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Train Tracks Across the Sierra: Sacramento to Reno and Return

Program Number: 12085RJ
Start and End Dates:
9/29/2013 - 10/4/2013; 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    

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.
Meals and Lodgings
   Hyatt Regency Sacramento
  Sacramento, CA 2 nights
   Harrah's Reno
  Reno, NV 2 nights
   Hyatt Regency Sacramento
  Sacramento, CA 1 night
 Hyatt Regency Sacramento
Type: Hotel
  Description: Landmark hotel in the heart of Sacramento, across from the State Capitol. Conveniently located in the center of the city’s best shopping, restaurants, and theaters and within walking distance of Old Sacramento’s many popular historic landmarks and museums.
  Contact info: 1290 L St
Sacramento, CA 95814 USA
phone: 916-443-1234
  Room amenities: All rooms include: 42-inch LCD flat-screen HD TV with cable movie channels and pay-per view movies, wireless high-speed Internet access (for a fee), telephone with voice mail, iron and ironing board, in-room safe, hair dryer, coffee maker, mini bar, alarm clock radio, workstation with an ergonomic chair and windows that open.
  Facility amenities: The Hyatt Regency Sacramento offers complimentary wireless Internet access in the lobby, concierge services, covered self & valet parking, currency exchange, 24 hour fitness center, large outdoor pool and whirlpool, gift shop, laundry and dry cleaning services. The 24 hour business center is conveniently located within the hotel's lobby on the first floor. Self automated services include copying, faxing, scanning and high speed Internet access (all for a fee).
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Contact hotel Please contact the reservations department (402-593-5085) for additional nights.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: Contact hotel Please contact the reservations department (402-593-5085) for additional nights.
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

 Harrah's Reno
Type: Hotel
  Description: Harrah’s Reno Hotel and Casino is a complete destination with everything you want for fun.
  Contact info: 219 Center St
Reno, NV 89501 USA
phone: 775-786-3232
  Room amenities: Rooms include a TV, hair dryer, and private voice mail.
  Facility amenities: Harrah's Reno has a seasonal outdoor pool, fitness facility, salon, Spa at Harrah's offering massages, facials and other services (all for a fee). Casino offers slots and table games.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Hotel check in begins at 3:00 PM. Program registration is available from 4:00 - 5:00 PM. You will be staying at Hyatt Regency Sacramento that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends at 9:30 AM. Room check out by 12:00 PM. 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 per day (self-park).
To Start of Program
  Location:  Sacramento, CA
  Nearest city or town:  Sacramento
  Nearest highway: I-5
  Nearest airport:  Sacramento International Airport
  From End of Program
  Location: Sacramento, CA
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Sacramento (for Hyatt Regency Sacramento)


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Super Shuttle
phone: 800-258-3826
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


Depends on ride share 




12 miles


Super Shuttle is the exclusive provider of on-demand van service at Sacramento International Airport. Pickup areas for passengers are located in the ground transportation areas. Please visit for more information.


Sacramento (for Hyatt Regency Sacramento)


From Airport




Sacramento Independent Taxi Owners Association
phone: 916-444-0008


Per Person/One Way:


$35- $40
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


20 minutes 




12 miles


All taxis are located in the ground transportation area adjacent to the baggage claim area.


Sacramento (for Hyatt Regency Sacramento)


From Airport




Car Rentals
Advanced Reservations Required


Travel Time:


20 minutes 




12 miles


The on-airport rental car shuttle (for Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National) arrives at designated stops on the ground level curbs outside both terminals approximately every 15 minutes. Shuttle wait times may be longer during the airport's peak hours. Off-airport rental car companies (Advance Rent A Car, Payless Car Rental) will pick up customers from the rental car terminal.


Sacramento (for Hyatt Regency Sacramento)


From Airport




Public Transportation
phone: 530-666-2877


Per Person/One Way:


$2 for adults, $1 for ages 62+
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


27 minutes 




5 blocks (0.2 miles)


Yolobus route 42A runs from the airport to downtown every hour, stopping at two locations. The stop nearest to the hotel is J St + 11th. A route map will be included in your preparatory program materials. Visit for additional information.


Sacramento (for Hyatt Regency Sacramento)


From Train Station




Yellow Cab
phone: 916-444-2222


Per Person/One Way:


Prices are subject to change.




1 mile


The Amtrak station is just one mile from the hotel. Call Yellow Cab for transportation to the hotel.

Driving Directions
  I-5 to Hyatt Regency Sacramento Exit at "J" Street exit and head downtown Turn right onto 13th St Turn right onto L St. Hotel will be on the right, 1209 L St.
  Sacramento Airport to Hyatt Regency Sacramento Follow signs to I-5S. Take the ramp onto I-5 S Take exit 519B to merge onto J St toward Downtown Turn right onto 13th St Keep right at the fork Turn right onto L St Hotel will be on the right, 1209 L St.
Elevation Note: Train travels over the Sierra (elevation 7,200') to Reno (elevation 4,400').

