Amtrak's Coast Starlight route traverses the dramatic scenery of the West Coast from Los Angeles to Seattle. The route itself affords views to passengers of varied scenery such as snowcapped volcanic peaks of the Cascade Range, lush, fertile valleys, urban vistas of great West Coast cities, and the stunning Pacific coastline. 10Best is highlighting five great stopover points along the Oregon and Washington stretch of Amtrak's Coast Starlight route, beginning at the Oregon/California border and heading northward to the route's terminus in Seattle, Washington.
Crater Lake is one of the crown jewels of the U.S. national park system. The deep blue of the lake surrounding by thousand-foot cliffs and spectacular scenery has inspired people for hundreds of years. The lake resides in the caldera of an ancient volcano called Mt. Mazama and with a depth of 1,949 feet is the deepest lake in the United States. The surface of Crater Lake is at an elevation of 6,178 feet. The Rim Drive around the perimeter of the lake, with elevations ranging from 7,000 to 8,000 feet, provides visitors with many spectacular vistas of the lake and the surrounding scenery of the Cascade Range.
A variety of hiking opportunities are available such as hikes down to the lake surface as well as a wonderful hike to the summit of Mt. Scott, the highest point in the national park (elev. 8,934 feet), which provides dramatic panoramas of Crater Lake, other Cascade Range volcanoes, and Oregon's high desert country to the east.
Boat tours on Crater Lake are also available, as well as drop-off and pick-up service to and from Wizard Island for visitors wishing to do some hiking (wear plenty of sunscreen for activities that take you out on the lake).
Camping, lodging (at Crater Lake Lodge overlooking the lake in Rim Village, and at Mazama Village), and dining facilities are all offered within various points of the park.
Oregon's Willamette Valley (including Eugene, Salem, and Oregon City)
The second largest city in Oregon, Eugene is situated toward the southern end of the Willamette Valley, on the Willamette River with the Cascade Range to the east and the Coast Ranges to the west. Eugene is home to the University of Oregon and offers a highly walkable and vibrant center city adjacent to the university.A wide variety of shops, restaurants, and nightlife are available.
Salem, Oregon's capital city, is also located along the Willamette River. The capitol grounds and the riverfront park offer pleasant places for strolling around. Just east of Salem is the quant town of Silverton, with a nice downtown, great restaurants, and the Pacific Northwest's only Frank Lloyd Wright designed home (one of his Usoniam homes).
Oregon City, on the southeastern outskirts of the Portland metro area, and on the Willamette River, offers up some interesting history related to the history of the Oregon Territory and to Oregon's lumber and timber industry. Oregon City also contains the only outdoor municipal elevator in the United States.
Traveling through Oregon's Willamette Valley also provides opportunities for exploration further afield in and around the volcanoes of the Cascade Range (such as Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Hood) on the eastern side of the valley, and in the Coast Ranges and along the Pacific Coast to the west.
Portland is by far Oregon's largest city, with a metropolitan area population of around 2.2 million. The city has long been a poster child for urban planning in the U.S. As such, visitors to Portland will find an extensive and vibrant center city on the Willamette River that is easily walkable. Public transportation connections via bus, streetcar, lightrail, and even an aerial tramway, allow for easy transit connections within Portland's center city as well as to other points of the Portland metro area.
Abundant attractions and points of interest in Portland include: Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Pittock Mansion, Portland Art Museum, Chinatown and the Classical Chinese Garden, Powell's bookstore (the largest in the world), Pioneer Square, Portland Saturday Market, and a waterfront park along the Willamette River. Washington Park in the hills above downtown Portland provides additional sites worth exploring, several of which offer spectacular views of the downtown Portland skyline with Mt. Hood as the backdrop on clear days. Places of interest in Washington Park include: the Oregon Zoo, the International Rose Test Garden, Portland Japanese Garden, and World Forestry Center Discovery Museum.
Destinations worth exploring further outside of Portland include Mt. Hood, Oregon's highest point at 11,249 feet, in the Cascade Range to the east, the Columbia River Gorge east of the city with its many spectacular waterfalls and side gorges, the Oregon wine country, and the Coast Ranges and Pacific coastal areas to the west (including Tillamook, Cannon Beach, Ecola State Park for spectacular and dramatic Pacific coastal mountain scenery, Seaside, and Astoria on the mouth of the Columbia River). It is possible to do day trips from Portland to each of those areas.
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, in Gifford-Pinchot National Forest, preserves the area surrounding Mount St. Helens (elev. 8,365 feet), which reawakened in the famous of eruption of May 18, 1980. The volcano is still active and has erupted several times since 1980. However, a wide variety of auto touring and hiking opportunities are available within the park, as well as several visitors centers offering fascinating displays on the history and landscapes of the area.
Many landscapes surrounding the volcano for miles are still recovering from the 1980 eruption, which affords visitors a unique experience to encounter and actively recovering volcanic landscape. Particular points of interest within the monument include Mount St. Helens visitor center on Highway 504 from Castle Rock, Elk Rocks, Coldwater Ridge visitor center and Coldwater Lake, Hummocks, and Johnston Ridge Visitor Center and Observatory. Johnston Ridge, offering breathtaking views of the volcano and the blast zone, is the closest that motorists can get to Mount St. Helens, within five miles.
Mount Rainier National Park to the north protects Washington's highest point. Mount Rainier (elev. 14,411 feet), often seen on clear days from the Seattle-Tacoma metro area, is an active stratovolcano and is covered with at least 26 active glaciers. Visitors to Mount Rainier National Park will find abundant hiking, auto touring, and other wilderness activities for a variety of interests.
The landscapes on and around the mountain change dramatically as the elevation increases. Old growth spruce-fir forests, Alpine meadows, waterfalls, glaciated ice fields, and views of the surrounding Cascade Range are all available to explore within this beautiful national park. Camping, lodging, and dining facilities are available at several locations within the park. Paradise, at, 5,400 feet, with the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center and the historic Paradise Inn, is one of the more popular areas.
Seattle is Washington's largest city and its most dynamic urban area, with a metropolitan area population of around 3.4 million. Seattle is located on an isthmus between the Puget Sound and Lake Washington, and flanked further east by the Cascade Range.
As a major urban center and tourist destination in a beautiful natural setting, Seattle offers a wide variety of attractions for visitors to explore. Among the top sights to see and experience in Seattle include the Space Needle and Seattle Center, Pike Place Market, the Seattle Aquarium, Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Waterfront, the Woodland Park Zoo, the Underground Tour, Tillicum Village, Chinatown and International District, Pioneer Square, and the University of Washington.
Easy day trips and overnight trips from Seattle include Mount Rainier National Park, and the Olympic Peninsula. The Olympic Peninsula and Olympic Mountains west across the Puget Sound also offer a dramatic vista from the city and beckon travels to come and explore the scenic and natural areas of Washington's Pacific Coast and coastal mountains.
Other sites further afield from Seattle that are also deserving of exploration include the San Juan Islands, Vancouver Island and the city of Victoria (capital of British Columbia), the Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island, and the exciting city of Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada. Washington State Ferries and BC Ferries offer services to these and many more destinations throughout the Puget Sound and Strait of Georgia. Seattle is also a major cruise ship port for cruises departing for itineraries and ports of call in Alaska.