Colorado is well-known as one of the most scenic and historic places in the world, thanks to its stunning mountains and various landscapes that surround it.
The mountains here were once a significant location during the Gold Rush in the late 1800s, and because of this, major railroading systems were built in Colorado so the miners could transport ore. Now, the railroads here are home to some of the most scenic train rides in the world.
Ready to learn more? Here are 11 spectacular train rides in Colorado that you’re going to want to check out! We’ve also included some of the amazing rail museums found here, so you can learn more about the history of railroading in this beautiful state.
DURANGO & SILVERTON NARROW GAUGE RAILROAD
The mountains have always been my favorite escape, and I have been to nearly every major mountain range in the world. Out of everything I’ve seen though, the San Juans have always been my favorite. Their rugged majesty mixed in with beautiful alpine lakes and flowering meadows just can’t be beat. You can explore the best of the San Juan National Forest by taking a train ride throughout.
The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a 45-mile scenic train route that climbs nearly 3,000 feet and offers the best views you’ve ever seen. It was originally used to carry ore from the mines around town, but now is a major tourist attraction. Be sure to plan a visit during your trip to Southwest Colorado! I would recommend completing this ride as a one way.
GEORGETOWN LOOP RAILROAD
If you’re looking to take a scenic train ride through Clear Creek and the Rocky Mountains during your trip to Denver, taking a ride on the Georgetown Loop Railroad would be a great option! This historic narrow gauge railroad runs just 2 miles between the towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume, Colorado, which is less than 2 hours from Denver.
It was originally formed as part of the Union Pacific Railroad in the 1800s during the Gold Rush, and was used to transport silver and silver ore, but began taking passengers in 1938. I highly recommend making a day trip out of taking this railroad, hiking to Silver Dollar Lake, and visiting some local breweries in Georgetown.
ROYAL GORGE ROUTE RAILROAD
The Royal Gorge Route Railroad has been a Canon City favorite for over 100 years. It is most well known for its breathtaking views and exceptional service. This train route has a restaurant car that features delicious local food and award-winning wines from all around the world.
Depending on the time of year, you’ll find themed train rides, including a Santa Express train ride, where you can enjoy holiday favorites over breathtaking views of the winter wonderland outside.
This trip is so amazing, President Teddy Roosevelt once described the railroad as “the trip that bankrupts the English language.” It’s truly one of the best train rides in Colorado!
CUMBRES AND TOLTEC SCENIC RAILROAD
If you’re looking for a unique and scenic way to travel from New Mexico to Colorado, hop aboard the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad! This 64-mile train route is a National Historic Landmark that begins in Chama, New Mexico and ends in Antonito, Colorado — or vice versa — as it makes its way over the Cumbres Pass.
A ride on this railroad passes through some of the most beautiful Rocky Mountain scenery you’ll ever see over the course of about six and a half hours, which includes a lunch stop in Osier. I highly recommend planning this scenic train ride during your next trip to the Rockies!
PIKES PEAK COG RAILWAY
The Pikes Peak Cog Railway is one of the most unique experiences you could have in Colorado. It is the world’s highest and longest cog railroad, as well as the highest railroad in the Northern Hemisphere, as it reaches the top of America’s Mountain, Pikes Peak, at over 14,000 feet. It offers stunning views of Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs.
It was closed for renovations for over three years, but reopened in 2021, offering visitors the best adventure in the area. I highly recommend planning this railroad adventure as part of a weekend trip to Colorado Springs, so you can spend some time hiking the Manitou Springs Incline and visiting all of the other fun attractions in Colorado Springs.
CRIPPLE CREEK & VICTOR NARROW GAUGE RAILROAD
The Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad is a narrow gauge railroad that offers seasonal scenic train rides that take you back to the gold mining days in Cripple Creek and Victor, Colorado. It is a perfect train route for history buffs, and anyone looking for a scenic ride through the mountains.
Tours operate every 40 minutes in the summer from Union Station!
The California Zephyr is consistently named as one of the most scenic train rides in all of North America! It begins in Chicago, Illinois and passes through Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City and Reno, as it makes its way to the San Francisco Bay Area.
As you climb through both the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada Mountain ranges, you’ll be amazed by the views at every turn. I highly recommend taking this scenic route at least once in your life — you won’t regret it!
The Southwest Chief is another long, but scenic, train journey that begins in Chicago and makes its way to Los Angeles through the Midwest and Southwestern United States. It is known as the “Train of Stars,” thanks to all of the celebrities who endorse this route.
I’ve been a roadtripper through the entire United States, and have always considered the Southwest to be my favorite journey thanks to the diversity of scenery that you’ll see along the way. Enjoy the mountains, the desert, the cacti, stunning lakes, and everything in between.
LEADVILLE & COLORADO SOUTHERN RAILROAD
Hop aboard one of the highest and most relaxing scenic train rides in Colorado, the Leadville and Colorado Southern Railroad. Leadville is the highest incorporated city in Colorado and is surrounded by the beautiful San Isabel National Forest. Spend about two and a half hours winding your way through the forest and taking in the breathtaking views of Fremont Pass.
When you’re done, I highly recommend camping at Half Moon Creek or Turquoise Lake to experience the best views this area has to offer. Or if you’re up for another scenic drive, take Hagerman Pass all the way to Aspen!