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, September 29)
 Afternoon: Hotel check in begins at 3:00 PM. Program registration is available from 4:00 - 5:00 PM. Wine social in the Vines Café at 5:30 PM.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel in the Vines Café.
 Evening: Orientation / get-acquainted program in the Vines Café.
Accommodations: Hyatt Regency Sacramento
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Field Trip to State Capitol, Old Town, Evening with Widow Chambers
(Monday, September 30)
 Breakfast: Enjoy our breakfast buffet in the Vines Café.
 Morning: Guided by our onboard historian, explore the city by motorcoach- view Crocker Art Museum, Stanford Mansion, Sutter Fort and of course captivating “Old Sacramento.” Head over to the Capitol building for a field trip guided by our local 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 back at our hotel in the Vines Café.
 Evening: “Widow Chambers” joins us this evening to give us insight into Sacramento’s historical past.
Accommodations: Hyatt Regency Sacramento
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: All aboard! Train trek across the Sierra to Reno
(Tuesday, October 1)
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet in the Vines Café.
 Morning: Our bus transfers us to the Amtrak Depot 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 travelers 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 Reno
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Field trip to Carson City (Nevada’s capitol), Nevada State Museum, Virginia City, Lecture: The Donner Party
(Wednesday, October 2)
 Breakfast: Catered breakfast in our conference room.
 Morning: We board our motor coach for our field trip to Carson City, 33 miles away, where we enjoy a docent guided exploration of the Nevada State Capitol Building. For many years after its 1870 construction, the 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." Explore at your leisure your special areas of interest. Don’t miss the special displays of Nevada's wildlife: coyotes, mountain lions, majestic golden eagles, badgers and black bears. 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, 12 miles away. Virginia City in its heyday 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 and author, Frank Mullen, tells the fascinating story of the Donner Party.
Accommodations: Harrah's Reno
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, October 3)
 Breakfast: Catered breakfast in our conference room.
 Morning: Awe-inspiring scenery awaits once again today as we travel by motorcoach to the shore of beautiful Lake Tahoe- an alpine lake with clear, azure-flue 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.
 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.

Continue onward on our return trip to Sacramento.

 Dinner: Enjoy a bit of time to relax before dinner. Then we're off to the Delta King for a delightful 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, October 4)
 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast in the Vines Café.
 Morning: Program wrap-up and farewells followed by departure. Hotel check out by 12:00 PM.
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  Sacramento, CA Governor's Mansion State Historic Park
Originally built by a hardware merchant in 1877, the mansion became California's Executive Mansion in 1903. The mansion is an example of Second Empire-Italianate architecture. The interior design reflects a mixture of tastes, ranging from the original Victorian builder through all the various governors and first ladies who lived there. Address: 1526 "H" Street, Sacramento, CA 95814 Phone: (916) 323-3047 For additional information, visit
  Old Town Sacramento
Experience the Sacramento of the Gold Rush era. Enjoy museums, entertainment, restaurants, unique shops, and plenty of great places to stay at this National Registered Landmark and 28-acre State Historic Park, on the river, in downtown Sacramento. Address: Old Sacramento Visitor Center, 1002 Second Street, Sacramento, CA Phone: 916-442-8575 For additional information, visit
  Sacramento Convention Center
Located in the heart of downtown, the Sacramento Convention Center includes 134,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space, 31 meeting rooms, an outdoor garden terrace adjacent to an elegant 24,000-square-foot ballroom, and two separate 10,000-square-foot registration/pre-function areas. The complex also includes the 4,000-seat Memorial Auditorium and the 2,452-seat Community Center Theater. Address: 1301 L Street, Sacramento, CA 95814 Phone: 916-808-5291 For additional information, visit
  Sutter's Fort State Historic Park
John Sutter established this outpost in 1839, and the park, restored to its 1846 appearance, aims to recapture the spirit of 19th-century California. Exhibits include a blacksmith's forge, cooperage, bakery, and jail — a self-guided audio tour is also available. Demonstrations and reenactments in costume are staged daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Address: 2701 L St, Sacramento, CA 95816 ( between K & L and 26th & 28th) Phone: 916-445-4422 For additional information, visit
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

Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad

Author: David Haward Bain

Description: 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: Comprehensive guide to geologic history of the Sierra Nevada.

History of the Sierra Nevada

Author: Francis P. Farquhar

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

Nothing Like It In the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869

Author: Stephen E. Ambrose

Description: Comprehensive coverage of the story of the building of the railroad.

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

Author: Frank Mullen

Description: The definitive story of the ill-fated Donner Party, written by a journalist who researched as though writing a news story.

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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