Amtrak in California – The Variations

I’ve written about the Amtrak credit cards from Bank of America so I think it’s time I talk about options for riding Amtrak. Specifically, I will be discussing the routes for Amtrak found throughout my home state of California.

Amtrak has 8 routes which travel through at least some part of California. These 8 routes are the:

  • California Zephyr;
  • Capitol Corridor;
  • Coast Starlight;
  • Pacific Surfliner;
  • San Joaquins;
  • Southwest Chief;
  • Sunset Limited; and
  • Texas Eagle

Most of my travel is on the Capitol Corridor and every now and then I take the Coast Starlight. This is because I travel on Amtrak between my home town and university, Sacramento and San Jose.

Without further ado, “Where do these routes go?” The major cities served by each route listed on Amtrak’s website and duration from end to end are:

  • California Zephyr – 51 hours 20 minutes
    • Chicago
    • Denver
    • Glenwood Springs
    • Sacramento
    • Emeryville (San Francisco connection)
  • Capitol Corridor – 3 hours 15 minutes
    • Auburn (mostly by thruway bus)
    • Sacramento
    • Emeryville
    • Oakland
    • San Jose
  • Coast Starlight – 35 hours
    • Seattle
    • Portland
    • Sacramento
    • San Francisco Bay Area
    • Los Angeles
  • Pacific Surfliner – 5 hours 45 minutes
    • San Luis Obispo
    • Santa Barbara
    • Los Angeles
    • San Diego
  • San Joaquins – 6 hours 15 minutes
    • San Francisco Bay Area
    • Sacramento
    • Bakersfield
    • Southern California
  • Southwest Chief – 40+ hours
    • Chicago
    • Albuquerque
    • Los Angeles
  • Sunset Limited – 48 hours
    • New Orleans
    • San Antonio
    • Tucson
    • Phoenix
    • Los Angeles
  • Texas Eagle – 32 hours 25 minutes (Chicago to San Antonio) 65 hours 20 minutes (Chicago to Los Angeles)
    • Chicago
    • St. Louis
    • Dallas
    • San Antonio
    • Los Angeles

These travel time are slower than driving (San Jose to Sacramento is only 2 hours without congested traffic) and much slower than flying. However, there’s no need to worry about going through security like TSA at an airport, riding a train can be more scenic without as much trouble with changing pressure messing with your eardrums, and it can be cheaper than flying.

But there are times where time cannot be spared. In the end, how you travel really depends on what your preferences, needs, and options are.

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