Take the sleeper train from Portland to Emeryville
Because you won't regret it.
Whatever Amtrak's reputation, this has to be one of the best train rides - and the best train services - in the USA. We actually started our rail journey in Vancouver and made our way, haltingly, down the West coast line, but it was the 19-hour stretch after leaving Portland that really astonished us.
From the moment you leave the city and head out through the farmlands and small towns of Oregon, the surprises never stop. A spacious and restful observation car gave us the chance to watch the ever-changing scenery go by - hills, woods, even volcanoes, before heading up into the mountains for the spectacular lakes and forests of the Cascades.
Once the sun had gone down, and we'd enjoyed a sociable dinner in the dining car, we got a really decent night's sleep in our two-person roomette (bunk beds). But it was breakfast the next morning that proved the greatest thrill - the landscape suddenly turning to camel-coloured hills, then marshland, then, finally, the sweeping San Francisco bay.
Could not recommend this journey more - it's decent value, too.