Things to do in Colorado: Train Rides in Colorado — A Chance to Slow Down
By Pat O’Connor
Now that your kids are off the couch and running after Pokemon, this is a great end of summer opportunity to pile them in the car and enjoy one of the Centennial state’s best attractions — a Colorado train ride.
From the Front Range to the Western Slope, residents and visitors alike love the eight scenic rides aboard trains ranging from narrow gauge to steamers featuring wine dinners. Colorado train rides provide an opportunity to slow down and enjoy the state’s natural beauty at a leisurely pace. Furthermore, you and the family will learn the history of the rails and how railroads helped shape present day Colorado.
Prior to the “all aboard” signal, you might want to check out the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden. Established in 1958, the museum has a host of memorabilia, artifacts, photos, displays and exhibits of Colorado trains and railroads. You’ll step back in time and relive the days when the rails were key to mining silver and gold, and establishing Colorado as a state.
Listed below are the eight popular Colorado train rides.
Georgetown Loop Railroad (Georgetown)
Located just 30 minutes west of Denver, Georgetown remains one of Colorado’s favorite attractions. The rail line was completed in 1884 and features amazing views of the Clear Creek Valley. The train operates April to Jan. 1, and offers a variety of rides including dine and rides, and special events like Oktoberfest, bighorn sheep viewing and Santa’s North Pole adventures.
Pikes Peak Cog Railway (Colorado Springs)
Since 1891, this cog railway train has been transporting passengers to the top of Pikes Peak, one of the best known and visited 14,000 foot peaks in the state. The three hour trip covers nearly 9 miles of track and a top speed of 9 mph. Visitors take in the view of Ruxton Creek in Englemann Canyon and Minnehaha Falls before heading pass timberline and ultimately to the top of the mountain. This is the highest cog (rack) railway in the world and is open year round.
Royal Gorge Route Railroad (Canon City)
This is a standard gauge train that operates year-round and offers incredible views of the Royal Gorge. Privately owned, the train offers a variety of services ranging from first class service to classic dining. Depending on departure time and type of ride, the duration of the trip varies from 2-3 hours.From May to October, rides are available at four different times.
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad (Antonito)
Located in southwest Colorado, it takes a little longer to get to but there’s a reason it was voted the #1 train ride in Colorado by USA Today. It’s no longer hauling silver like it did the 1880s but instead people, who revel in the spectacular scenery and wildlife viewing opportunities. This railway connects Colorado’s San Juan mountains to the Conejos Valley of New Mexico, and gaine National Historic Landmark designation. It operates May through October.
Cripple Creek Railroad (Cripple Creek)
Located southwest of Colorado Springs and near the base of Pikes Peak, the Cripple Creek Railroad operates out of its original 1894 depot. This ride takes 45 minutes and covers a total four miles. It’s a great way to break away from the casinos and enjoy the scenery in Teller County. You’ll see historic mines along the way and learn this history of this mining town that at its height had a population of more than 10,000. The train leaves every 40 minutes and operates mid-May to mid-October.
You’re sure to find a package to suit your schedule when you visit C&SNGR. They offer half-day to full-day excursions in addition to packages that includes rafting, hiking, snowmobiling, jeep tours and ATVs. This classic route runs along the Animas River and meanders through the San Juan National Forest amid 14,000 foot peaks. The coal-fired, steam powered locomotive operates May through October, but there is also the Polar Express ride in Durango in December.
Rio Grande Scenic Railroad – Colorado Trains (Alamosa/La Veta)
Explore the exquisite Huerfano and Alamosa counties on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad. You can make the trip from either Alamosa or La Veta, with half or full day tickets. Leaving from Alamosa on a full day ticket will bring you to La Veta, a picturesque town that features cute shops and is an enclave for artists. The train operates May through October.
Located in Colorado highest city, LC&SR train transports passengers on a 2 ½ hour trip through pine forests and aspen groves 1,000 feet above the headwaters of the Arkansas River. The line runs May through October, and features a number of special packages including a raft & rail option. During the fall, there are evening rides as well as weekend opportunities to view the fall colors.