

During warmer weather (July would qualify), the spectacular scenery is said to include some spectacular views of several clothing-optional beaches.

I take it regularly from South of Portland, Oregon to San Jose, CA. It’s lovely. It really is one of Amtrak’s better trains. They’ve reconditioned some of their parlor cars and offer everything from live music to movies to wine tasting. The food is better than you’d expect, but it’s nothing exciting either. There is some rotation in the menu, but not a lot. The scenery is amazing. The portion I ride doesn’t have the beaches, it has mountains and they are beautiful. Booking this far ahead, you should be able to get a good price on a couchette (I think that’s what they’re called). They’re a first class seat that folds down to a bed, with a private compartment. The food is included. I like sleeping on beds myself. :slight_smile:

I took it once south from San Francisco to whatever city is closest to the road to Yosemite. It was fine. I object to their website, which seems to always show photos of things you will never see from the train. The one up now is a shot of Crater Lake, which is nowhere near the train line.

I’ve taken it from L.A. to San Jose. It was nice, but I feel no compulsion to do it again.

I took it from Seattle to San Francisco and back. It was great but it took 24 hours, so expect to spend a lot of time on the train.

I hear there’s porn on the internet now; no train journey needed.

I’ve taken it a few times between San Jose and Los Angeles. It’s nice if you’re not in a hurry. Much more comfortable than a plane. The stretch around Santa Barbara is close to the ocean, with beach views, though I never saw any naked people.

I’ve taken Amtrak from Santa Barbara to Seattle, and from Santa Barbara to San Diego, so I’ve done the entire coast. It’s a really pretty train ride, and you get to see parts that you can’t see from the highway. The portion around Point Conception and Vandenberg Air Force base are really great and you can see the rocket launch pads.

There are portions through Oregon that you go through pristine forest and you can’t see any man made structures in any direction. I really love trains and would recommend it to anyone with the desire. Some of it goes through funky industrial parts of town, but I also like looking at people’s backyards and stuff.

Oh, yeah, I am also taking the train down to LA so I can go to a concert out in the desert. I was planning to drive, but it’s like a 4 hour detour because the 101 is still closed.

Thanks, everyone! I’m excited about this idea, and was hoping no one would respond along the lines of “it was horrible,” “totally not worth it,” etc.

Right now my plan is to start my trip by flying from DC to LA and spending the night. The train leaves at 10:10am each day: if I were to fly cross-country early enough that morning, I’d probably fall asleep on the train and miss all of the scenery! I will probably also spend the night in Seattle after the train arrives (~8:12pm), because I’ll need to rent a car and might not be able to do so until the next morning. When I’m ready to go back home, I’ll just fly from Seattle to DC.

My phone will be fully charged, with plenty of space for HDR photos. :smiley:

Yeah, I definitely see it as a one-time thing. But (hopefully) worth doing at least the once, while I can.

Well, yes. :slight_smile: The web site says up front that LA to Seattle is 35 hours. That’s why I’d need to add 2-3 days to my trip. I don’t mind, though: I’ll be traveling alone, and can see those first few days being good “decompression” time (some nice scenery and quality time by myself on a train). By the time I wake up after spending the night in Seattle, I’ll be ready to drive to my friends’ place and hang out with them for the rest of my trip.

It’s been a while, but I took it from Seattle to LA as part of a grand tour Arizona-LA-Chicago-Seattle-LA-Arizona. I thought going along the coast would be the highlight but…

Someone decided to jump off the train in the middle of the night in Oregon. The train stopped for more than two hours while the crew looked for her. I assume they found her, but that put us way behind schedule.

Combine that with normal Amtrak delays, and by the time we hit SLO it was already dark. Couldn’t see a thing along the coast. Plus, we got into LA 6 hours late and missed our connecting train to Arizona. Missed the coast, Santa Barbara, everything.

On the other hand, I timed a trip in my car to Gaviota Park just so I could take a picture of the train running over the trestle there. Not my picture, but mine looks just like this.

Planned to do San Francisco-LA about 15 years ago, but turned out the train was 14 hours late. Got a refund, took a cab to Oakland airport and flew Southwest to LAX.

