Amtrak trains travel to the Bay Area from some cities in California and the United States. The Coast Starlight travels north from Los Angeles to Seattle, passing the Bay Area along the way, but contrary to its name, the train runs inland through the Central Valley for much of its route through Northern California; the most scenic stretch is in Southern California, between San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles. Amtrak also has several routes between San Jose, Oakland, and Sacramento. The California Zephyr travels from Chicago to the Bay Area, and has spectacular alpine vistas as it crosses the Sierra Nevada range. San Francisco doesn't have an Amtrak train station but does have an Amtrak bus station, at the Ferry Building, from which shuttle buses transport passengers to trains in Emeryville, just over the Bay Bridge. Shuttle buses also connect the Emeryville train station with downtown Oakland, the Caltrain station, and other points in downtown San Francisco. You can buy a California Rail Pass, which gives you seven days of travel in a 21-day period for $159.
Caltrain connects San Francisco to Palo Alto, San Jose, Santa Clara, and many smaller cities en route. In San Francisco, trains leave from the main depot, at 4th and Townsend streets, and a rail-side stop at 22nd and Pennsylvania streets. One-way fares are $3.25 to $13.25, depending on the number of zones through which you travel; tickets are valid for four hours after purchase time. A ticket is $7.25 from San Francisco to Palo Alto, at least $9.25 to San Jose. You can also buy a day pass ($6.50–$26.50) for unlimited travel in a 24-hour period. It's worth waiting for an express train for trips that last from 1 to 1¾ hours. On weekdays, trains depart three or four times per hour during the morning and evening, twice per hour during daytime noncommute hours, and as little as once per hour in the evening. Weekend trains run once per hour. The system shuts down at midnight. There are no onboard ticket sales. You must buy tickets before boarding the train or risk paying a $250 fine for fare evasion.
Amtrak (800/872–7245. www.amtrak.com.)
Caltrain (800/660–4287. www.caltrain.com.)
San Francisco Caltrain station (700 4th St., at King St., San Francisco, CA, 94107. 800/660–4287.)