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Train Tracks Across the Sierra: Sacramento to Reno and Return

Program Number: 12085RJ
Start and End Dates:
2/24/2013 - 3/1/2013; 5/8/2016 - 5/13/2016; 6/5/2016 - 6/12/2016; 7/17/2016 - 7/22/2016; 8/7/2016 - 8/12/2016; 9/11/2016 - 9/18/2016; 10/2/2016 - 10/7/2016; 10/16/2016 - 10/21/2016;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Sacramento, California
Price starting at: $929.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Train Treks; On the Road
Meals: 14; 5 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Low Fat; Low Salt    

The building of the railroad over the Sierra was a triumph of grit and determination. Ride the rails through the snow dusted Sierra Mountains and learn the harrowing history of settlement in Northern California, the land of gold and freedom. On our journey through the Bonanza days we will explore Sacramento’s rich Capitol city legacy, Virginia City’s roots as the richest town in America, and local indigenous culture at the Nevada State Museum. Reflect on this step back in time as we enjoy lunch on the shore of sparkling Lake Tahoe on our return to Sacramento.


• Keep an eye out for silver ore veins as we ride the Virginia & Truckee Railroad through Comstock mine sites.
• Hear from the author of the definitive book on the Donner Party and visit Donner Memorial State Park and Museum.
• Relive the historic railroad race at the California State Railroad Museum and learn about the famed ‘Golden Spike’!

Activity Particulars

Walking up to 1.5 miles per day. Must climb 12 steep stairs to board train. Elevations of 7,200 feet.

Date Specific Information

6-5-2016, 9-11-2016

This date includes two additional nights in Lake Tahoe.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Sacramento, Calif., 2 nights, train to Reno, Nev., 2 nights; coach to Sacramento, Calif., 1 night; departure.

Coordinated by Road Scholar.


Located in the high desert region just 22 miles northeast of Lake Tahoe, Reno is a gateway to the plethora of recreational activities in the nearby Sierra Nevada, including hiking, rafting and birding. The nearby Mono Lake International Biosphere Preserve offers unparalleled beauty and more than 300 species of shore birds and waterfowl.


Platted in 1848, Sacramento became home to California state government in 1854. Only 90 minutes from the Bay Area and known for its magnificent Capitol Building and riverfront Old Town with wooden sidewalks and Mississippi-style riverboats, Sacramento has a style worthy of the capital city.

Sacramento: Hotel located across from Capitol Park; Reno: Hotel casino.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Shirley Burman

Shirley Burman is a railroad photographer, historian of women in the railroad industry, creator of the “Women and the American Railroad” photo exhibition and co-producer of the book “Whistles Across the Land.” She received a bachelor’s from the University of California-Davis in 1972, and went on to work as an illustrator and photographer for the U.S. federal government and California State Parks. Since 1983, Burman has been a self-employed photographer and designer.
Meals and Lodgings
   Hyatt Regency Sacramento
  Sacramento 2 nights
  Reno 2 nights
   Hyatt Regency Sacramento
  Sacramento 1 night
 Hyatt Regency Sacramento
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Contact info: 1290 L St
Sacramento, CA 95814 USA
phone: 916-443-1234
  Room amenities: 42” flat screen HD TV Hyatt Grand Bed™ State-of-the-art integrated PC/video outlet dock High speed Internet access available (for a fee) In-room movies Hair dryers Coffee maker Portico Bath Products Video Checkout and E-folio Maximum guests per room: 4 Windows that open iHome stereo with iPod® docking station Workstation with ergonomic chair Individual climate control Mini-bar Ironing board/iron In-Room Safes Aquafresh® Extreme Clean® Toothpaste Amenities Rollaways, cribs and connecting rooms available upon request View Other Rooms > Respire by Hyatt – Hypo-Allergenic Rooms
  Facility amenities: 24 hour self-service business center Hyatt Fast Board™ / PDA & Express Check-in Concierge services / E-concierge Valet & self-parking options Vines Café - breakfast, lunch and outdoor dining Dawson's - specializing in hand cut steaks and hearty side dishes In-room dining - available 6:00a.m. - 12:00a.m. Starbucks Activities 24 hour StayFitTM gym Heated outdoor pool and whirlpool YogaAwayTM / Fitness Concierge / Jogging trail
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Please call hotel Please ask for Sales Manager and mention that you are with the Road Scholar / EduQuest group.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: Please call hotel Please ask for Sales Manager and mention that you are with the Road Scholar / EduQuest group.
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