Even with that history, still want to go back and do it. Hope your trip is uneventful.


I know there can/will be delays along the way (the “normal Amtrak delays” that Just Asking Questions mentioned) – if the train arrives in Seattle before midnight I’ll be impressed – but it never occurred to me that the *departure *could be delayed. Yeesh. I’ll have to try to build some flexibility in at the start of the trip. 14 hours is totally excessive, though!

Spectacular views if the train is standing still. Otherwise, blink and you missed it.

I have taken it a couple of times northbound from Santa Barbara to San Jose, and a from SLO to Salinas. It was OK and novel, but the train ran over tracks that had some sort of speed limit in the Salinas Valley, so at the times it came close to Hwy 101, you could see cars whizzing by while the train crawled along at about 25 MPG. Since I was using the train for transportation as opposed to an excursion, I was mildly annoyed with the slow pace.

I have heard a couple of incidents with unruly passengers: one was a co-worker who took his young family on the train from Sacramento Portland to visit family there. Overnight someone got drunk and belligerent yet was not ejected from the train, and ended-up disturbing everyone in the car for hours with filthy language (my friend had little kids). Another was on a trip from SLO to Sacramento (which arrives at midnight) and my friend noticed another passenger decided to appropriate his blanket used for camping - when confronted the person angerly protested having to give it back. Point being - you maybe stuck in close quarters with some nice people, or not. But it will be close quarters, and for a long, long time.

Also, I hear the Coast Starlight can be delayed, as others have said, for hours. Sometimes many hours, and sometimes not in scenic places. A friend of ours’ daughter goes to school in Oregon, and hates flying, so takes the train between school and Sacramento. Once on the return trip north, the train experienced some delays, and the crew’s shift ended, so the train stopped in the middle of nowhere and they had to wait more hours for another crew to come along the track to relieve them. The train could not proceed without the fresh crew. If delays occur, you may pass thru some scenic areas off schedule and in the dark.

I am not trying to dampen the enthusiasm - as I am sure there are many journey’s on this train that are uneventful and predictable. I am just pointing out you should pack along patience if thing don’t go as scheduled.


Eugene->Chemult->K Falls

How is that “nowhere near” Crater Lake? The rails run within 10 miles of the water (though, in the valley below, so you cannot possibly see the caldera from the train). You can get only slightly closer without literally going into the park.

Not so close: I’m going to get the best seat/compartment they have. I’ll get the cheapest flights I can find, but I’ll splurge on the train accommodations. :slight_smile:

Sounds like I’ll definitely need to figure out how to be super flexible about my arrival time/date. I’m not too worried about long stops in boring places, or about it being dark during some scenic parts: those situations wouldn’t be ideal, but que sera sera. The complicating factors are (a) whether I’ll need a hotel room upon arrival, and (b) renting a car either that day or the next day. Just in terms of my plans, though, the Seattle arrival could be delayed by as much as 12-16 hours without it being a big deal.

No, you do not want the best, you just want really good. A roomette is quite small – about the size of a single bed – but quite comfortable, with curtains when you want privacy and plugs for your electronics. The best are the large rooms upstairs that have the built-in toilet/shower, that take up two-thirds of the car, but the corridor outside them is very high traffic, because that is the way everyone has to go to get to other parts of the train.

You want a downstairs roomette, because it is right near the common shower and bathrooms; traffic is fairly low (there are six roomettes down there, plus the family room and a special needs room, as opposed to the 11 upstairs, along with 4 big rooms at the other end). The coffee urn is right at the top of the stairs, and you can easily tell from your seat when the shower is available. (I have been on several 40+ hour rides in coach and cannot begin to emphasize what a luxury that big common shower is.)

Thing is, if you have the big room, you will feel like you should be in it most of the time. On the other hand, the roomette will probably make you feel like hanging out in the lounge car some. The lounge car can be a lot of fun. On one trip, there was a lass playing her violin and singing Irish ballads, which was very cool. People is the main reason you want to take the train, and not in your room is where you will meet interesting strangers.

tldr: do not get the big room, especially if it is just you alone.

For just you alone, the roomette is fine, unless you really, really want your own bathroom.