During Colorado’s warmer months, a scenic train ride is one of the most laid-back ways to experience the splendor of the Rocky Mountains. Relax, enjoy the views, and leave your worries at the ticket office. When winter descends, many of these trains shut down, but three continue operating through the holidays, offering a unique family experience, whether it’s to meet Santa or just take in the views of snow-capped peaks. Check out these 3 holiday-themed train rides sure to transport you and your family to Santa’s magical North Pole just in time for Christmas.
1. The Polar Express, Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
This train runs through the heart of the San Juan Mountains, also known as the “American Alps,” from Durango to the isolated mountain hamlet of Silverton. Its most popular event of the years is the Polar Express, named for the story of a child’s Christmas Eve excursion. Enjoy a reading of the story as the train approaches “The North Pole,” where Santa and his elves hop on board. On the ride back to Durango, Santa goes car-to-car, leading riders in Christmas carols and giving gifts to the kids. Just don’t let him distract you too much from the mountain scenery. For more information, visit durangotrain.com.
2. Santa Train and Lighted Forest, Georgetown Loop Railroad
This train runs between Georgetown and Silver Plume in the foothills west of Denver with two different options. During daylight hours, take Santa’s North Pole Adventure. There are free cookies and hot cocoa at the depot and Santa rides the train, handing out holiday bells to the kids. At night, experience Santa’s Lighted Forest. Enjoy free cookies and hot cocoa and meet Santa before the train embarks on a journey through a forest covered with holiday lights. You can make either trip even more special by booking the Presidential Service in the Waldorf Parlor Car, which offers a Victorian Christmas experience with special snacks and drinks, authentic decorations, costumes, and a free ornament for each family. For more information, visit georgetownlooprr.com.
3. The Santa Express Train, Royal Gorge Route Railroad
This train will take you from Cañon City, through the wondrous Royal Gorge to Santa’s workshop at another “North Pole. ” Wear your pajamas, sing along to Christmas carols, and enjoy cookies and hot cocoa as the train makes its way through the Gorge. Once there, Santa comes on-board to pass out a special holiday bell to each child. More than 20,000 people ride this train each year, so book in advance. For more information, visit royalgorgeroute.com/santa-express-train.
More Winter Train Rides
Most winters, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway runs throughout the winter, with kid-friendly excursions to meet Santa high on Pikes Peak. But the train has suspended service for the winter of 2017-18 to focus on track improvements, so check back next year to find out how to take part in this unforgettable experience.
Starting January 5, 2018, Amtrak will begin operating the Winter Park Ski Train, which takes passengers from Denver’s Union Station right to the slopes at the ski area. The train only runs on weekends and is often sold out, but if you’ve ever had to fight Interstate 70 traffic and then braved Berthoud Pass to get to Winter Park, it will seem like a ski dream come true.