Type: Full Service Hotel
  Description: Hotel offers dining entertainment and gaming
  Contact info: 219 Center Street
Reno, NV 89501 USA
phone: 775-786-7100
  Room amenities: Hair dryers, irons
  Facility amenities: Heated pool, spa, whirlpool and sauna, exercise room
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
3:00 p.m. hotel check in time. 4:00-5:00 p.m. meet in hotel lobby for Road Scholar registration. You will be staying at Hyatt Regency Sacramento that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends at 9:30 a.m. Room check out time is 12:00 p.m. You will be staying at Hyatt Regency Sacramento the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Parking is available at the hotel for a fee of $17/day.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Sacramento
  Nearest city or town:  San Francisco
  Nearest highway: I-5 and I-80
  Nearest airport:  Sacramento International
  From End of Program
  Location: Sacramento
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details



From Airport




Public Transportation
phone: 530-666-2877


Per Person/One Way:


Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


20 mins. 




drop off is 4-5 blocks from the hotel


Please note: the Yolobus public bus runs from the airport to downtown Sacramento every hour and drops off at 2 downtown locations. The drop off is within walking distance of the hotel but may not be convenient depending on the amount of luggage to be transferred.




From Airport




Yellow Cab
phone: 916-444-2222


Per Person/One Way:


$36 for a taxi which can take 4 people
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


20 mins. 




12 miles


If possible to share the cab the fare would be more reasonable.




From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Super Shuttle
phone: 916-648-2500
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Please call for current rates
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


1 and 1/2 hours 




69 miles


Super Shuttle runs an on-demand service with a minimum 30 minute wait. Sacramento Internaional Airport has most major car rental agencies should you choose to rent a car.

Driving Directions
  From I-5 Northbound or Southbound Exit at "J" Street exit and head downtown. Turn right onto 13th St., then right onto L St. Hotel will be on the right, 1209 L St.
  From Sacramento International Airport Take I-5 South and exit at "J" Street. Head downtown. Turn right onto 13th St., then right onto L St. Hotel will be on the right, 1209 L St.
  From San Francisco Take Hwy. 80 east to I-5. Exit at "J" Street. Head downtown. Turn right onto 13th St., then right onto L St. Hotel will be on the right-1209 L St.
Elevation Note: Train travels over the Sierra, elev. 7200' to Reno, elev. 4500'

