Colorado by Train
September 2019 • 11 Days • Price TBA
Five heritage train journeys are the centerpiece of this Adventure, the most impressive starting across the New Mexico border and topping out at over 10,000 feet above sea level.
Now accepting Early Bird deposits on this potential 2019 tour! If 25 Early Birds are received for this departure, we’ll add it to our official 2019 Schedule. An Early Bird is a $50 deposit that holds your spot during the planning stages of a trip, when we don’t have a set itinerary or dates. Early Birds are always refundable!
Following the rousing success of our past Colorado by Train Adventures, we have been eager to get back to the radiant Rockies. We are now pleased to offer a fourth rendition of this outstanding itinerary, which includes a high quality combination of great walks, vintage train rides, and spectacular scenic driving through the awesome alpine panoramas of Colorado! Starting and finishing in Denver, this 11-day program uses a combination of a motorcoach and five vintage trains to work our way through the “Centennial State” amongst a smorgasbord of some of the country’s most scenic settings! You can look forward to:
- savoring the spectacular sites of Ouray (the “Switzerland of America”), with its inviting hot springs, cascading waterfalls, Victorian homes, and thrilling mountain jeep rides;
- appreciating the dramatic role mining and the “boom or bust” cycle played in 19th century towns like Silverton and Georgetown;
- enjoying the flavor of the Old West with stops and overnights in a variety of small, nostalgic Colorado towns;
- pondering the way of life of indigenous peoples as we wonder at the pueblos built into the cliffs at Mesa Verde National Park, and;
- immersing ourselves in almost non-stop Rocky Mountain panoramas, from the splendor of the 14ers (peaks higher than 14,000 feet), to the depths of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, to the towering waves of sand at Great Sand Dunes National Park.
This is a draft itinerary. Revisions will be made, and an updated itinerary with dates and pricing will be made available!
- All land travel as outlined
- Tourist-class or better hotel accommodations
- 13 meals: all breakfasts, 1 lunch, and 2 dinners as listed (BLD)
- 6 walks
- Fees for walking credit (if AVA approved)
- WAI guide service throughout (2 guides)
- All tipping for local guides, coach drivers, and group meals
- Pricing is based on double occupancy. A limited number of single rooms are available for a supplement.
Activities & Entrance Fees:
- Georgetown Loop Railroad and Lebanon Silver Mine Tour
- Hotel de Paris visit in Georgetown
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
- Ouray Museum
- Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
- Mesa Verde National Park
- Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
- Great Sand Dunes National Park
- Royal Gorge Route Railroad
- More fun stops than we can list!
- Downtown Denver Highlights Excursion & Walk (Day 1)
- Rocky Mountains Jeep Tour (Day 4)
- Pikes Peak Cog Railway (Day 10)
“I loved that some more challenging walks were included, e.g. Petroglyph Trail. It seemed to me that there was an activity for every level of walker so that all were able to comfortably enjoy each day.”
-Steve & Judy M; Encinitas, CA
“Scott and Pat gave us lots of good information. Both were exceptional—friendly, and you felt relaxed with their guiding…All railroads were good but Cumbres & Toltec and Royal Gorge were splendid.”
-Lois S; Port Orange, FL
“This trip exceeded my expectations. It was planned well. Scott did a great job of keeping us informed every step of the way of what is on the schedule. Pat’s geo lessons were fun and informative. Both of them made my first experience w/WAI the best trip I have ever had.”
-Betty P; Silver Spring, MD
“We really enjoy the camaraderie that develops among the group, including the guides…We like the walks and activities which engage us in the areas that are featured on the tour. We are impressed with the research and thorough planning for the tours we’ve been on, as well as the personable guides who seem to give each group member thoughtful attention.”
-Carole G; Pendleton, OR
“The participants are all active people. ‘Educational’ aspects of tour are a highlight.”
-Don G; Pendleton, OR
“When you find the ‘BEST’— you forget about the rest…Us ‘2’ have been so pleased to have Scott and Pat as our Tour Guides. They were OUTSTANDING. Hope to travel with them again.”
