8 Can’t-Miss Train Rides in Colorado

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You won’t want to miss these train rides in Colorado.

Most of my posts have been about Colorado’s natural beauty (which, sorry California, is unparalleled). But the Centennial State has some fantastic historical attractions, too—museums, ghost towns, abandoned mines.

For the best of both worlds, you can hop on an old-school railroad tour of Colorado’s mountains and valleys. Whether you’re a hardcore railfan or simply looking for a new way to experience some epic scenery, here are the best train rides in Colorado to get your fix.

Georgetown Loop Railroad

red and white train sitting on train tracks at the base of a rocky mountain

Running since 1884, the Georgetown Loop Railroad was one of Colorado’s first visitor attractions. At the time, it was considered an engineering marvel. Now, it’s a way for people to go back in time. You’ll see breathtaking views of the Rockies, with remains of gold and silver mines along the way.

This hour-long route runs back and forth between Georgetown and Silver Plume; you can opt to board at either. The Georgetown station is only 45 minutes from Denver, making this one of the most convenient train rides near Denver. The Georgetown station is open year-round, while the Silver Plume station is open seasonally from late May to mid-October.

Prices for the Georgetown Loop vary by season. Coach seats are pretty affordable, around $35-45; “parlor” or first-class seats are closer to $200.

They also offer special events throughout the year, like Mother’s and Father’s Day rides and Autumnfest, where you can sample local beers on the train. In the winter, an evening holiday lights route complete with Santa visits makes for one of the best Christmas train rides in Colorado.

Royal Gorge Route Railroad

train traveling along a blue river through a rocky mountain

The Royal Gorge Route Railroad is a two-hour trip through the Royal Gorge canyon that prides itself on its combination of spectacular scenery and first-class dining, with food made from locally sourced ingredients and prepared fresh right on board. They offer lunch and dinner trains, murder mystery rides, and (if you want to get extra fancy) multi-course culinary rides.

Morning, midday, and afternoon trains depart year-round from Cañon City, an hour southwest of Colorado Springs.

The Royal Gorge route offers several classes of cars, with prices ranging from $90 for a coach seat to $200 for a three-course meal in first class. It’s not the cheapest option on our list, but you can’t beat the Royal Gorge’s (forgive the pun) gorgeous views, which make this one of the most scenic train rides in Colorado.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway

red train car along the top of a mountain cliff overlooking the landscape below

If you’re a railfan looking to climb a 14er (or you’re simply not keen on spending eight-plus hours hiking up a mountain), the Pikes Peak Cog Railway will take you to the top of Pikes Peak in comfort. Along the way, it passes through nine miles of forests and canyons, with commentary about the region’s history. You’ll probably spot some deer, elk, marmots, or even a herd of bighorn sheep.

At the top, you’ll have a chance to get out, stretch your legs, and take in the expansive views from the summit of Pikes Peak. Legend has it that this place inspired Kathy Lee Bates to write the song “America the Beautiful” over a century ago. Be sure to pack warm layers—it gets cold and windy at 14,000 feet.

The Pikes Peak Cog Railway picks up in the charming town of Manitou Springs, just outside Colorado Springs. During the peak season of June to August, trains depart every 20-40 minutes. The train runs year-round but with fewer departures in the colder months. Standard tickets for this three-hour trip cost $59, or for an extra $12, you can choose and reserve your seat.

Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

This National Historic Landmark is located in the southwest corner of the state, about six hours from Denver, and it’s been chugging visitors through the rugged San Juan Forest since 1882.

The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, or D&SNGRR (I’m not sure the acronym makes it less of a mouthful), takes passengers from the small town of Durango to Silverton and back. The whole ride lasts about five hours, with a 45-minute break to get out, explore the forest, and eat lunch. Coach fare ranges from $80-100 and includes admission to the D&SNGRR Museum and Silverton Freight Yard Museum.

This train offers a variety of special rides, like the Shamrock Express on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, a Cowboy Poetry Train in the fall (complete with western poets and acoustic music), and various photoshoot rides for photographers to hone their skills.

Rocky Mountaineer

train traveling along a large blue river through mountains scattered with trees

Another scenic train ride near Denver, Rocky Mountaineer takes you all the way to Moab, Utah on their luxurious “Rockies to the Red Rocks” train. This route is two days of scenic canyons, deserts, arches, and hoodoos. There are no sleeper cars; instead, you spend the night at a hotel in Glenwood Springs—which, between its legendary hot springs and soaring mountain views, is worth a visit in its own right.

Rocky Mountaineer, which also offers train routes through Canada, is known for its luxury—so this train trip doesn’t come cheap. Tickets start at $1500 and are available from April to August.

Leadville, Colorado, and Southern Railroad

This train picks up in Leadville, a couple of hours west of Denver, and takes passengers on a two-and-a-half-hour ride up Prospect Mountain and above the Arkansas River Valley. The conductor narrates fun facts about the history of Leadville and railroads along the way.

Tickets start at $54 per person for coach fare. Instead of cushy first-class seats or multi-course meal options, higher-priced tickets give your group a private seat in the engine or caboose, where you can talk to the engineer or brakeman—making this an excellent option for die-hard railfans (or basically anyone with a young child) looking to learn about how trains work. Even if you don’t splurge on this option, there’s a break halfway for passengers to walk around the train, explore the locomotive, and ask the conductor any questions.

The Leadville, Colorado and Southern also offers one of the best Christmas train rides in Colorado. In winter, you can celebrate the season with hot cocoa and twinkling lights on their 2-hour Holiday Express.

Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad

The front of 2 trains sitting at a small train station

This short train trip is more about history than scenery. It picks up in Cripple Creek, an old gold mining town west of Colorado Springs, and passes various historic mining sites. At only 45 minutes long and $19 per adult, this is one of the best train rides in Colorado if you’re short on time or on a tight budget. Plus, it’s pet-friendly.

Cripple Creek & Victor only operates in the warmer months, from late May to October, and offers several departures throughout the day. All cars are open and run rain or shine, so you’re guaranteed great views no matter where you sit—just make sure to bring a jacket.

Cumbres & Toltec Railroad

Another National Historic Landmark, Cumbres & Toltec prides itself on being the longest (64 miles), highest, and most authentic steam railroad in North America. It runs half- and full-day trips between Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico. In between, it zigzags along the state line through plains, canyons, and deep aspen forests.

Passengers often spot wildlife like elk, foxes, eagles, and even the occasional bear. Although Antonito is a bit out of the way (about 4 hours south of Denver), nearby attractions like the Great Sand Dunes make it easy to work this off-grid adventure into your next road trip.

This route is open from Memorial Day to mid-October. You can choose to start at either end of the route. It’s a one-way trip, but a bus will be waiting to take you back to your starting point. Full-day tickets range from $135 in coach to $270 in parlor class.

These train rides in Colorado will evoke a sense of nostalgia, romance, and adventure. They’re a great way to see Colorado’s natural beauty, dive into the state’s history, and get a taste of how Colorado’s first tourists explored the state. With a variety of sights to see, and trips ranging from under an hour to multiple days, you’re sure to find the perfect train ride in Colorado for your next trip.

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