Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
Renowned as one of the most scenic tourist railways in the U.S., the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is the highest and longest narrow gauge steam railroad in the country. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012, and was named by USAToday as the Best Train Ride among its Top 10 Best in 2016.
The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad was originally constructed in 1880 as part of the Rio Grande’s San Juan Extension, which serviced the silver mining district of the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. Today’s passengers travel in 19th-century cars pulled by coal-fired, steam-driven locomotives that worked the original Rio Grande Western Route, of which the Cumbres and Toltec remains a part.
Running daily Memorial Day weekend through mid-October, the train traverses a winding 64-mile route between Chama, New Mexico and Antonito, Colorado, crossing the state line 11 times. Passengers enjoy magnificent views of the authentic west as the train passes through some of the most beautiful and remote areas in the southern Rocky Mountains. It chugs through tunnels and over trestles, including the 10,015-foot-high Cumbres Pass and the 800-foot-deep Toltec Gorge, the two features from which the railroad takes its name. (The view may look familiar – the railroad is a favorite locale for filmmakers and was featured in the film Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom.) Along the way, passengers will see such diverse scenery as waterfalls, pine forests, high plains deserts, alpine meadows and mountain canyons, as well as observe wildlife such as hawks, ospreys and eagles above and elk, antelope and bear below. Throughout the journey, enthusiastic and well-informed volunteer docents provide passengers with descriptions, facts, highlights and history of the landscape and the area.
As the longest narrow gauge railroad, 64 track miles is too long for a full round trip. To accommodate the length, full- and half-day trips are offered (9 different trip options), and riders can choose between two departure points, Chama or Antonito. The trains leave their respective depots at 10 a.m. and meet halfway, at the ghost town of Osier, Colorado. Here, everyone onboard is treated to a hot, homemade lunch with choice of entrées and dessert, and then re-board their train and continue to their destination. A list of the trips offered can be found on the website.
Cumbres & Toltec riders have their choice of coach, tourist or parlor cars for their trip, each with different cost points. The beautiful, mahogany-finished parlor cars, for ages 21 and up, with their Victorian-era elegance, offer luxury, service and comfort, with a continental breakfast and snacks and soft drinks served throughout the day. Deluxe tourist cars provide an upscale family experience in a café setting. The coach car is a comfortable, more laid back style of travel. All paid seats are in covered cars to protect against cinders, smoke and inclement weather. The open gondola car is available to all riders for unobstructed viewing of the mountains and the abundant wildlife. There are full-service bars in the parlor, tourist and concession cars.
Special excursions include the Sunset Dinner Train, departing at 5 p.m. from Chama and traveling to the top of the Cumbres Pass, where passengers enjoy dinner in the newly constructed pavilion at the historic Cumbres Depot. Here, they enjoy live music, dancing, cool evenings and breathtaking mountain sunsets before returning to Chama. The Cinder Bear Experience gives younger riders a trip with the Cumbres & Toltec mascot; the Geology Train and Wildflower Special each offer a different view and experience of the Rockies by rail.
The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad offers special group arrangements for 20 or more persons. Escort and driver receive a complimentary ticket. For information on bus tours, reservations and group rates, email email@example.com or call (877) 890-2737.
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Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad