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These Are My Top 9 Coolest Train Rides in Colorado

by | North America

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Colorado is home to several historic narrow gauge railroads, which operate on tracks that are narrower than the standard 4-foot 8.5-inch gauge used by most railroads. The scenic train rides offered by these railroads offer views of the Rocky Mountains and the surrounding forests and streams. The train rides also pass through old mining towns and trestles, providing a glimpse into the state’s famous mining history. Here is a brief guide to the arguably top 9 coolest train rides in Colorado.

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a historic train that operates in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. This is the most famous train route in Colorado and offers a scenic journey from Durango to Silverton, traveling through the rugged and pretty landscape of the San Juan Mountains. With vintage locomotives and even open cars, the Durango & Silverton train is arguably the coolest of the coolest.

The Durango and Silverton train

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad was built in the 1880s to serve the mining and logging industries in the area. It operated as a working railroad until the 1960s when it was converted into a tourist attraction. Today, the train offers a variety of different ride options, including regular excursions, special event trains, and seasonal trips.

The train operates year-round and is one of the most popular attractions in southwestern Colorado. With a ride on this train, you will experience the charm of the San Juan Mountains and may learn something about the history of the region.

In addition to the regular train rides, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad also offers a variety of special events and activities, such as murder mystery dinners, wine, and beer tastings, and holiday-themed trips.

Overall, the train ride from Durango to Silverton and back takes approximately 7 hours, including the stop at the Cascade Canyon Wye. The train departs from Durango at 9:00 am and arrives in Silverton at 12:30 pm. It then departs from Silverton at 2:15 pm and arrives back in Durango at 5:45 pm. The train makes a brief stop at the Cascade Canyon Wye, where you can disembark and explore the area for about 30 minutes before continuing on the train. For additional information, you can check the train’s website here. For booking hotels or activities in the area, for here.

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is a historic narrow gauge train that operates between Antonito, Colorado, and Chama, New Mexico. The train offers a 64-mi (102 km) journey through the San Juan Mountains, and it’s possible that many passengers will like it to last longer.

View of San Juan Mountains from the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

This railroad was built in the 1880s to serve the mining and logging industries in the area. It operated as a working railroad until the 1960s when it was converted into a tourist attraction. Today, the train offers a variety of different ride options, including regular excursions, special event trains, and photo charters.

The Cumbres & Toltec train operates seasonally, from May through October. The train is composed of a vintage locomotive and passenger cars, being in this sense similar to other scenic trains that operate in the area.

The train departs from Antonito at 9:00 am and arrives in Chama at 3:30 pm. It then departs from Chama at 4:30 pm and arrives back in Antonito at 11:00 pm. It makes several stops along the way, including at the Cumbres Pass, where passengers can explore the area for about 20 minutes before continuing on the train.

The train operates seasonally, from May through October. For more information and booking, go to the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad website here. For booking hotels and activities in the area, go here.

The Royal Gorge Route Railroad

The Royal Gorge Route Railroad is a historic narrow-gauge steam-powered railroad that operates in the Royal Gorge region of Colorado. This train will take you through the Royal Gorge, a deep and narrow canyon carved by the Arkansas River that is one of the deepest in the world. Cool, huh?

This is Royal Gorge. Scared already?

The Royal Gorge Route Railroad was founded in 1879 and is one of the oldest operating railroads in the U.S. It was originally built to transport gold, silver, and other minerals from the mines in the region, but it was later converted into a tourist attraction.

The railroad is 12 mi (19.3 km) long and follows the route of the original railroad through the Royal Gorge. The train ride takes about 2.5 hours round-trip and includes a stop at the Royal Gorge Bridge.

The train is powered by a steam locomotive and consists of a series of narrow-gauge passenger cars that are decorated in the style of the original railroad. It operates seasonally, from April through October, and offers a variety of scenic and specialty trips, including a fall foliage tour and a dinner train.

The Royal Gorge Route Railroad offers up to four daily departures, including 9:15 am, 12:30 pm, and 3:30 pm, with 6:30 pm departures on weekends. For more information and booking, go here. For booking hotels or activities in the area, for here.

