There are plenty of ways and several routes that take you from Portland, Oregon to Sacramento in California, ranging from airflight, if you are in a hurry, to cycling, or even hiking. We looked at the various alternatives and have packaged them here, with some idea of distances, prices and time taken…
How to fly from Portland to Sacramento
While it is not the cheapest at $256, Alaskan Air is probably your best bet, as it flies directly from Portland to Oregon in 1 1/2 hours. Other airlines, such as American, Delta and United, make the trip but with a stopover in Seattle, Phoenix, San Francisco, Denver or even Las Vegas. If you are touring, you might consider taking one of these longer flights and staying over for a day or two and seeing the sights.
If you are looking for the best pricing rather than speed, it is possible to pick up a ticket for $50, and you have quite a range of choices. There are up to 20 flights a day, starting from 6:00 with the final flights around 20:30, across the different airlines. They depart from Portland International and arrive at Sacramento International. There is a 30-minute tram ride to the airport, every 20 minutes, that starts at the Old Town or Chinatown stops for $3. On disembarking at Sacramento, there is a similar bus trip of 20 minutes that takes you to the central bus terminal. Baggage allowances are standard for domestic travel.
How to get to Portland to Sacramento by train – the Legendary Coast Starlight Route
Amtrak’s Coast Starlight Route starts in Seattle and ends in Los Angeles, an overnight trip with several different classes and pricing options, which includes Portland and Sacramento en route. This trip is famous for the beautiful landscape it transverses through, ranging from the Cascade Mountains, forests and valleys to the Pacific shores. These are Superliner trains, which are double-deckers and have a special viewing Sightseer lounge, as well as a dining room and a café. WiFi is also available. You may also take a pet on board, subject to certain conditions, while provision is made for service dogs.
While the entire route takes 35 hours, the train from Portland to Sacramento takes just over 16 hours, leaving at 14:22 and arriving at 06:28 the next day. There are 8 stations between Portland and Sacramento, starting with Salem and Eugene, which is a good scenic stopover, but the favorite stop along the way for the adventurous is at Klamath Falls in Oregon. Here you can cycle, hike or river-raft in the spectacular natural areas of Oregon and North California. Bicycles can be loaded on to the train for an additional cost of $5. You can also enjoy other activities, such as fishing, birding or golf.
This is not your cheapest option, but as it is an overnight trip, it saves you the cost of a hotel night. You can either opt for a coach seat, which is a luxurious reclining seat with a reading light and a 120v electric outlet, or go all out for a first or business class option. When it comes to sleeping accommodation, you can book from a 2-person roomette to a four-sleeper family bedroom. The rooms convert from seats to beds overnight and, with the exception of the roomettes, have their own shower and toilet. There is also accessible accommodation for passengers with wheelchairs or other accessibility requirements. All room bookings include complimentary meals.
The pricing ranges from $70 to $380, but there are plenty of deals, ranging from student and pensioner discounts to advance booking deals, where a 2-week advance booking can save you up to 25%. The best source for picking a deal that suits you is at https://www.amtrak.com/promotions/deals.html
Take a trip on the Greyhound Bus
Any trip to the US should include at least one excursion on a Greyhound Bus, famous in songs by Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton and others. Tickets for this 13-hour trip range between $60 to $90, based on when you want to travel and how far in advance you book. There is a daytime bus that leaves at 7 am, or an overnight bus that leaves at 18:45 from Union bus station. While the overnight bus saves on accommodation costs, the daytime route offers you amazing scenery along highway route 5. You could also choose to disembark along the way at places like Eugene, and do some sightseeing along the way.
Self-drive for the Independent Traveller
While travelling by bus or train gives you some flexibility in your journey, there is nothing to beat traveling by car, where you decide when and where to stop and stay. There are basically 2 main routes to follow, the inland road along route 5, or the coastal option, Rout 101. Of course, you can blend the 2 options as well.
