Train Travel Information & Rail Travel Guide

 

USA California Train Travel

Find out how to travel to and around California by rail

NCTD Coaster train, Santa Fe (Union) Station, San Diego, California

NCTD Coaster train, Santa Fe (Union) Station, San Diego, California. Photo: © 511 San Diego Region

Train travel in the Golden State is no oxymoron. Despite legendary freeways, California is home to the USA's second busiest passenger rail corridor. In fact Amtrak, the US's passenger railroad, covers more route miles and connects more stations in California than in any other state. Amtrak's eight routes and 90-plus stations are only part of the story. Urban and regional services extend rail's reach along hundreds more miles.

Six of Amtrak's 25 busiest stations are in California — with Los Angeles Union Station numbering fifth in the country. Riderships along California's three in-state rail corridors rank among Amtrak's highest. Amtrak's Capitol Corridor links the San Francisco Bay Area with Sacramento. The San Joaquin Corridor connects the Bay Area with Fresno and Bakersfield. The Pacific Surfliner (LOSSAN Corridor), running between San Diego and Santa Barbara, boasts the highest bookings in the US outside of the Northeast.

Amtrak long-distance routes serving the state include Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle (Los Angeles to Chicago and New Orleans via Palm Springs), Southwest Chief (Los Angeles to Chicago via Albuquerque), Coast Starlight (Los Angeles and Bay Area to the Pacific Northwest) and California Zephyr (Bay Area to Chicago via Reno and Denver).

Southern California

Los Angeles Union Station is SoCal's main passenger rail hub. Metrolink commuter trains and Metro subway and light rail lines converge here as do five Amtrak routes. Notably, Metrolink's Orange County Line connects with San Diego County's Oceanside Transit Center via Anaheim (Disneyland transfer).

In addition to Metrolink, Oceanside connections include NCTD (North County Transit District) SPRINTER light rail to Escondido and COASTER commuter rail to Downtown San Diego's Santa Fe Depot. The entire LA-Oceanside-San Diego corridor also benefits from Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service. In San Diego, an extensive trolley system is operated by MTS (San Diego Metropolitan Transit System).

Northern California

Up north, San Jose's Diridon Station anchors Silicon Valley and the South Bay. The station is served by VTA (Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority) light rail, ACE (Altamont Corridor Express) rail to Stockton, Caltrain to 4th and King Street Station in Downtown SF, and Amtrak's Capitol Corridor and Coast Starlight.

While Amtrak has no direct service into San Francisco, travelers can make connections from Bay Area Amtrak stations in Emeryville (Amtrak Thruway Bus), Oakland (local bus), and Berkeley (BART), as well as San Jose/Diridon (Caltrain).

Rail is the best way to get around the city. MUNI (SF's municipal railway) runs streetcars and light rail as well as San Francisco's fabled cable cars. BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) connects Oakland and the East Bay with SF and its airport (SFO).

Amtrak's Capitol Corridor trains connect the Bay Area with Sacramento where RT (Sacramento Regional Transit District) light rail serves the capital area.

Travel Notes

Most California rail services and stations offer full or limited accessibility. All local and regional trains offer walk-on bicycle service; bikes must be shipped as baggage on long-distance Amtrak trains. Pets are welcome aboard all trains except Amtrak, Caltrain, ACE, and RT which permit guide animals only. Amtrak runs connecting Thruway Buses to destinations like Yosemite, Monterey, Santa Cruz, and the Mojave Desert. Seven-day Amtrak California Passes ($149.00) are available for travel between most stations. A PDF map of the state's Amtrak, regional, and transit rail routes can be downloaded at CaliforniaRailMap.com.


 
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