The Georgetown Loop Railroad

The Georgetown Loop Railroad is a narrow-gauge heritage railroad that operates in the Georgetown and Silver Plume region of Colorado. This train offers scenic train rides through the historic Georgetown Loop, which is a section of the original railroad.

Somewhere on the Georgetown Loop Railroad

The Georgetown Loop Railroad was founded in 1884 and was originally built to transport gold, silver, and other minerals from the mines in the region to the markets in the East. It was decommissioned in 1939 and was later preserved as a tourist attraction.

The railroad is 3.5 mi (4.9 km) long and follows the route of the original railroad through the Georgetown Loop, which is a series of twists and turns that were built to negotiate the steep terrain. The train ride takes about a one-hour round-trip and includes a stop at the Lebanon Silver Mine, where visitors can take a guided tour.

The train ride offers views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains, and the route includes a historic double-loop section where the train passes over itself on a high trestle. The train also passes through old mining towns.

The train is powered by a steam locomotive and consists of a series of narrow-gauge passenger cars that are decorated in the style of the original railroad. It operates seasonally, from May through October, and offers a variety of scenic and specialty trips, including a fall foliage tour and a dinner train.

The ride lasts for about an hour and 15 minutes during the main season and about 55 minutes from mid-October through early January. The train ride and mine tour together are offered from April through September and has a total duration of one hour and a half. You can check the train’s Spring-Autumn schedule here and the Winter Holidays schedule here. For booking tours and activities in the area, go here.

Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad

The Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad is a historic narrow gauge railroad located in Leadville, Colorado. The railroad operates on a 3-foot narrow gauge track and offers scenic train rides through the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

Somewhere on the Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad

The Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad was originally built by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad in the late 1800s to serve the mining industry in Leadville and the surrounding area.

The train departs from the historic Tennessee Pass Cookhouse, which was once a stop for the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. The train will take you through San Isabel National Forest. Views include Fremont Pass, Mt. Elbert, Mt. Massive, and the Arkansas River Valley.

A ride on this train takes two hours and a half. You can check Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad schedules here. For booking hotels and activities in the area, go here.

Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad

The Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad is a heritage railroad operating on a 3-foot narrow gauge track in the Cripple Creek and Victor region of Colorado. This train will take you through the historic gold mining district of the Pikes Peak region.

This is Cripple Creek

The Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad was founded in 1894 and was originally built to transport gold, silver, and other minerals from the mines in the region to the markets in the East. It was decommissioned in 1918 and later became a tourist attraction.

The railroad is 3.5 mi (5.6 km) long and follows the route of the original railroad through the Cripple Creek and Victor region, which is a historic gold mining district in the Pikes Peak region.

The train is powered by a diesel locomotive and consists of a series of narrow-gauge passenger cars that are decorated in the style of the original railroad. It operates seasonally, from May through October, and offers a variety of scenic and specialty trips, including a fall foliage tour and a dinner train.

The train ride takes about a one-hour round-trip and includes a stop at the Victor Lowell Thomas Museum, where visitors can learn about the history of the railroad and the gold mining industry.You can check the train schedule here. For booking hotels and activities in the area, go here.

Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad

The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad is a historic narrow-gauge steam-powered railroad that runs between Chama, New Mexico, and Antonito, Colorado, in the United States. It is one of the longest and highest narrow-gauge railroads in the country, and it is designated as a National Historic Landmark.

View from the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad

The railroad was originally built in 1880 to transport gold, silver, and other minerals from the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado to the markets in the East. It was also used to transport livestock and other goods. The railroad was decommissioned in the late 1960s. It was saved from being dismantled and preserved as a tourist attraction in 1970 when it was transferred to the states of Colorado and New Mexico.

The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad is 64 mi (102.9 km) long and follows the route of the original railroad over the Cumbres Pass, which is the highest point on the route at an elevation of 10,015 ft (3,052.5 m). The train ride takes about 8 hours and includes a stop at the Osier, Colorado depot for lunch.

The train is powered by a steam locomotive and consists of historic narrow-gauge passenger cars. It operates seasonally, from May through October, and offers a variety of scenic and specialty trips, including a fall foliage tour, a wine, and cheese tour, and a Christmas lights tour. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad is also a popular location for film and television productions and has been featured in several movies and TV shows.

