Complete Guide to Colorado's Historic & Scenic Railroads

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Ride back in time on Colorado’s scenic and historic railroads, some of which traverse still-wild terrain that can’t be easily experienced by any other form of transit.

Before you book, check the trains’ websites for information on fun themed and seasonal excursions: fall-color photo trips, wine-and-dine tours, mystery dinners, winter North Pole festivities and more.

1. Pikes Peak Cog Railway

The highest train in the U.S. brings riders to the summit of America’s Mountain, Pikes Peak. In contrast to the vintage track and beautifully restored station, the modern cars with expansive windows offer views of purple mountains majesty.
Start and End Point: Manitou Springs
Bonus Tracks: The cog railway is now open year-round, with special “Santa Train” rides in December where families get to ride with that special passenger to the Four Mile sledding area.

2. Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad

This ideal route for seeing Colorado in its autumn-color glory reaches up into the Continental Divide through hairpin turns along the upper Arkansas River Valley. Keep an eye out for Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive, the state’s two tallest peaks.
Start and End Points: Leadville and Climax
Bonus Tracks: Photography and nature buffs will adore the colorful wildflower and fall foliage trains.

3. Rio Grande Scenic Railroad

Originally, these workaday trains brought supplies to inaccessible mining settlements. Today, three routes run along the edge of the San Isabel National Forest and take riders past historic places still virtually inaccessible any other way. In the warmer months, riders can often see bears along the route to La Veta.
Start and End Points: La Veta/Alamosa, Alamosa/Antonito or Alamosa/Monte Vista
Bonus Tracks: From May through September, the Rio Grande ferries music lovers to one of the most unique concert venues in the state for the Mountain Rails Live Summer Concert Series at historic Fort Garland.

4. Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

This coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive runs 200 feet above the Animas River, featuring views of majestic peaks as it passes through the remote canyons and wilderness of the Animas Gorge and San Juan National Forest.
Start and End Points: Durango and Silverton
Bonus Tracks: Backpackers, day hikers and fishermen can get on and off the train mid-route to access to the San Juan National Forest and Weminuche Wilderness.

5. Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad

Several stops along the route of this family-owned railroad provide views and photo ops of Pikes Peak and old mining camps, as well as the opportunity to hear the train whistle ricochet off the walls of Echo Valley.
Start and End Points: Cripple Creek and Victor
Bonus Tracks: The ride is fully narrated, with the conductor sharing wonderful facts about the history and scenery around Cripple Creek.

6. Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

This 1880 vintage line is best known for its appearance in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” Watch for some of the railroad’s original buildings, and check out the large collection of rolling stock in the historic depots on either end of the route.
Start and End Points: Antonito, CO, and Chama, NM
Bonus Tracks: The C&T runs several special trains throughout the year, including moonlight dinner runs and the Cinder Bear Express, designed especially for kids.

7. Royal Gorge Route Railroad

Comfy panoramic-view cars open to the spectacular walls of the Royal Gorge beside the fast-flowing Arkansas River on this historic railroad’s tracks. The trip can be complemented with a view of the gorge from one of the world’s highest suspension bridges.
Start and End Point: Cañon City
Bonus Tracks: Enjoy a gourmet lunch in first class, with options like grilled bourbon-glazed chicken and roasted pork osso bucco and a well-curated wine list.

8. Georgetown Loop Railroad

To connect the mining towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume, only two miles apart through a steep, narrow canyon, the railroad’s 1880s builders constructed tracks that corkscrewed up more than 600 feet in elevation on four bridges.
Start and End Points: Silver Plume and Georgetown
Bonus Tracks: Passengers can elect to disembark to tour the historic Lebanon Silver Mine at roughly the halfway point on the trip.

9. California Zephyr

This daily Amtrak train is not antique, but it certainly is scenic. For unsurpassed comfort and convenience, this is the choice for a spectacular high-speed tour through the Rocky Mountains. Start and End Points: Chicago and San Francisco, with six stops in Colorado between Fort Morgan, Denver and Grand Junction

10. Southwest Chief

A second Amtrak line travels through the southeast corner of Colorado, providing access to classic American Southwest landscapes and attractions such as Bent’s Old Fort and Koshare Indian Kiva and Museum. Start and End Points: Chicago and Los Angeles, with stops in Colorado at Trinidad, La Junta and Lamar

Want More?

Visit Colorado's railroad museums.

Photos: Royal Gorge Route Railroad (photo courtesy of Royal Gorge Route Railroad), Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad; Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad; Rio Grande Scenic Railroad.

Royal Gorge Route Railroad along the Arkansas River, Cañon City, Colorado
Royal Gorge Route Railroad, Cañon City, CO
Courtesy of the Royal Gorge Route Railroad
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Colorado
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, Antonito, Colorado
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, Antonito, CO
Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, Alamosa, Colorado
Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, Alamosa, CO

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