Because of the rough terrain they traverse, it’s not uncommon for Colorado railroads to only open for rides during warm-weather months. However, several offer special winter train excursions, opening the door to spectacular mountain scenery, fine dining, kid-pleasing, holiday-themed experiences and even the ski slopes. All aboard!
Formerly known as the Ski Train, Amtrak has reintroduced its route between Denver's Union Station and Winter Park Resort for skiers and boarders looking for a relaxed ride to the slopes. Running Saturdays, Sundays and first Fridays during the winter months Jan. 5–March 25 for the 2019 season, the trip takes only two hours.
Recently deemed the “No. 1 North American Train Trip” by National Geographic Traveler, this memorable route winds through the remote wilderness of the San Juan National Forest. While dual-activity packages are available year-round, the Snowmobile Adventure Package is especially popular — ditto for The Polar Express™, a magical journey to the North Pole that satisfies wide-eyed kiddos and non-believers alike.
This Cañon City gem presents multiple trip options, including a Santa Express Train in November and December, when pajama-wearing adolescents and their parents clamber aboard for a scenic jaunt to a twinkly replica of St. Nick’s hangout. Or, get a head start on your resolution to be more romantic (or nicer to your mate) and book a three-course New Year’s Eve dinner for two in a glass-domed rail car.
The folks at Georgetown’s prized railroad are wild for special occasions — and their enthusiasm is contagious. Celebrate some of our most beloved residents on November’s Big Horn Sheep Festival Train, with talks from experts from Colorado Parks & Wildlife and an opportunity to view the horned beauties. Or, board Santa’s Lighted Forest Train to watch a synchronized holiday-music-and-light show in the forest above town. Grumpy Scrooge-types beware: This one’s a heart-warmer.
Rides are offered year-round, but November and December are the months to catch St. Nicholas on the rails. From the Manitou Springs depot, take the train halfway up 14,114-foot Pikes Peak, where you’ll socialize with the whole North Pole crew, including Santa and his elves, and gobble up cookies and hot chocolate. Then, warm your pipes for a Christmas carol singalong on the way down. *Note: The Pikes Peak Cog Railway will not open for the 2018 season. Visit their website to learn more.
Fall Train Excursions in Colorado
Through late October, you can stuff your face with Colorado-raised, slow-roasted prime rib while a professional theater group presents an interactive Wild West whodunit on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad’s Murder Mystery Train.
As the aspens of the San Isabel National Forest turn gold, the Continental Divide-bound Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad offers twice-daily fall-color photography specials in September for leaf-peepers.
Through mid-October, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, which runs from Antonito, Colorado, to Chama, New Mexico, offers full-day excursions and a Junior Engineer Program for budding conductors (ages 5–12). To earn the super-official certificate, kids learn about the train and complete an activity booklet during their ride (available for download online).
A fall-themed lunch and two staged locations for shutterbugs to capture the area’s seasonal splendor highlight the Rio Grande La Veta Pass Route’s Fall Colors Explorer, which departs from Alamosa on select dates from mid-September to early October.
From mid-October to early November, Georgetown Loop Railroad’s Oktoberfest Trains bring microbrew tastings (root beer for underage riders) and bratwursts for all. Prost!
Please check railroad websites to confirm all excursion dates and details.
Read the Complete Guide to Colorado Train Trips or view our listings for scenic and historic railroads in Colorado.
For more ways to celebrate the holidays, check out Colorado's Iconic Winter Events & Celebrations.