Santa Cruz to Sacramento -

Trip overview

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TransportationToTimeFareRuns every
Walk/bike/drivePacific Station (Metro Center)
920 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz
Highway 17 ExpressSan Jose (Diridon) Station1 hour$4.001-2 hours
Capitol CorridorSacramento Amtrak Station3 hours$26.001-3 hours
401 I St, Sacramento
Sacramento RTAll points in Sacramento$2.00
Trip parameters
Total fare$30.00
Total travel time4 to 5 hours
Latest departure time6:00 PM
Latest return time5:30 PM

You can walk lots of places in Sacramento, so the last step is optional and not covered. The Gold Light Rail line and the DASH shuttle (Route 30) both serve Sacramento Amtrak Station.

1st Step: Highway 17 Express to San Jose

Please review the Santa Cruz to San Jose page. When you are finished with that page, use your Web browser’s “Back” command to return here.

2nd Step: Capitol Corridor train to Sacramento

Amtrak California cars have large windows, padded seats, and overhead luggage bins. This picture looks out, toward the sunrise.

You will use a Capitol Corridor train to get from San Jose to Sacramento. Amtrak California’s double-decker cars have comfortable seats and ample storage space. Most cars have electric outlets, and some have wireless Internet. Each car has restrooms and a water fountain. You can bring food or buy from the Cafe Car.

Buying an Amtrak ticket

Agents on the left side of the ticket counter inside San Jose (Diridon) Station sell Amtrak tickets. You must show photo identification for each passenger. You can pay in cash or use a credit card; if you are 62 or older, you can also use a check.

Flexibility is part of the Capitol Corridor experience: you can use your ticket whenever you want. Therefore, there is no harm in getting a round-trip ticket.

You can get on a Capitol Corridor train without a ticket. You must have photo identification. You will pay a penalty if there was a ticket counter or a ticket machine at the station where you got on.

Finding the train

After buying your ticket, check the electronic sign board on the left wall, behind the Amtrak ticket counter. This sign shows departure times and platform numbers. An agent will also make announcements. Now, go down the ramp, find your platform, and go up (or, for Platform 1, just go through the metal gate near the coffee shop). Make sure that your train says Amtrak, and that it’s going to Sacramento. Avoid trains marked Caltrain or ACE.

If you plan to use Sacramento Regional Transit, ask for two Capitol Corridor Transit Transfers when the train conductor collects your ticket. Use one for a free ride away from the Sacramento Amtrak Station and one for a free ride back. Transfers are valid for a few days, as indicated.

Preparing to get off in Sacramento

Sacramento is a major stop — and usually the last stop. An agent will announce it.

Selected attractions in Sacramento

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Selected attractions in Sacramento
Downtown PlazaShopping mall in the middle of Downtown Sacramento. Mentioned only because it’s close to the Amtrak Station and serves as a gateway.Leave station, turn left, cross parking lot, turn right, cross 5th Street, cross I Street, go forward 1 block. Address: J and 5th Streets
Old TownAuthentic, intact Gold Rush-era townGo to Downtown Plaza. After entering the mall, turn right. Go through mall, down the outdoor path and through the tunnel.
State Railroad MuseumHistoric trains and memorabilia. Steam train rides in summer. Fun for children, but the exhibits seem to gloss over difficult social and political issues.Go to Old Town and follow signs. Address: 111 I Street
State CapitolTours, movie, gift shop. Portraits of past governors. Display cases for state government and every California county — some not updated in decades. Botannical garden.Go to Downtown Plaza. After entering the mall, turn left. Go through mall and continue on K Street. At 10th Street, turn right and go 2 blocks. Address: Capitol Mall and 10th Street

The California State Capitol is an ornate white building with columns and a rounded dome. Flags fly from a pole over the entrance. Photo: Our lovely State Capitol. Photo © J. Sampson, 2003.

Returning home

Finding the return train

The QuikTrak machine is blue. It has a touch-sensitive screen, a credit card slot, and a hopper for tickets.

Find your way back to the Sacramento Amtrak Station. If you didn’t buy a round-trip ticket earlier, buy your return ticket now. Instead of waiting in line, use the QuikTrak machine, off to the left.

Now, check the electronic sign to the right of the ticket counter. The sign lists departure times and platform numbers. Go out the back door and cross over to the appropriate platform. Sometimes, you must use the tunnel. Make sure that your train is going all the way to San Jose. If in doubt, ask!

Preparing to get off in San Jose

San Jose is the last stop. An agent will announce it.

Planning your trip

For lower fares and less waiting, we recommend that you buy your Amtrak tickets in advance. You don’t have to commit to specific dates and times, as Amtrak Capitol Corridor tickets are flexible. You can even include Highway 17 Express tickets in your Amtrak itinerary.

As of July, 2007, an Amtrak QuikTrak machine is available in Downtown Santa Cruz, inside the Pacific Station (Metro Center) lobby. The machine recognizes only a few destinations and does not inform you of the lowest available fares. Therefore, we recommend using the QuikTrak machine only to retrieve tickets. Here’s what to do:

  1. Sign up for Amtrak’s frequent traveler program. Visit the Amtrak Guest Rewards Web site or call 1 800 307-5000 (nationwide, toll-free).
  2. Find out what discounts you qualify for. AAA, student, veteran and senior discounts — and more — are covered under Hot Deals, on the Amtrak Web site. Some of these discounts even apply to Highway 17 Express tickets included in your Amtrak itinerary.
  3. Buy your tickets on the Amtrak Web site, or book or buy them by calling Amtrak at 1 800 USA-RAIL (nationwide, toll-free). Specify Santa Cruz as your starting point. If the Web site or the telephone agent warns that you will not be able to pick up your tickets in time, change the starting point to San Jose. Give the earliest date that you might travel. If you plan to travel on a major holiday or during the summer, give the exact date, as holiday and summer fares are higher.
  4. On the day you leave Santa Cruz, carry enough cash for the Highway 17 Express, even if you’ve included Highway 17 Express tickets in your Amtrak itinerary. If something goes wrong with the QuikTrak machine, you can get on the bus in Santa Cruz and retrieve your Amtrak tickets later, at the counter in San Jose.
  5. Retrieve your tickets from the QuikTrak machine. If you used the Amtrak Web site, or if you called Amtrak and chose to buy rather than just book, you have already paid for the tickets and you must insert the same credit or debit card as before. If you called Amtrak and chose to book rather than buy, you can use any credit or debit card, but you must enter the confirmation number you received from the telephone agent. In that case, you will be paying for the tickets when you retrieve them from the machine.

A word of caution: delays are common on Amtrak trains, including the Capitol Corridor. Bring a book, enjoy the scenery, and meet your fellow travelers!

Telephone numbers

The Capitol Corridor can provide information about the entire trip from Santa Cruz to Sacramento. Dial 1 877 9-RIDE-CC (nationwide, toll-free). For Sacramento Regional Transit, dial 511 (Sacramento area, toll-free) or 1 916 321-BUSS.

Know before you go

The information on this Web page might be incomplete, out of date, or incorrect. Also, there is always a risk of delays and missed connections.

© 2001-2008, Paul Marcelin. This Web site is a public service, not affiliated with any transportation provider.