Seeing fall foliage in the Rocky Mountain region is a great reason to visit the area, but it might be difficult to tackle all the incredible places you could go. Still, imagine the convenience of being able to sit and relax on train while it takes you through a sizable portion of the region, so that all you'll be focused on is beholding all the beautiful fall colors around. Well, that daydream can become reality by boarding a steam train on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad!
History of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad
The narrow gauge railroad was built back in the 1880s to help serve the silver mining district of the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. Over the decades, the railroad became stagnant until its industrial upgrade in the 1920s and was abandoned after World War II. Thankfully, railway preservationists and local civic interests saved the most scenic part of the railway, and in 1970, the states of Colorado and New Mexico jointly purchased the track. The year after, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad started officially carrying tourists and is recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
See Fall Foliage Aboard This Scenic Railroad!
The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad was voted the country's top scenic train ride in 2016, 2019, and 2020 by USA Today's readers, consistently competing with the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Powered by a steam engine, the train's unique route follows 64 miles between Chama, New Mexico, and Antonito, Colorado, crossing the states' borders 11 times and making its way up and over the 10,022 foot Cumbres Pass.
The motorcoach explores wilderness areas that can't be explored by other vehicles while rolling at a nice 12 miles an hour and takes its passengers through aspen groves and mountain canyons to see wildflowers and wildlife. The railway also offers two options depending on where you want to begin your journey, whether its in Chama, New Mexico, or Antonito, Colorado.
If you choose to start in Chama, the train ride begins with a climb into the mountains, with Wolf Creek rushing beneath. Soon, the entire Chama Valley is revealed as the steam locomotive trudges on to Cumbres Pass. It then rounds the Tanglefoot Curve and crosses Cascade Creek Trestle, the highest point on the line. After crossing the trestle bridge, the train pulls into its midway point, Osier Station in Colorado, for a lunch stop. It then continues on to Toltec Gorge, following the narrow rock tunnels before heading into hills to arrive in Antonito.
If you choose to start in Antonito, the journey will take you through the vast, open San Luis Valley, crossing flat ground before reaching a series of hills. It crosses Ferguson's Trestle and winds through yellow-gold forests, making its way towards the rim of Toltec Gorge. After following its narrow rock tunnels, the train will take you around Phantom Curve before stopping at Osier Station for lunch. From here, it moves across the Cascade Creek Trestle and around Tanglefoot Curve before heading towards Cumbres Pass, the highest pass in the US reached by rail. The path the begins to descend into Chama Valley, ending in Chama.
How to Book a Trip on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
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For 2021, the railway is scheduled to run from late May to late October. There are three tiers of service to choose from: the Parlor Car, Deluxe Car, and the Coach Car. But no matter what you book, you'll have accessibility to the open-air gondola, where you can enjoy the fresh air while listening to docents, friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, narrate the railway's history.
The first-class Parlor Car is for ages 16 and up only, providing an elegant Victorian experience and a continental breakfast, with prices sitting at $242.50 a ticket. The Deluxe Car also has elegant seating and is made for all ages, with prices sitting at $175 for adults and $85 for kids. And the Coach Car is more budget-friendly, with prices sitting at $132.50 for adults and $82.50 for kids. All options include a buffet lunch and access to on-board concessions which includes snacks, gifts, souvenirs, and a full bar. When sitting down for lunch at Osier Station, make sure you stop by the gift shop for other fun mementos.
The railway is wheelchair accessible, you just have to let them know when you buy your ticket so they can plan accordingly. Depending on what times you choose and where you depart from, you can also choose between spending a whole day trip or just a half-day trip. You can depart from the Chama Depot at 500 Terrace Ave. Chama, NM 87520, Cumbres Depot at Highway 17 Mile Marker 330.67 Cumbres, CO, or the Antonito Depot at 5234 B Hwy 285 Antonito, CO 81120. There are also options if you want to plan a special event on the railway, with customized menus, amenities, and catering. For more information, check out cumbrestoltec.com or call at 1-888-286-2737.
Have you ever ridden the steam train on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad? Share your experience with us on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!
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