A relaxing and fascinating way to see Colorado’s spectacular scenery and learn some of its history at the same time is to indulge in a scenic train ride. There are several options, including the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in the southwestern portion of the state. It was originally constructed in 1880 as part of the Rio Grande’s San Juan Extension, serving the silver mining district of the San Juan mountains, and very little about the line has changed over the years.
Another good choice is the Georgetown Loop Railroad west of Denver. It connects the towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume, once rollicking mining towns that are two miles apart in the narrow and steep canyon. The route gains more than 600 feet in elevation along the way and includes four bridges.
Considered the most luxurious train in Colorado, the Royal Gorge Route is a leisurely two-hour ride through the spectacular Royal Gorge. Six classes of service are available, including lunch and dinner trains as well as a special Christmas trip to The North Pole to visit Santa. Along the way riders often see big horn sheep, bald eagles and the occasional gold miner who’s working the Arkansas waters. Fishermen, rafters, kayakers and other water enthusiasts are also taking advantage of the river’s flow.
In the historic mining town of Leadville you can catch a ride on the Colorado & Southern Railroad, which travels along the old Denver, South Park & Pacific and Colorado & Southern lines to the Continental Divide, heading north along the Arkansas Valley River Valley and rising up some 1,000 feet from the valley floor. You’ll see Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert, two of the state’s tallest peaks.
A half-hour trip of the on the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad steam locomotive provides an authentic glimpse into how people and goods were moved during the gold mining days of the area. This is a fun trip for everyone, with great scenery along the way.
Treat yourself to some real history aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad & Museum. The city of Durango was founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Railway in 1879, and two years later the railroad arrived in town. That same year construction began on the line to Silverton, and in 1882 the tracks were laid and movement of passengers and freight began.
Although it was meant to transport riches from the mines, the train soon became a favored means of transportation by passengers who appreciated the view, and the line has been in continuous operation for nearly 130 years – much to the delight of train buffs who delight in the vintage steam locomotives and the sights that so thrilled passengers in the 1800s.