No. 2 on My List: The Coast Starlight.
OK, I’ll admit it: while it may be in second place on this list, the Coast Starlight is my personal favorite of all Amtrak long-distance trains. But, since the criteria here is “Most Scenic”, it would be a bit of a stretch to give the Coast Starlight top billing in this specific category, too.
For me, the real attraction of this train is the Pacific Parlour Car, included as part of the Coast Starlight consist. It’s the only Amtrak train with one of these beauties, which provide a glimpse into the past and are a wonderful and–yes–a luxurious addition to the rail travel experience.
Still, there’s no doubt that the scenery is pretty special. And there’s also the famous horseshoe curve just north of San Luis Obispo. Strictly in terms of the scenery, the Coast Starlight is still a great ride, running daily in each direction between Los Angeles and Seattle. As often as I’ve ridden this train, I’m always amazed at the variety to what’s passing by outside the window during the 36-hour journey.
Heading south out of Seattle, the train runs along the shore of Puget Sound. On clear days, Mount Rainier, snow-capped mostly all year ’round, looms off in the distance on the left side of the train.
After a stop at Olympia, Washington, the state capital, the train crosses into Oregon and continues south to Salem, that state’s capital city. From there on, through the rest of the daylight hours, the the Starlight passes through beautiful country: pine forests and broad lakes (on the left side).
The next day, the Coast Starlight passes through the broad central valley which is where an astonishing amount of the nation’s fresh produce comes from. In the afternoon, the train begins it’s final run down the coast to Los Angeles, with the Pacific Ocean right outside your window on he right side of the train.
This is such a nice ride, particularly because of the parlour cars, that I almost always get back to LA from the east by taking the California Zephyr to Davis, California … spending the night there, then catching the southbound Coast Starlight the next morning.