The Cumbres-Toltec Scenic Railroad

 

The Cumbres-Toltec Scenic Railroad is approximately 64 miles of one of the most enthralling train rides you will ever experience in the U.S.  This ride has it all from narrow ledges, deep canyons, stunning scenery of aspen groves, rolling hills and an abundance of wildlife.

The railroad is the highest and longest narrow gauge steam railroad in the states (10,000 feet at its highest point) at Cumbres Pass with a fascinating history from its beginning in 1880.  Most of the rail bed has been dismantled except the scenic portions.  The railroad has also served as a backdrop for many Hollywood movies.

 

We opted for the full day trip which started out at Chama, New Mexico and ended in Antonito, Colorado. Open gondola for me, I wanted to see everything! Just in the first few miles you are already experiencing the steep grade up passing over two different trestles. Cascade is the highest at 137 ft. as you gaze down valley slopes and rivers. The route takes us through the Rio Grande and Carson National Forests.

 

 

The scenery changes as frequently as the track direction with its many curves and loops.  Many of the buildings and the few houses you see along the way are original.  Our midway stop is Osier, where we are provided with a hearty buffet lunch and buttermilk pie.

 

On our second half of this incredible journey, we pass through the small town of Sublette. Although abandoned, it still provides water for the steam locomotives. We continue on from Sublette  working our way through the 800-foot Toltec Gorge through canyons so narrow and rocky, you can almost reach out and touch the walls.

It took my breath away and I think it was definitely a highlight for me on the trip.  The closer we approached Antonito, we observed elk, bald eagles and peaks of the Rocky Mountains.

 

As we depart Antonito, I realized this trip was not over yet. The motor coach ride back to Chama will take us through the scenic Los Caminos Antiguos By-way and more beautiful views of the San Luis Valley.  This will positively be on my do again list!

TIP: This is a no frills train ride with a small concession on board. You can pick up the train at either town with a motor coach return or opt for the half day trip.

Please visit their website for schedule and fees @ http://cumbrestoltec.com.

 

 

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72 comments

  1. Have never equated USA with great train journeys and this post right here tells me something new! Would love to do this. Thanks for such a detailed description and the link to the booking site.

  2. WHOA!!! I didn’t know something like this existed in the USA! Absolutely AMAZING!!!! Will definitely be adding this to my USA road trip itinerary. I have yet to explore the American southwest so it would be a great way to cover the most ground. Thanks for sharing!

  3. This sounds like a really nice train journey and so cool that you can have the open gondola and see everything. Your photos of the landscapes are wonderful and I can bet passing through the narrow canyons was heaps of fun. Another interesting new place in the US.

  4. Sounds like a epic journey! I’ve never heard of this before but I’m really tempted now. Hoping to do some USA road trips soon, best add a train 🚂 journey too!

  5. Wow, Lisa! This looks incredible! Definitely something I would like to do some day. The sheer drop offs are crazy and the mountains/rocks look beautiful! I have a thing for abandoned villages too, that would be interesting to see! Thanks for sharing!

  6. As a complete train journey lover this looks fantastic!!! I want to do this trip! The scenery is stunning! when we do our epic trip around the states by train this is going in there! (No idea when but we will do it at some point!)

  7. I have always enjoyed trains as a way to get around and see the country. I think the cumbres toltec railroad would be a perfect way to explore some of America’s history! I especially like that you pass through an abandoned town. My only problem would be that I want to stop everywhere for photos haha

  8. Wow, the scenery is gorgeous!! I would love to travel through the US someday, so I will definitely have to keep this in mind. I love traveling by train, especially if it passes through such amazing landscapes. I love how old-timey the train looks too!

  9. So great. We had quite a few train rides this past summer in Switzerland and now are always looking for more around the world that are equally exciting. This is so Americana in its feel and the views are spectacular with the canyons and the wild west frontier open lands. I bet it’s like being in a western movie.

  10. I have never seen such astonishing views on a train ride! Granted most of the trains I’ve been on were bullet trains in Japan or the rickety ones from St. Louis to Chicago for an extended weekend. I can honestly say that I could sit on this train ride for hours if I had such beauty to gaze upon. Thank you for the recommendation!

  11. Wow, I love this! Train travel is my favourite as it provides plenty of opportunities to see the scenery and also read a good book! This is what I imagined the “frontier” to have looked like over a 100 years ago – no wonder this was used in movies! Thanks for sharing!

  12. OMGosh Lisa, I really want to do this!! We’ve always talked about doing a train trip through stunning scenery and this looks incredible!! Thanks for sharing! definately pinning this one!

  13. What a fantastic way to see the countryside and an awesome day out! I love the idea of an open gondola you can feel the breeze on your face and smell the fresh air which can only add to the enjoyment. The photo of the rocky mountains is stunning and how amazing that you got to see bald eagle and elk – icy on the cake that is! Thank you for taking us along with you on your journey. #feetdotravel

  14. What an awesome train ride. Looks fun and the information you provided was great. Love the photos! Amazing how the landscape changes frequently and how fun to ride in the open car. I will definitely pin this for when I do my cross country trip. Thanks for sharing 🙂 #feetdotravel

    1. Hi Elena…If you love train rides then you will positively love this one. Changing landscapes, history, and wildlife.. it has it all!

  15. Would love to experience this someday! I love train rides. We’re on the east coast and last year went to Strasburg in PA to see the railroad museum and ride the train. Fun time.

  16. What an awesome way to see the land and not drive yourself off the road! We love train rides for the relaxing and novelty factors. Thank you for giving us an awesome idea for our next trip through the SW!

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