Prepare to be transported across space and time with a ride on the West’s many scenic railroad attractions. As your group chugs along through the mountains of Colorado or across the valleys of the Southwest, travelers will look out the window to see the varied landscapes of the West as they enjoy cultural programming, historical presentations about the region or train itself, and behind-the-scenes looks at the bygone era of rail travel.

If your group is traveling through Colorado, consider including one of the state’s many scenic train rides in your next itinerary. At 64 miles in length, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is “the longest, highest, and most authentic steam railroad in North America.” Depart from Antonito, Colorado, or Chama, New Mexico, and experience the best of both states’ scenery as the train crosses the state borders 11 times and passes through canyons, forests, and tunnels. Relive the “Golden Age” of rail travel with a ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. This train excursion is a National Historic Landmark, and the experience aims to re-create an authentic ride on the rails circa 1882. Ride through San Juan National Forest and see the beautiful Animas River and the Rocky Mountains. Experience Canon City, Colorado’s Royal Gorge, like never before with the Royal Gorge Route Railroad. Offering first-class dining and service, the on-board experience is only topped by the breathtaking scenery. The route runs along the Arkansas River and between towering rock walls, and your group might even catch a glimpse of an elk or bighorn sheep. Rocky Mountaineer is a Canadian-owned railroad company that offers exceptional onboard service and a relaxing environment to take in the beauty of the West. Start your group’s two-day journey in the red rocks of Moab, Utah, before heading to Glenwood Springs and Denver, Colorado. Along the way, marvel at Ruby Canyon, Mount Garfield, Moffat Tunnel, and the Colorado River.

Narrow Gauge Railroad, Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad; Credit: Denise Chambers/Miles

Many train attractions include onboard entertainment and cultural programming so you can be immersed in the uniqueness of the region you’re riding through. Visit Lewiston in central Montana to board the Charlie Russell Chew Choo, which takes groups on a 56-mile roundtrip excursion through the heart of “Big Sky Country.” One of the most popular rides is the Montana Dinner Train, which includes a 4 1/2-hour train ride, full-course meal, live music, and Western-themed entertainment. Or, climb aboard the Sky Railway in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which offers train rides with flamenco dancing, sunset serenades, jazz performances, and much more as your group travels through the desert.

See some of the West’s most famous mountains via railcar. Travel to Pikes Peak, aka America’s Mountain, in style with a ride on The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway. The train climbs 14,115 feet in altitude to the top of the peak, where groups can disembark to enjoy sweeping 360-degree mountain views and explore the recently added Summit Visitor Center that offers dining services and interpretive visits that illustrate Pikes Peak’s unique geography and history. In Oregon, take a 3-mile train tour through the Columbia River Gorge near the base of Mount Hood. The attraction offers four different themed railroad experiences—Halloween Train, Christmas Train, Summer Train, and Easter Train—for a seasonal excursion. Just outside of Mount Rainier National Park, Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad offers an hour-long train ride through the lush forests of Washington state. Pulled by a 100-year-old steam engine and featuring an open-air car and two historic Pullman passenger coaches, this vintage train ride will transport groups.

By Katherine Lawless

Main Image: Rocky Mountaineer tour; Credit: Rocky Mountaineer