Ten ways to join the train gang in Colorado this summer
All aboard! Colorado has a strong railroading heritage, and with Denver's Union Station reopening this month, now is the time to get out and ride the rails. Train fans marvel at the tourism lines running in this state, which wind through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Whether you're looking for a weekend excursion or just a quick trip out of town, Colorado's train gang has something for you. Here are our ten favorites.
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
See also: Ten unusual places to stay in Colorado this summer
1) Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
All aboard! You know mud season has come to the mountains when the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad makes its first run of the year, leaving Durango early on the first Saturday in May and pulling into Silverton three gorgeous hours later, when the townspeople come out to greet the train as well as the arrival of tourism season. But throughout the rest of the season, you'll find just as warm a welcome on and off this top-of-the-line train. "It's the hotbed of steam, and its popularity reflects that," says one rail man who's ridden trains around the world. "It's got scenery, it's got history, it's got the equipment."
2) Rio Grande Scenic Railroad
The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad is a fairly new tourist route -- but the train follows a track full of history and stunning scenery, and a fine steam locomotive adds to the draw. The standard route takes you from Alamosa (bonus points for the renovated depot) to the charming, art-heavy town of La Veta and back. The line also offers special concert trips that stop at a natural mountaintop amphitheater.
3) Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad won a National Historic Landmark Designation in 2013, and it deserves it. The line was built in 1880 as part of the San Juan Extension of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, and the rugged railroad engineering is a marvel -- as is the scenery. Today the Cumbres & Toltec operates much as it would have a century ago, with narrow-gauge steam trains leaving daily from Antonito and Chama, New Mexico, and meeting at Osier, Colorado, for lunch. There are several ways to package your travels, as well as special excursion trips.
4) Royal Gorge Route Railroad
Fires decimated the area around the Royal Gorge last summer, but the Royal Gorge Route Railroad quickly got back on track. The trip is fairly short, but the scenery and engineering are both spectacular, particularly along the hanging roadway on one point of the ride. The company prides itself on offering not just lovely vistas, but first-class meals along the way, too. And watch for special events, including wine trips and kids' activities.
5) Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad
A trip on the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad is short -- just 45 minutes -- but it's long on history, as the century-old steam locomotive transports you back to the gold-mining days of Cripple Creek and Victor, passing by the ghost town of Anaconda. Trips leave every forty minutes from the 1894 Cripple Creek depot -- which happens to feature all of the modern gift-shop amenities.
Keep reading for the rest of Colorado's train gang.