This summer’s revival of The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway — previously feared lost in the face of a major overhaul — represents the gritty persistence of Colorado’s scenic trains.
They refuse to fade since their frontier births. Where many once connected commerce in the West, now they stir nostalgic imaginations.
Here’s a look at some options:
Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad (adult fares $15, cripplecreekrailroad.com)
Celebrating one of Colorado’s most storied gold bases, the locomotive departs a vintage depot and tours mining history scattered across the Pikes Peak foothills. Enjoy narration about Echo Valley along the way as well as views of forests and the Sangre de Cristos.
Royal Gorge Route Railroad (adult fares $54, royalgorgeroute.com)
An unforgettable journey between the mighty Arkansas River and the rocky walls of the iconic gorge west of Cañon City. The scene is beheld from an open-air platform and also from window-paneled cars, venues for romantic rendezvous. The train is unique for its gourmet meals and luxurious flair.
Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad (adult fares $42, leadville-train.com)
The train takes off from Colorado’s famous gold epicenter and rises 1,000 feet to more colorful realms of wildflower meadows and aspen groves. While zigzagging toward the Continental Divide, you’ll hear tales of Leadville’s heyday.
Georgetown Loop Railroad (adult fares $28, georgetownlooprr.com)
The route is iconic for the bridges standing hundreds of feet from the valley floor — engineering marvels when built and still thrilling to traverse a century later. While relatively short, the steam engine grants true grandeur in a steep, narrow canyon.
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad (adult fares $85, cumbrestoltec.com)
This line is a proud throwback, a coal-fired steamer churning on as it has since the 1880s. It winds more than 60 miles from Antonito to Chama, N.M., through underappreciated terrain on Colorado’s southern edge, through swaths of aspen that glow gold in the fall and over a mountain pass above 10,000 feet.
California Zephyr (fares from $37, amtrak.com)
If you’re looking for a vintage mold, this modern train doesn’t fit. But the natural spoils are there; Amtrak knows the stretch between downtown Denver and Glenwood Springs as one of the most scenic across its national network, featuring the vertical wonderland of Glenwood Canyon. Spend a night in Glenwood, enjoy the hot springs and catch the train back to Union Station.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (adult fares $99, durangotrain.com)
A stunning journey through the heart of the San Juans, arguably Colorado’s most spectacular countryside. Ambitious backpackers know the lift as necessary to reach treasured trailheads while sightseers are plenty satisfied staying on board all the way to Silverton, a charming town that appears frozen in time.