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Guest Leslie N

Train to Reno? (eastbound vs westbound for scenery)

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Guest Leslie N

I have a conference next summer in Reno, NV. I am on the east coast and would like to add a scenic train ride to my trip. My question: should I fly from Boston to San Francisco and take the Zephyr from Emeryville to Reno (one day trip, about 7 hours) or fly to Denver and take the train from Denver to Reno (about 13 hours, which includes an overnight portion)? My objective is enjoying the scenery. I am wondering if the the west to east trip (CA to Reno) would have a cleaner, fresher train since it is just starting its journey? Also more likely to be on time? Or is Colorado scenery more spectacular? Thoughts are welcome and thanks in advance. LHN

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There probably won’t be any real difference in cleanliness/freshness. But how did you conclude that Denver to Reno takes 13 hours? It takes more than 25 hours.

Anyhow, as to the scenery, Denver-Reno gets you the run through the Rockies and along the Colorado River, while Emeryville-Reno gets you the run through the Sierras. Both are absolutely spectacular, and it’s pretty hard to really compare the quality of the scenery on one segment to that of the other, however I would say that the sheer quantity of pretty scenery between DEN and RNO is significantly greater than between EMY and RNO - as should probably be expected considering the trip is nearly three times as long. So I think that if you have the time, fly to Denver and take the CZ from there, however you really can’t go wrong either way.

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Guest Leslie N

Thank you for your answer and thank you for correcting my math! I see that you get on the train in Denver in the early morning and get off in Reno in the morning the next day--not sure how I calculated 13 hours from that! 

Does the Zephyr have reserved seats? Can you reserve seats in the observation car? I appreciate your answers. LHN

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26 minutes ago, Guest Leslie N said:

Does the Zephyr have reserved seats? Can you reserve seats in the observation car? I appreciate your answers. LHN

The Zephyr offers reserved coach and sleeping car accomodations. If you go coach, you are guaranteed a seat (in the coaches), but not a particular seat. If you get a sleeper (which I would highly recommend if it is within your budget), you are assigned or can choose a particular room in a particular car.

The Sightseer Lounge is NOT reserved, and is accessible to all passengers on a first come first served basis. You just walk in, and if there’s space, sit down. Because the Zephyr is a long train and has phenomenal scenery, the SSL is usually pretty full, so it’s highly possible you can’t find a seat there. If you do sit down but the car is full, try to be mindful of your fellow passengers and if you’ve been sitting for a while and someone else is waiting, you should probably give them a turn. Sometimes there are issues with certain passengers “reserving” seats in the SSL that they are not personally using, so just know that if there’s an open seat and a passenger says you can’t sit there, feel free to tell a crew member know and have them deal with it. Now I personally am of the opinion that it’s pretty acceptable for someone to hold a seat if it will only be vacant for a couple minutes (let’s say the occupant is in the bathroom), but at minimum in that case you can sit there in the meantime and get back up if the person returns. Anyhow, that is my tangent on Sightseer Lounge seating. Peace! :D

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Both have great scenery. Odds are better west to east for on time but....  I would prefer the longer overnight from Denver as even nighttime has great scenery looking at the stars and the small towns as they go by.

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Don't forget that you see nothing on the overnight portion. I would not pay extra for something you can't see. I have been in both directions. The Rockies are most of the day while the Sierra Nevadas are only a couple of hours.

For the overnight portion you would have to pay for meals unless you pay for a sleeper. For the Sierra Nevadas there is only lunch.

Here is an example of cost for June 3.

Denver to Reno Coach $105 (no meals); Roomette $343 (with meals)

Emeryville to Reno Coach $42 (no meals)

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The entire route is worthwhile, so if you have the time and the funds I would fly to San Francisco, buy a coach ticket across the Sierra to Reno; attend the conference; then purchase a sleeper ticket to Denver to take in the wonderful scenery (and some not-so-wonderful) through the Rockies and fly home from there.

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