North America is a vast continent and railways are a great option for exploring the incredible landscapes of America and Canada at high speeds. From commuter trains to train tours and sleeper trains, the most scenic train rides on the West Coast offer something for everyone.
They vary in duration, making it easy to build some sort of train journey into any road trip or vacation along the Pacific coast. Travelers heading to British Columba, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, or California should book their tickets for one of these scenic railways ASAP.
8 Amtrak Coast Starlight
One of the best road trips in the world is arguably driving up the west coast of the United States from California Big Sur to Seattle. But, a more relaxing option that frees up travelers’ eyes from the road to fully appreciate the epic scenery is to make this journey via train. The Amtrak Coast Starlight route takes passengers all the way from sunny Los Angeles, California to the Pacific Northwest in Seattle, Washington.
The trip takes approximately 35 hours (one way) and passes through the San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Barbara, Sacramento, and Portland. The views on this route are unmatched with coastal scenery, lush forests, and breathtaking mountain peaks. Travelers can choose what class of seat they want to book, with options ranging from Coach Class seats to Superliner bedrooms.
7 Rocky Mountaineer First Passage To The West
Further north across the Canadian border is one of the best train journeys on Canada’s west coast. Take the Rocky Mountaineer from the coastal city of Vancouver to Banff National Park via Kamloops. The trip takes two days with a night aboard the train and can be completed in either direction.
For first-time visitors to the Canadian Rockies, it’s the perfect way to take in the incredible scenery. It’s also a good option for transiting comfortably between two of the best places to visit on the West Coast.
6 Amtrak California Zephyr
Although it doesn’t start on the west coast, Amtrak’s California Zephyr train route is one of the top choices for a scenic journey to the west coast. The train originates in Chicago and the trip ends in Emeryville (San Francisco). There are stunning views along the way as the train winds through Nevada, Utah, and Colorado to reach its final destination.
One way, the journey takes 51 hours and 20 minutes. Ogle the Sierra Nevada mountain range and get a glimpse of the Pacific Coast in Sacramento before arriving in Emeryville where transit connections are available to San Francisco and Oakland stations.
5 Alaska Railroad’s Coastal Classic
For a short but sweet west coast train journey, travelers can head to the far north reaches of Alaska. In 4.5 hours, Alaska Railroad’s Coastal Classic route takes passengers from Anchorage to Seward along the shoreline of the Turnagain Arm, with a stop in Girdwood at the 1.25-hour mark. In a region of rich wilderness, this train excursion is a chance to spot whales in the ocean or see bears roaming alongside the tracks.
Once passengers arrive in Seward, they can spend a few hours enjoying various activities like dog sledding, glacier hikes, or boat tours before boarding a return train to Anchorage.
4 Rocky Mountaineer Journey Through the Clouds
When visiting Canada’s west coast and starting the trip from Vancouver, the Rocky Mountaineer offers another enticing train route called Journey Through the Clouds. This option takes passengers from Vancouver to Jasper National Park, rather than Banff, via Kamloops.
Jasper National Park covers 11,000 square km in Alberta, Canada, and it is the biggest National Park in Canada’s Rocky Mountains. The area is full of wildlife including elk, grizzly bears, black bears, and big-horned sheep.
3 White Pass and Yukon To Skagway Rail Route
Adventurous travelers can undertake a cross-border train journey from the port of Skagway, Alaska to the capital of Canada’s Yukon Territory, Whitehorse. From Skagway, it’s possible to take the White Pass Summit Excursion for $134 per adult. The train ride to the White Pass Summit is about 2.5 hours or 40 miles round trip and offers incredible views of the mountain scenery that Alaska has to offer.
2 Amtrak Pacific Surfliner
Surf enthusiasts, all aboard! The Amtrak Pacific Surfliner is a surfer’s dream train journey, taking passengers and their surfboards along the California coast. The whole route takes 5 hours and 45 minutes to complete and covers 351-miles.
The start and endpoints of the trip are San Luis Obispo and San Diego. The train travels through Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties helping surfers catch the best waves on America’s west coast.
1 Prince Rupert To Jasper With VIA Rail
Skip Vancouver on this west coast Canadian train journey and take a VIA rail adventure from the scenic coastal city of Prince Rupert, British Columbia instead. Prince Rupert is in Northern BC and is a great alternative to Southern BC for nature lovers. The VIA Rail route from Prince Rupert to Jasper via Prince George covers 1160 km and is offered in economy class. The train stops in Prince George overnight and passengers must find their own accommodations in the town before departing the next morning for Jasper.