-Joan C; ON, Canada
“I was pleasantly surprised by the ‘family atmosphere’ of the tour and how inclusive it was—this was a super group to travel with and get to know…Scott and Pat—excellent guides—you can tell they enjoy doing this…Fabulous scenery and great train rides—the attention to detail was really appreciated—enjoyed the geology talks along the way.”
-Mary W; AB, Canada
“Scott and Pat were excellent! Lots of info and stories. Geology lessons from Pat an added bonus…This was our first WAI tour and we are impressed…Hard to improve on excellence. Would do a tour again with either one (WAI guides) in a heartbeat!”
-Doug W; AB, Canada
“From the WAI office staff to the guides we are always treated like we are a friend and not a customer. We feel safe on the tours…We are always amazed after 13 adventures with WAI how we get much more than we expect. This is the main reason we continue to travel with WAI.”
-Bill & Linda H; Pasadena, MD
“This was my first tour and I was very impressed with the guides. Everything ran like clockwork.”
-Nancy H; Cedar Falls, IA
“We were much impressed with Scott’s attention to details and presentation to the travelers. Most congenial. Very experienced and knowledgeable and worked well with Pat…The scenery was spectacular. The trains were on time. A wonderful opportunity to have another rich, meaningful experience with WAI. Many thanks.”
-Don C; ON, Canada
“I have found WAI tours to be of the highest quality and I feel that the WAI personnel value my friendship as much as I value theirs.”
-Bob S; Portland, OR
“Information received on history of the area along with little known facts was well done. Enjoyed hearing stories about famous characters and incidents of the region…The Chama to Antonito train trip was wonderful. The aspen trees were absolutely gorgeous. I have never seen such a brilliant yellow color! Great Sand Dunes awesome. Story teller Leon was excellent.”
-Helen S; Portland, OR
“The Colorado trains were a big attraction for me – the rides were spectacular, beautiful scenery and it was fun to learn ‘whistle speak…’ The highlights were the train rides; meeting new people and the beautiful sites… This was a fun, challenging and surprising trip. Great guides!!!!!”
-Jennie D; Olympia, WA
“Loved all the walks, always felt safe and well guided. Scott prepared us well and told us what to wear and expect.”
-Jackie L; San Antonio, TX
“The quality of the itinerary, the quality of the WAI guides, the adventuresome, convivial nature of the other walkers in the group – we always make new friends, and reconnect with old friends from previous tours.”
-Mike N; Seattle, WA
“Expectations were exceeded. We found all of our fellow travelers very friendly and free to spend time talking with us… A nice variety of walks in different areas of Colorado and all the train journeys complemented the walks.”
-Pat and Richard S; Buckingham, England
This is a draft itinerary. Revisions will be made, and an updated itinerary with dates and pricing will be made available!
Click on each day for more details.
Day 1: Arrive Denver, Colorado
Our vintage train Adventure through the celebrated Rocky Mountain vistas of Colorado begins today in Denver. Travelers arrive throughout the day. Our first official activity is the Welcome Orientation this evening at 7:30 pm at our hotel. Please plan to arrive in time to attend this important Adventure kick-off!
For those who arrive into Denver a day early, an optional Downtown Denver Highlights Excursion and Walk are available. This delightful all-day exploration of the Mile High City includes round-trip transport to downtown Denver, walk credit, and guide services. Price TBA
Day 2: Denver – Carbondale (B)
TRAIN #1: Georgetown Loop Railroad
We head west into the Rockies today on scenic Interstate 70, bound for the tiny town of Silver Plume and our first vintage train experience. The Georgetown Loop Railroad was built in the 1880s to connect the gold and silver boom towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume. The “loop” covers 3 miles of narrow gauge track with an elevation gain of 640 feet, requiring a series of trestles, cuts, and loops. We disembark for a walking tour of the historic Lebanon Silver Mine at the halfway point. After lunch on our own in Victorian-styled Georgetown (8,512 fasl – feet above sea level), we soak up the wild west ambiance of Hotel de Paris, then continue over the continental divide through dramatic mountain scenery to the quiet little town of Carbondale.