In general, the train departs from either Chama, New Mexico, or Antonito, Colorado, at around 9:00 am and returns to the same location in the late afternoon. The exact departure and arrival times may vary depending on the specific trip being taken, for which it’s always best to check the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad’s website. For booking hotels and activities in the area, go here.

Rockies to the Red Rocks

The Rocky Mountaineer is a luxury tourist train that operates in western Canada and the U.S. As its name suggests, the Rocky Mountaineer offers a variety of rail journeys through the Rocky Mountains, including a route that travels from the Canadian Rockies to the red rock canyons and mesas of the American Southwest.

This train operates a fleet of custom-designed railcars that feature large windows and a variety of amenities, including gourmet meals and drinks. The trains do not have sleeping accommodations, and all trips are daytime journeys.

Rockies to the Red Rocks is Rocky Mountaineer’s newest route, a train journey between Denver (Colorado) and Moab (Utah) that lasts one day and a half and includes an overnight stay in Glenwood Springs (Colorado). The train only travels during the day and comes with oversized windows. On your route between Glenwood Springs and Moab, you will see mountains, interesting rock formations, and desert cliffs.

Greenwood Springs, the place where you would stay for one night if you go on the Rockies to the Red Rocks route

This train operates between April and October. For schedules and other information, go here.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway

The Pikes Peak Cog Railway is a historic mountain railway that operates in the Pikes Peak region of Colorado, United States. A ride on this train will take you to the summit of Pikes Peak, which is one of the highest peaks in the Rocky Mountains.

Cog Railway train

The Pikes Peak Cog Railway was built in 1891 and is the highest cog railway in the United States. It was the first mountain railway of its kind in the world and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2011.

The railway is 9 mi (14 km) long and runs from the base station at Manitou Springs, near Colorado Springs, to the summit of Pikes Peak, which stands at an elevation of 14,115 ft (4302 m). The trip takes about three hours round-trip and includes a stop at the summit for about 30 minutes.

The Pikes Peak Cog train is powered by a steam locomotive and consists of a series of railcars that are equipped with cog wheels that engage with a center rail, allowing the train to climb steep inclines.

In addition to the scenic train ride, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway also offers a variety of activities and amenities at the base station, including a gift shop, a restaurant, and a picnic area. The base station is also a popular starting point for hiking and mountain biking trails in the Pikes Peak region.

The trains are enclosed, and all seats are reserved, so visitors should book tickets in advance. The train operates seasonally, from May through October, and is weather dependent. You can find more information on the train’s website here. For booking hotels and activities in the area, go here.

Amtrak Routes in Colorado

Amtrak is the national passenger rail service of the United States, and it operates a number of routes through the state of Colorado. Amtrak serves several cities in Colorado, including Denver, Fort Collins, Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, and Pueblo.

The California Zephyr is a long-distance Amtrak train that operates daily between Chicago, Illinois, and Emeryville, California, with stops in Colorado. The route passes through Denver, Glenwood Springs, and Grand Junction, and it offers cool views of the Rocky Mountains and the Colorado Plateau.

The Southwest Chief is another long-distance Amtrak train that operates daily between Chicago, Illinois, and Los Angeles, California, with stops in Colorado. The route passes through La Junta, Lamar, and Trinidad, and it offers views of the Great Plains and the Southwest.

The Winter Park Express is a seasonal Amtrak train that operates on weekends and holidays between Denver and Winter Park Resort, a popular ski resort in the Rocky Mountains. The train operates from January to March and is a convenient and scenic way to get to the ski resort from Denver.

Amtrak offers a variety of amenities on its trains, including comfortable seating, dining options, and WiFi. For more information, schedule, and booking, go here.

Up for a ride?

Colorado is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful states in the U.S. A scenic train ride is arguably one of the best ways to see the Rocky Mountains. Companies offering train services know that, and, as such, there are many scenic train rides to choose from when visiting Colorado. If you are unsure which one to choose, I recommend you start with The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad – the most famous route and also a winner of several travel awards. Alternatively, you can choose the route that is closer to the locations you want to visit.

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