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Train Tracks Across the Sierra: Sacramento to Reno and Return

Program Number: 12085RJ
Start and End Dates:
6/21/2015 - 6/26/2015; 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: $999.00 - 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; Gluten Free    

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, 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




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 L st & 13th. The hotel will be on the same block as your bus stop. A route map will be included in your preparatory program materials. Visit for additional information.


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 Bus Terminal




Public Transportation
Bus #11 Eastbound


Per Person/One Way:


$2.50 Adult; $1.25 Senior
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


12 minutes 


From Greyhound Station in Sacramento, take public transportation bus #11 Eastbound towards downtown. Get off bus at L Street and 9th and walk 0.3 miles towards Capitol Museum. Hotel is at 1209 L Street.


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: Arrival and Check-in / Program Registration / Wine Social / Welcome Dinner / Orientation
(Sunday, June 21)
 Afternoon: Hotel Check-in: Available from 3:00 p.m.

Program Registration: 4:00-5:00 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, and other important information. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet at the front desk when you check in.

Our Group Leader will host an informal wine social in the Vines Café before dinner, beginning at 5:30 p.m.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel in the Vines Café.
 Evening: Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the program theme, the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss safety guidelines, emergency procedures, roles and responsibilities, and answer any questions you may have.

Indicated times are approximate; program activities and schedules may need to change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

We have set aside some free time in the schedule for your personal independent exploration. The Group Leader will often be available during free time to accompany informal excursions, activities, or meals that have been excluded from the program cost. You are welcome to join if you like, with any associated costs on your own.
Accommodations: Hyatt Regency Sacramento
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: State Capitol / California State Railroad Museum / Old Town / Pioneer Life with “Widow Chambers”
(Monday, June 22)
 Breakfast: In the Vines Café, the breakfast buffet offers choices such as eggs, breakfast meats, breads and pastries, and fruit, plus juice, coffee, tea, water.
 Morning: We’ll take our bus over to the Capitol building for a field trip guided by our local instructor. The California State Capitol was constructed between 1861 and 1874, and its neoclassical style has earned a listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Our field trip continues with a walk through Sacramento’s historic Old Town.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll stop for a plated lunch with a choice of entrée and dessert, plus soft drinks, coffee, tea, water.
 Afternoon: We’ll travel by bus to Historic Sutter's Fort, a local stronghold of pioneer memories. California's history comes to life at this pivotal location that has been perfectly restored to its true 1846 appearance. Next we head to the California State Railroad Museum, dedicated to the Transcontinental and Sacramento Valley railroads and their heritage in Old Sacramento. We will be met by a local expert who is eager to walk us through this unparalleled display of locomotive history. 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." We’ll return to our hotel with time to relax and freshen up before dinner.
 Dinner: In the Vines Café at our hotel.
 Evening: A talented historic reenactor as "Widow Chambers" will pay us a visit at the hotel, bringing pioneer history to life from her unique point of view.
Accommodations: Hyatt Regency Sacramento
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Train Ride Across the Sierra to Reno / Legacy of the Donner Party
(Tuesday, June 23)
 Breakfast: In the Vines Café.
 Morning: After we check out of our hotel, our bus will take us to the Amtrak Depot to board the Superliner “California Zephyr.” Welcome aboard for our railway adventure to Reno, Nevada! This Superliner affords the utmost in train travel, along with some of California's most spectacular scenery.
 Lunch: On the train, use your voucher ($15 value) in either the dining car or snack bar.
 Afternoon: We’ll arrive in Reno at the newly renovated train depot across the street from our hotel. After checking in, we’ll have time to relax before dinner in “The Biggest Little City in the World.”
 Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy a plated dinner with salad, choice of entrée, and dessert, plus coffee, tea (hot or iced), water; other beverages available for purchase.
 Evening: In our meeting room at the hotel, we’re joined by a local historian and author who will recall the story of the Donner Party. A large group of pioneers led by brothers George and Jacob Donner left Springfield, Illinois, for California in the spring of 1846. They took what was supposed to be a shorter route through the Sierra Nevada Mountains but experienced many delays and were finally trapped by heavy snow. The story of what happened to the Donner Party, who survived, and how is one of the most chilling chronicles of the way west.
Accommodations: Harrah's Reno
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Virginia City / Virginia-Truckee Railroad / Carson City / Nevada State Museum
(Wednesday, June 24)
 Breakfast: In our private conference room at the hotel, we’ll enjoy a catered breakfast including eggs, breakfast meats, breads, pastries, and fruit, plus juice, coffee, tea, water.
 Morning: We’ll board our motor coach for historic Virginia City, 12 miles away. In its heyday, Virginia City was the most important city in the western U.S., a place where people from all over the world found fortune and glory, drawn by the gold and silver buried in nearby mountains.