Day 3: Carbondale – Ouray (BD)
Black Canyon of the Gunnison Walk – 8 km, rated 2D
The travel proverb claiming “the journey is the destination” certainly applies to this Adventure, and today’s journey takes us south along the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway. The afternoon is devoted to exploring Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park with a scenic drive and walk. Unmatched for its combination of narrowness and depth – as deep as 2,700 feet and as narrow at the top as 1,200 feet – Black Canyon of the Gunnison trails include Warner Point Nature Trail and the Rim Rock Trail (8,300 fasl), offering spectacular views from Painted Wall and Chasm Wall. We conclude our day with a historic saloon dinner on the first of two nights in the delightful mountain community of Ouray, known as the “Switzerland of America!”
Day 4: Activities from Ouray (B)
Rocky Mountain Mining Towns Walk – 8.5 km, rated 2B
Nestled in the eye-popping San Juan Mountains, Ouray (7,811 fasl) warrants a full day to explore its lovely alpine surroundings. A morning walk around this charming, 19th century mining town blends Victorian-era homes, rushing waterfalls, and endless mountain panoramas, plus a likely bonus of colorful fall foliage.
After lunch on our own, consider an optional (and thrilling!) 4×4 jeep ride into the high alpine autumn wonderland above town. Price TBA
Or soak in the famous Ouray Hot Springs near our hotel before enjoying dinner on your own in this delightful destination.
Day 5: Ouray – Durango (B)
TRAIN #2: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
After a nostalgic morning visit to the well-appointed Ouray County Museum, we ascend the Million Dollar Highway, touted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) as “among the nation’s most spectacular automobile routes.” This jaw-dropping road leads to another mining Mecca – the aptly-named town of Silverton (9,305 fasl). Here, we board the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, built to transport gold and silver ore in the early 1880s. Mining gave way to tourism, however, and the magnificent vistas through which it is routed resulted in a steady stream of visitors through 128 years of continuous operation. We arrive in Durango (6,502 fasl) this evening for a two-night stay.
Day 6: Activities from Durango (B)
Mesa Verde National Park Walk – 10 km, rated 3D
Mesa Verde National Park is the only American national park dedicated specifically to human endeavors. Our multi-part walk in the park introduces us to the Pueblo Indians who first arrived in this area more than 1,000 years ago. The route also highlights the natural beauty of the park, exploring several of the impressive Pueblo cliff dwellings the park was established to protect.
Day 7: Durango – Monte Vista (BL)
TRAIN #3: Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
Following a recurring theme, the transport of silver ore from southwest Colorado’s San Juan Mountains was the objective for building the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad during the 1880s. Our third train journey follows a 64-mile narrow gauge line through the spectacular mountains and valleys of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. We board in Chama, New Mexico, travel as high as 10,015 feet above sea level, and ride, at one point, on rails fastened to a rock shelf carved from the face of a cliff. The train stops midway for a hot lunch before continuing to Antonito, our destination back on the Colorado side of the border. We spend the night in the small farming community of Monte Vista (7,663 fasl), enjoying dinner on our own near our unique lodging, which also doubles as a drive-in movie theater!
Day 8: Monte Vista – Cañon City (B)
Great Sand Dunes National Park Walk – (unsanctioned) 5 km, rated 2B
Great Sand Dunes National Park takes us into another world – 30 square miles of sand dunes rising to heights of nearly 700 feet! A short nature trail takes us up close to this phenomenal sea of sand surrounded by the Rockies, with an option to climb to the breathtaking summit of these surreal dunes. Following a picnic lunch on our own at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, we journey to Cañon City (5,332 fasl), the gateway to the Royal Gorge, and our home base for the evening.
Day 9: Cañon City – Manitou Springs (B)
Manitou Springs Walk – 10 km, rated 2A
TRAIN #4: Royal Gorge Route Railroad
Mining in the 1880s was again the motive for what became a railroad war between the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad and the Santa Fe Railroad. The two companies waged an ongoing struggle of litigation and armed confrontation for the right to build and operate a railroad through this deep river gorge. Sheer gorge walls over one thousand feet tall, in places, required that rails be suspended over the river for several hundred feet. Our seats are in the 1950s Vista Dome, the best way to take in the breathtaking views of the Royal Gorge. We arrive early afternoon into Manitou Springs (6,320 fasl). Faster walkers may have time to walk the local volkswalk; others may wish to just stroll the artsy charm of historic Manitou Springs.
