The Coast Starlight – San Francisco to Los Angeles

Distance travelled: 469 miles

Journey duration: 9 hours

States travelled through: California


The shortest journey of all – a mere whippersnapper at nine hours in length. Thankfully it was all in daylight too, so I was able to see the wondrous Californian coast. I’d done a small road trip along route 101 the last time I visited San Francisco, but our time had been limited and we only made it down as far as Santa Cruz.

I almost caught this train for its entire journey from Seattle to LA, but had decided against taking the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle, taking the California Zephyr instead. The Zephyr was my favourite train of all, so I wasn’t too upset at not taking the Starlight the whole way.

This route was beautiful but also a reminder of the size of California – it’s nearly twice the size of the UK. Having arrived in the far North of the state via mountain rail tracks, deep valleys and the High Sierra, it was fascinating to watch the landscape change into wide sandy desert.  There is also a severe drought at the moment – I saw whole swathes of farmland several shades of yellow and brown with only occasional hardy green plants dotted around.


I enjoyed this journey but it is also a route very famous for road trips, and there are so many places along the way to stop and admire the view that I can understand why you wouldn’t take the train unless you really had to. But I would still recommend it as a beautiful journey.

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