If you are all about the destination, this is a 900km drive, which can take about 10 hours and will probably cost you around $100 in fuel costs (we have excluded car hire costs on the assumption that you would have hired the car for several days, and the packaging can vary widely, depending on the vehicle you choose). Of course, you could decide to do the trip in one go in a sedan, or take a week or even more in an RV, stopping along the way at not-to-be-missed tourist destinations.
We have included some trip highlights further on in this article for you to browse through. For the inland trip there is Salem, McMinnville, Eugene and Redding as main stops, with a range of experiences from an aeronautic museum to wine-tasting.
The West Coast is a great destination for bikers, especially Portland, which is a very bike-friendly city, in fact, it has been rated as the most bike-friendly city in the US by Bicycling magazine for years. Over 6% of Portland’s citizens commute to work and back by bike, via well-designed cycle-paths, and protected by accommodating by-laws.
You could therefore expect that there are lots of opportunities for traveling from Portland to Sacramento either partially or wholly by bike, and you would be right. The ideal option is to join a group of cyclists via a tour group, such as Lifecycle Adventures and get maps and advice from the Adventure Cycling Association. Whether you prefer beaches or forests, Oregon is packed to the brim with natural wonders with national parks and reserves aplenty, only a few of which we mention towards the end of this article.
Some must-see stops on the journey from Portland to Sacramento
The other Salem, No witches
We usually think of Massachusetts and witches when someone mentions Salem, but Oregon’s capital, Salem is a relaxing place with a much less troubled history. It is also a good spot for trails, biking and hiking. First of all, there is Silver Falls State Park, where the 1o waterfalls are at their best in late autumn. The full hike is long, about 10 km, but there are lots of less challenging trails in and around Salem.
If you have your kids with you, do visit the Gilbert House Children’s Museum, with plenty of diversions to engage the children (and the child in the adult). There is also a great heritage centre at Willamette, that gives an idea of the history of settlers and how they lives in this pleasant valley.
McMinnville – pay homage to Howard Hughes
The legendary wooden aircraft built by Howard Hughes is housed in the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville. Just the story of how this huge aircraft was transported from California to its present home makes this a great visit. You can explore the history of aviation from a replica of the Wright Brothers’ plane to the most modern stealth planes and a booster rocket with a simulated launch.
Brookings – For Tree-Lovers
Along coastal route 101 is the town of Brookings. It has the dubious distinction of being hit by a tsunami in 2011, but is a great stopping-point in the “Banana Belt” of Oregon. While it has several attractions, such as Azalea Park and Harris Beach State Park, it is the ideal stopping point for coming into contact with giant redwoods and an ancient myrtle forest. The Alfred A Loeb State Park is a scenic 10 km drive north-west of Brookings and visitors can smell the bay-leaf aroma of the myrtlewood trees as they approach. The forest contains trees that are 200 years old. Camping and huts are available, and the Chetco River offers good fishing.
A 1-km trail from Loeb takes you to the Redwood Nature trail, where these ancient specimens tower 250 feet above you. There is also a Redwoods trail some 14 km south-east of Brookings, where you can spend a day hiking among these giants.
The coast around Brookings is also spectacular and provides stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the shoreline.
Enjoy some Wine in Eugene
Oregon is a prime wine region, and Eugene is a great place for the aficionado, with wine-tasting shops in the city and wineries surrounding it. Take a trip along the South Willamette Wine Trail; there are a dozen estates you can visit, and there are tours that will take you there.
That is not all Eugene has to offer. There are some important cultural and scientific repositories too. For lovers of Asian art, there is the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon, which also contains a fine local art collection. The University campus also contains the Museum of Natural and Cultural History, with impressive paleontological exhibits. The quirky Eugene Science Centre is based in Alton Baker Park, and also hosts the local Planetarium.
There are many other attractions, but one that should not be missed is the Cascades Raptor Centre, where injured birds of prey are nurtured back to health and rehabilitated. Demonstrations and educational talks are given throughout the year.
We have not even touched on half the attractions in the beautiful State of Oregon, and not at all on what lies ahead in Northern California. We hope we have whetted your appetite for enjoying the journey from Portland to Sacramento, whatever route and method you take to travel!