TINY TOWN AND RAILROAD
If you are visiting Denver with kids, I highly recommend taking them to Tiny Town and Railroad Amusement Park in Morrison, Colorado, which is only about 30 minutes from Denver. This miniature village contains over 100 buildings and a miniature railway inspired by the Rio Grande F7, which offers scenic train rides every 30 minutes.
It was originally built by a man named George Turner for his daughter in 1915, and it quickly became one of Colorado’s most popular attractions. I recommend making a day trip out of your visit, and hiking near Red Rocks or checking out a show at the Amphitheater while you’re in town.
Rocky Mountaineer is a train company located out of Vancouver, Canada that offers many luxury and scenic train routes all throughout North America. One of the most popular routes to take in Colorado is the Rockies to the Red Rocks route, which is a two day journey from Denver to Moab, Utah.
It passes through gorgeous mountain passes and red rock canyons as it makes its way to the ultimate adventure town. When you get to Moab, I highly recommend checking out Hole In The Rock Road, biking the Whole Enchilada, or renting a 4×4 to check out Fins and Things or Hells Revenge if you’re up for a thrilling adventure.
MOFFAT ROAD RAILROAD MUSEUM
A visit to the Moffat Road Railroad Museum is a fun educational experience that the entire family will enjoy!
Moffat Road was built with the intention of adding Denver to the map of transcontinental railroads, but that didn’t happen until many years after Moffat’s death. The railyard features a Model Railroad Display, as well as a Railroad Interpretive Center Park, while the rest of the museum is still being built.
The railroad display features 5 train cars, a ski mountain and village, while the interpretive park features several pieces of railroad equipment. It is a great place to visit to learn about trains, especially if you have kids.
COLORADO RAILROAD MUSEUM
The Colorado Railroad Museum is a non-profit railyard museum located in a gorgeous area of Golden, Colorado, where North and South Table Mountain meet. The museum is only 30 minutes from Denver and features over 100 different train cars and railways.
I highly recommend taking a hike in Golden Gate Canyon and then checking out the museum, or making your way over to North Table Mountain for sunset if you’re visiting later in the day. No matter what time you visit, you’re sure to have a fun adventure!
COMANCHE CROSSING MUSEUM
If you’re traveling I-70 through Denver, one stop you need to make is a visit to Comanche Crossing Museum. This museum is located on Colorado’s beautiful high plains, and was one of the last stops of the Kansas Pacific Line through Denver.
The museum features a large collection of artifacts native to the area, as well as an array of wildlife that frequent the area. If you’re looking for more stops in the area, check out the Genoa Tower Museum, whose visibility allows you to see six states on a clear day.
PUEBLO RAILROAD MUSEUM
The Pueblo Railroad Museum is a museum located near Colorado Springs and Canon City that features artifacts and equipment from the five major railroads in the West. It has one of the best collections of trains, and is the perfect place to visit after your ride along the Pikes Peak Cog Railway.
Stop by on a day trip from Denver to admire some trains and all the best that Colorado Springs has to offer. It is less than two hours away!
RIDGWAY RAILROAD MUSEUM
Ridgway, located in southwestern Colorado, is a really iconic town when it comes to railroads. It is often referred to as the birthplace of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, and is dedicated to educating the public on the history and preservation of the railroads of Ouray.
At the end of September every year, the Ridgway Railroad Museum puts on a festival called Ouray County Railroad Days, which celebrates Ouray County’s rich railroad heritage. The festival features a hike along the Red Mountain Pass, one of my favorite mountain passes in all of Colorado. Be sure to check it out if you’re in the area at this time!
The end of September is a great time to visit to see fall colors and celebrate the railroad.
PIONEER & TRAIN MUSEUM
The Gunnison Pioneer and Train Museum is a really cool museum campus located at the base of the iconic “W’ mountain that showcases an array of exhibits from the pioneer era, such as railways, farmhouses, ranches, and more. It’s a unique and fun museum to bring kids to to learn all about railroading and enjoy the scenic views.
I recommend making a day trip out of your visit to Gunnison, and heading to Black Canyon of the Gunnison for an incredible and scenic day in the mountains.
COLORADO MODEL RAILROAD MUSEUM
The Colorado Model Railroad Museum is a one-of-a-kind scenic railway replica museum located in Greeley, Colorado, which is just south of Fort Collins. This museum features hundreds of different railroad scenes, over 500 replica trains, and thousands of other artifacts showcasing the state’s rich railroading history in a unique way.
Take a walk along some stunning mountain peaks and through a real train caboose all in the same day! After your visit, head up north to Fort Collins to check out some breweries or west to Rocky Mountain National Park.
FORNEY MUSEUM OF TRANSPORTATION
The Forney Museum of Transportation is a museum located in Fort Collins, Colorado that features over 800 artifacts pertaining to all types of transportation: railroad, aircrafts, automobile, and more.
Stop by this nonprofit community to learn all about the history and fascination with transportation in Colorado.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO COLORADO
- YOUR COLORADO VACATION
- BEST OF COLORADO: 38 Phenomenal Things To Do In Colorado
- HOT SPRINGS: 17 Best Hot Springs In Colorado You Must Visit
- AURORA: 19 Fun Things To Do In Aurora CO You Can’t Miss
- RESORTS: 21 Amazing Colorado Resorts Perfect For Every Type Of Traveler
- FREE DENVER: 20 Fantastic, Fun & Free Things To Do In Denver
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