The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Check in to hotel, register for the program, wine social, dinner, orientation, get-acquainted
(Sunday, February 24)
 Arrive To: Check in after 4 p.m. and register for program.
 Dinner: Dinner at a nearby restaurant within walking distance.
 Evening: Orientation/get-acquainted program in the hotel meeting room.
Accommodations: Hyatt Regency Sacramento
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Field trip to state capital, Old Town, evening class
(Monday, February 25)
 Breakfast: Expanded continental breakfast with hot and cold cereal, muffins, toast, waffles, hard-boiled eggs, fruit, juice, tea and coffee.
 Morning: Board the motor coach for a field trip to the Capitol building with our local on-board instructor. The building was constructed in the neoclassical style between 1861 and 1874 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as of 1973, view Sutter's Fort and visit historic Old Town.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant..
 Afternoon: Visit the California State Railroad Museum.The transcontinental and Sacramento Valley railroads began in Old Sacramento. The 100,000-square-foot museum is the finest and most visited of its kind in North America, displaying 21 restored locomotives and cars, 1,000 fantastic toy trains, all-new exhibits highlighting the human face of the railroad and the "Lost Spike."
 Dinner: We enjoy dinner at an Old Town Sacramento restaurant.
 Evening: Our evening program is presented by a special speaker.
Accommodations: Hyatt Regency Sacramento
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Board the train to travel across the Sierra to Reno, lunch on the train, docent narration
(Tuesday, February 26)
 Breakfast: Enjoy the hotel's expanded continental breakfast.
 Morning: Morning class on Sacramento history. We head for the Amtrak Depot a few blocks from the hotel to board the California Zephyr for our train adventure to Reno. Welcome Aboard! You're traveling on board Amtrak's Superliner train --- the California Zephyr. While on board, you'll be experiencing the utmost in train travel, along with some of California's most spectacular scenery..
 Lunch: Eat lunch on the train with your choice of the dining car or snack bar.
 Afternoon: We arrive in Reno at the newly renovated train depot across from our hotel. As early as the 1850s a few pioneers settled in the Truckee Meadows, a relatively fertile valley through which the Truckee River made its way from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake. In addition to subsistence farming, these early residents could pick up a bit of business from travellers along the California Trail, which followed the Truckee westward, before branching off towards Donner Lake, where the formidable obstacle of the Sierras began. Reno is home to a variety of recreation activities both seasonal and year-round. In the summer, Reno locals can boat, fish, water ski and swim in one of the three major bodies of water: Lake Tahoe, the Truckee River, and Pyramid Lake. Winter brings opportunities for skiing-both downhill and cross country, snowboarding and snowshoeing.
 Dinner: We enjoy a buffet dinner at Harrah's.
 Evening: Free time to relax after a busy day.
Accommodations: Harrah's
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Field trip to Carson City, Nevada's capital, visit Nevada State Museum, continue to Virginia City, evening class on the Donner Party
(Wednesday, February 27)
 Breakfast: We have a full breakfast buffet in hotel cafe.
 Morning: We board our motor coach for field trip to Carson City where we visit the Nevada State Capitol Building. For many years after its 1870 construction, Nevada's capitol building stood a lonely vigil in the center of Carson City. Grounds for the capitol complex had been set aside by town father Abe Curry, but Nevada started out small, and the need for big government had not developed. Now, more than 130 years later, the building is still used, standing as a testament to the foresight of Nevada's founding fathers The Nevada State Museum was originally erected in 1870 as the U.S. Mint, which coined more than $49,000,000 until 1893. The museum hosts about 250,000 visitors each year and has become famous for exhibits such as The Chinese Experience, the Dat So La Lee Washoe Indian baskets and Coin Press No. 1. Nevada's wildlife is also featured, namely the ubiquitous coyote, elusive mountain lion, majestic golden eagle, bothersome badger and the mischievous black bear. The silver dining service from the USS Nevada battleship, fashioned with silver from the Tonopah mine and gold from Goldfield, is also on display.
 Lunch: We eat a delicious lunch at nearby restaurant.
 Afternoon: Our motor coach heads for historic Virginia City. Virginia City was the most important city in the western United States, a place where you could still find fortune and glory. Gold and silver buried in the mountain at one time attracted people from the world over. Follow in the footsteps of the Bonanza Kings, the mine owners who played an important role in shaping America’s economy. Step back in time on a guided visit of the 4th Ward School an authentically preserved 1876 Victorian school building. Sit in the same wooden desks as the children and teachers did from 1876 to 1936 and learn about the unique features of this educational institution. Re-live great moments in theatre in a guided exploration of Piper's Opera House and discover the place where Mark Twain took his pen name and began his writing career.
 Dinner: We are served a delicious banquet dinner in the hotel meeting room.
 Evening: Our evening speaker tells the fascinating story of the Donner Party.
Accommodations: Harrah's
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Motor coach returns to Sacramento with lunch stop at Lake Tahoe and visit to Donner State Park Museum, dinner on the Delta King
(Thursday, February 28)
 Breakfast: A full breakfast in the hotel cafe.
 Morning: Board our motor coach for the return trip to Sacramento. We travel to the north shore of incredible Lake Tahoe-an Alpine lake with clear, azure-blue waters-the second deepest in North America. It was originally named “Dao w a ga” by a Washoe tribe of Native Americans. Pioneers who arrived later mispronounced the name as “Da ow,” which eventually evolved into Tahoe. “Dao w a ga” originally meant Edge of Lake. Throughout history, Lake Tahoe has been called by many names, including Lake Bigler after the California governor, Bonpland after a French botanist and Mountain Lake, until 1945, when Lake Tahoe became its official name.
 Lunch: Time for a delightful lunch at a restaurant on the shores of the lake with a great view of the lake and surrounding mountains.
 Afternoon: Back on board our motor coach we head for Donner Memorial State Park for a visit to the museum to learn more about the heroic story of the Donner Party, then follow the old highway over Donner Summit to imagine ourselves as pioneers crossing this formidable Sierra pass. To reach California from the East, pioneer emigrants had to get their wagons over the Sierra. In 1844, the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party followed the Truckee River up into the mountains. At the head of what is now called Donner Lake, they found a low notch in the mountains and thus became the first overland emigrants to use the pass. The pass received its name, however, from another group of California-bound emigrants. In early November 1846, the Donner Party found the route blocked by snow and was forced to spend the winter on the eastern side of the mountains. Of the 81 emigrants, only 45 survived to reach California; some of them resorted to cannibalism to survive.
 Dinner: We return to our Sacramento Inn and relax before dinner. Then we're off to the Delta King for a delicious dinner. The historic Delta King riverboat is a completely renovated, historic 1920’s riverboat that plied the Sacramento River between Sacramento and San Francisco from 1927 to 1940. The Delta King and her sister ship the Delta Queen were the finest paddle wheelers of the day; offering charm, grace, elegance, fine dining and live entertainment. Today, the icon of Sacramento is permanently moored in downtown Old Sacramento.
Accommodations: Hyatt Regency Sacramento
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Farewell breakfast, program ends
(Friday, March 1)
 Depart From: Program ends. Check out of hotel by noon.
 Breakfast: Our final full continental breakfast in the hotel breakfast room.
 Morning: Program wrap-up and farewells.
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  Sacramento General Overview
Sacramento has many attractions which hostlers may enjoy if they come early or stay over after the program.
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Nothing Like It In the World

