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.
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.
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.
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. (The railroad will not be running for tourists in 2020, but check back in 2021 for potential new offerings.)
Start and End Points: La Veta/Alamosa/Fort Garland
Bonus Tracks: On the La Veta Mountaineer every passanger gets a reserved Dome seat and a first class meal.
This 1880 vintage line is best known for its appearance in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” A National Historic Landmark on wheels, the Cumbres & Toltec steams 64 miles over the Rocky Mountains along cliffs, through narrow Toltec Gorge, over 10,000-foot Cumbres Pass and through miles of evergreen and aspen forest with 100-mile views in every direction.
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.
"The Railroader" is a new short in National Geographic Short Film Showcase that follows the Cumbres & Toltec's very own John Bush, his story of falling in love with railroading, and why the C&TS means so much to America. Watch it here.
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.
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.
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.
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, Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction
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
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.