colorado train rides

A Complete Guide to Colorado Train Rides

colorado train rides

If you want to experience some beautiful views and get a taste of history, Colorado train rides offer both. Railroading began in Colorado shortly after the “Silver Boom” in 1879. There were many obstacles to overcome due to the rugged topography forcing many lines to be built with the three-foot-right-of-way, as opposed to the four-foot plus. Construction crews also decided the smaller size was best to reduce the cost of construction. It resulted in the state proclaiming the densest network of “narrow-gauge” railroads in the nation. Several major companies, such as the Rio Grand Southern, South Park & Pacific, and Colorado Central, began claiming their territories to carry the silver to market. These efforts all led to the present-day train systems in the state. Today there are many train rides in Colorado for everyone to enjoy. If you are interested in a unique way to encounter the majestic Rocky Mountains and other beautiful spots in the state, Colorado train rides can provide this experience.

Georgetown Loop

It is somewhat difficult to believe that one of the best train rides in the world is a short 30 miles from Winter Park and Grand Park. Your ride will be on a narrow-gauge U.S. heritage railroad located in Clear Creek County, bordering Interstate 70. Your trip will take you from Georgetown to Silver Plume. While just a short distance of 4.5 miles, you will experience some truly mountainous terrain while you see the trestles, cuts, fills, and the grand loop. If you want additional adventure, there is an optional walking tour at the Lebanon Silver Mine. Guests can walk 500 feet into a mine tunnel, which was discovered in the 1870s. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgetown_Loop_Railroad).

California Zephyr

Train rides in Colorado also include the California Zephyr. Most everyone has heard of this train, which runs from Chicago to San Franciso – you can even ride through the Rocky Mountains. Although the train is not one of the historical systems, you will still be in awe when you look out the window and observe the artistic beauty only Colorado can provide. Another plus is that you can get up, move around, and relax. The Zephyr stops at the Amtrak station in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad

Cripple Creek & Victor is a unique railroad that opened in 1967. It has a width of only two feet instead of the regular three feet or four feet plus. It covers a total of four miles. Once you board, you will be traveling with the help of a century-old steam locomotive which carefully wanders around every curve. The track will take you south from Cripple Creek. You will then pass the old Midland Terminal Wye and cross a reconstructed trestle. Keep your eyes wide open, so you do not miss any of the historic mines. Your ride ends at Anaconda, a deserted mining camp, and then heads back to Cripple Creek.

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

Cumbres & Toltec is one of the top-rated of the most popular scenic train rides. Each year tens of thousands of visitors enjoy the 64-mile journey. A coal-fired steam engine carries you through steep canyons where you can see the lush meadows, and you will have the opportunity to see both the Colorado and New Mexico border. You will enjoy your ride in a coach car or the Victorian deluxe parlor car. In 1973, the Cumbres & Toltec was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2012, the railroad was designated a National Historic Landmark. This honor was awarded due to the engineering, the railroad’s role in developing the region it served, and its well-preserved infrastructure and equipment.

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

train rides colorado

The Durango has the distinction of being the most popular of the entire state’s scenic train rides. The Durango is considered a national treasure. One reason for this is that it uses the same steam locomotives operated under the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad back in the middle 1880s. Imagine riding aboard an old locomotive that used the same railroad tracks as cowboys, miners, and the Old West’s early settlers. You will wind in and out of the same canyons and vast wilderness areas and see similar sites as the cowboys saw. All of this adds to an incredible trip. Guests also have the opportunity to visit Silverton, which is a historic mining town. Be sure to plan your trip wisely as you train buffs will be enjoying a full-day, nine-hour round-trip ride.

Platte Valley Trolley

If you are looking for an unusual way to travel through the valley, then the Platte Valley Trolley will be what will please you. Their season begins in mid-April and runs through the end of October. Instead of a railroad car, you will be sitting in a trolley car. It takes you on a 25-minutes ride. You will have the opportunity to see Confluence Park, which is located on the South Platte River. This is the location where Denver was founded. The trolley will stop here and at the Downtown Aquarium, the Denver and Broncos Stadium at Mile High, and a few other places.

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad

The Rio Grande is one of the newest scenic train rides, and it is based in Alamosa. It has gained a lot of popularity due to southwestern Colorado’s and northern New Mexico’s stunning scenery. Powered by two steam locomotives built in 1901, they lead you through breathtaking mountain valleys and provide incredible scenery as you journey through the San Juan Mountains, Rio Pinos River, and Cumbres Pass.

colorado train rides

You have a choice of taking a short ride or an all-day trip on Colorado’s unique train rides. You will be able to enjoy the history of some of the turn-of-the-century engines as they climb the highest mountains as they head to your destination. Perhaps the best of all is the magnificent scenery you will enjoy which cannot be seen in other transportation modes. Colorado train rides are there for you to enjoy.

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