Day 10: Activities from Manitou Springs (BD)
Garden of the Gods Walk – 8.5 km, rated 2C
TRAIN #5: Pikes Peak Cog Railway (Optional)
Our final walk regularly ranks high in the Top 10 voting for best Volkswalks in the country. At the base of Pikes Peak, this trail winds through the towering red sandstone monoliths of the Garden of the Gods.
Join us this afternoon to ride the highest cog railroad (the train’s turning “cog wheel” meshes into a special rail) in the world. In 1893, English professor Katherine Lee Bates was so impressed by the views that she penned the lines of what became one of our national treasures, “America the Beautiful.” Due to extreme elevations (we travel from 6,571 fasl to the summit of Pikes Peak at 14,110 fasl), this experience is provided on an optional basis. Price TBA
Those who opt out of this high altitude experience will enjoy free time in Manitou Springs, or may opt to participate in yesterday’s featured Manitou Springs walk from our hotel. We rendezvous this evening to reminisce about our journey at a Farewell Dinner.
Day 11: Depart Colorado (B)
Our Colorado by Train Adventure draws to a close today. Exploring the beauty of the Rockies is a delight. Combining the Rockies with travel on these wonderfully restored and maintained historic trains makes this experience unforgettable. Thanks for sharing this nostalgic connection with America’s past!
How do I lock in my place on this Adventure?
Call or mail in your refundable Early Bird ($50) to save your spot! A maximum of 30 travelers will be accepted on this Adventure.
Our travel savings program is being revised for 2019 trips – more details will be available soon!
Elevation in Colorado
Please bear in mind that the walks on this Adventure take place at elevations ranging from 5,000 feet above sea level to well over 8,000 feet above sea level. It is important to pursue any concerns you have about altitude with your doctor. As always, travelers are free to opt out of any activities. However, acclimation to these altitudes is an important aspect of a successful visit to the Colorado Rockies for most of us who live near sea level. As is the case with all of our Adventures, it is also important that you prepare for the fun by maintaining a good physical fitness routine.
How is airfare arranged?
The official start and finish point for the Colorado by Train Adventure is Denver, Colorado (airport code DEN). More details about flight arrangements and travel agent contact information will be made available after this tour has been finalized.
What about the walks?
We generally walk at a pace of 2 to 3 miles per hour. In most cases, we are not “strolling.” We are walking at a relaxed but steady pace. Your experience will be significantly affected by your level of physical fitness. If not walking regularly at home, we strongly recommend that you make a priority of “training” beforehand in order to both enjoy the trip and avoid medical issues due to overexertion. If you have questions about your ability to participate, please talk with our office at 1.800.779.0353.
We have adopted a walk difficulty rating system which contains a numeric indicator for trail incline and an alpha indicator for trail terrain. The explanation for this system is presented below.
1. Very small hills or very little stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: up to 200 feet.
2. Some moderate hills and stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 200-1000 feet.
3. Some significant hill or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 1000-2000 feet.
4. Lots of significant hills or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 2000-3500 feet.
5. Many steep hills. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: more than 3500 feet.
A. Almost entirely on pavement.
B. A significant part of the route is on well-groomed trails with very few obstacles.
C. A significant part of the route is on somewhat difficult terrain (rocky / rooted paths or soft sand).
D. A significant part of the route is on very difficult terrain.
E. The majority of the route is on very difficult terrain.
What happens next?
We are currently developing the itinerary for this Adventure. Once the itinerary is released, we will accept registration deposits ($500) to save space.
If you have Early Birded with a refundable $50 deposit, your spot on the tour will be held for 2 weeks after the itinerary is published while you make a decision on whether or not you’d like to register with an additional $450 deposit, bringing your total on the tour up to $500. If you decide not to join us for this tour, your Early Bird can be refunded or transferred to another tour.
The beauty of Colorado is inspirational! Its Old West ambiance and vintage train transport takes us back to a simpler time. And, as always, walking is the special ingredient for connecting with the intriguing history, culture, and scenery of this Rocky Mountain state! Join us as we savor Colorado by Train together!