Author: Stepphen Ambrose

Description: Nothing Like It In the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869 Comprehensive coverage of the story of the building of the railroad.

Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad

Author: David Haward Bain

Description: Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad by David Haward Bain -Comprehensive coverage of the history of the building of the Transcontinental Railroad

Geology of the Sierra Nevada (California Natural History Guides)

Author: Mary Hill

Description: Geology of the Sierra Nevada (California Natural History Guides) Comprehensive guide to geologic history of the Sierra Nevada

The Donner Party Chronicles: A Day-by-Day Account of a Doomed Wagon Train, 1846-47

Author: Frank Mullen

Description: The Donner Party Chronicles: A Day-by-Day Account of a Doomed Wagon Train, 1846-47 The definitve story of the ill-fated Donner Party, written by a journalist who researched as though writing a news story.

History of the Sierra Nevada

Author: Francis Peloubet Farquhar

Description: History of the Sierra Nevada -This book covers all aspects of the human history from the prehistoric native Americans,Spanish exploration, mountain men, pioneers, 49'ers, railroad, John Muir, national parks to recent utilization and recreation.

What’s included in this Road Scholar program?

Except for the occasional meal on some programs, Road Scholar programs are all-inclusive. That means there are no extra “options,” no passing the hat for tips and no surprises. From lectures and field trips to gratuities and accommodations – the price you pay up front is the price you pay.

Specifically, this program includes:

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