With a museum docent, we’ll learn the fascinating story of Virginia City’s historic Fourth Ward School, “the last school of its kind still standing in North America.” This 1876 Victorian structure still contains the same wooden desks occupied by children and teachers from 1876 to 1936.

Next we travel back in time to the bonanza days as we board the historic Virginia Truckee Railroad to take a spin around what used to be the richest city in the world. We will learn about the Bonanza Kings, the mine owners who played an important role in shaping America’s economy. Keep an eye out for exposed veins of silver ore and explore Gold Hill where gold and silver strikes began in 1859. Our train ride will be fully narrated by our charming conductor who will make this historic train route come to life.

Virginia City is also where Mark Twain took his pen name and began his writing career. We’ll learn about the city’s influence on his writings, and we’ll also stop by Piper's Opera House, where stars such as John Philip Sousa and Al Jolson once took the stage.
 Lunch: At a nearby restaurant, we’ll enjoy a plated meal with several menu options plus soft drinks, coffee, tea, water.
 Afternoon: Our next stop is the Nevada State Museum, where we’ll have time for a docent-led tour as well as time on our own to explore. The museum’s building was originally constructed in 1870 as the U.S. Mint; in just 23 years, it produced more than $49,000,000 in coins. Today, we’ll see exhibits that include "The Chinese Experience," and "Coin Press No. 1," We’ll also see a collection of Washoe Native American baskets, and the dining service from the battleship USS Nevada, made from silver mined at nearby Tonopah and gold from Goldfield. The museum also features Nevada's wildlife, particularly coyotes, mountain lions, golden eagles, badgers, and black bears.
 Dinner: Enjoy a buffet dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure. You might enjoy a stroll along the Truckee River Walk or take in a concert or show at one of the city’s theaters.
Accommodations: Harrah's Reno
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Motorcoach Return to Sacramento / Donner State Park Museum
(Thursday, June 25)
 Breakfast: In our private conference room at the hotel, we’ll enjoy a catered breakfast including eggs, breakfast meats, breads, pastries, and fruit, plus juice, coffee, tea, water.
 Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll board our motor coach for the return trip to Sacramento. We’ll travel along the north shore of Lake Tahoe, an Alpine lake with clear, azure-blue waters that is the second deepest in North America. Its name is actually a derivative of “Dao w a ga,” which, in the language of the Native American Washoe people, originally meant “edge of lake.” After a number of name changes, “Lake Tahoe” has appeared on official maps since 1945.
 Lunch: At a restaurant on the shores of Lake Tahoe, we’ll have salad or sandwiches plus soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.
 Afternoon: Aboard our motor coach, we’ll head for Donner Memorial State Park to learn more about the dramatic story of the Donner Party. Then, we’ll follow the old highway over Donner Summit as we contemplate the experience of 19th century pioneers crossing the formidable Sierra Mountains through this precarious notch.

We’ll arrive back at our original Sacramento hotel with time to relax before dinner.
 Dinner: Aboard the Delta King, a permanently moored 1920s riverboat that is now a popular restaurant, we’ll enjoy a plated meal with a choice of entrée, side salad, and dessert, plus soft drinks, coffee, tea water; other beverages available for purchase.
 Evening: At leisure. You may linger on the Delta King and imagine traveling between Sacramento and San Francisco by boat, as many did through the first half of the 20th century.
Accommodations: Hyatt Regency Sacramento
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Wrap-Up Presentation / Program Concludes
(Friday, June 26)

Note: Hotel check-out is by 12:00 Noon.

 Breakfast: In the Vines Café.
 Morning: Our Group Leader will conduct a wrap-up session with farewells before departure. This concludes our program.

We hope you enjoy all your Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. We encourage you to join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at Best wishes for all your journeys!
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.

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