There are no trains from Phoenix; the closest station is out in a remote area. Flagstaff has an Amtrak station. Why those two cities? Tucson has an Amtrak station also. Amtrak can take you by bus to either Tucson or Flagstaff.
Amtrak also does not go into San Francisco. You have to get off in San Jose or Oakland and use local transportation (San Jose is best).
Sometimes you get odd connections with buses in Amtrak's website. For Flagstaff departure, you want Southwest Chief to LA, and Coast Starlight to San Jose. For Tucson departure, your want Sunset Limited to LA and Coast Starlight to San Jose.
You can also catch the Sunset Limited in the little town of Maricopa southwest of Phoenix; would need to taxi there.Edited: 11:31 pm, August 11, 2012
I did the reverse of this trip last year and had a wonderful time on Amtrak. I started in San Jose and ended in Maricopa. I arranged ahead of time to pick up a rental car in Maricopa so I should think you would be able to pick up a car in Phoenix area and drop it off in Maricopa for a fee. Emeryville (next door to Oakland) is the station closest to San Francisco and Amtrak has bus transportation to various spots in SF from Emeryville. Arrange the bus transportation when you buy your train ticket. Emeryville has an indoor station and is open when the trains arrive no matter what time. If you go to San Jose you arrive at night and would have to stay over and get a CalTrain commuter train the next day to San Francisco. CalTrain does not run very often, if at all, after commute time. You could arrange for a rental car in San Jose and drive to SF which is about 50 miles. If the trains are on time it is about a 20-24 hour trip so I would also suggest going first class if that fits the budget. Amtrak can be late so plan accordingly and have a good time in SF.
Two options ... At Barstow, one can change to a AMTRAK bus to Bakersfield and board the train again through the Central Valley... Or continue to LA & continue to Emeryville by rail.. carracar
The OP is long gone. Never did respond to this thread after they posted almost a year ago.
Gosh... I hope health has improved & their yet with us... Mebbie thats why no thank yous, were posted...carracar
For those in the future who might be interested , the costal train is FAR more scenic than the central valley train heading to San Francisco. When we took the ride along the coast we actually saw two missles take off from the mssle base! It is an amazing ride with all the wildlife and views of crashing waves, etc.Edited: 11:38 am, June 21, 2013
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