There are several excursion trains and scenic railroads running in Colorado. Nearly all of them run on privately-owned track through some very scenic countryside.

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad runs on an old narrow-gauge line along the Animas River and through the San Juan Mountains between Durango and Silverton in southwestern Colorado. This is probably the most famous of the excursion routes in America. 877-872-4607.

The Cumbres & Toltec Railroad also runs on narrow-gauge tracks through the South San Juans: really spectacular countryside that can't be seen any other way (unless you want to hike it). This line runs from Chama, New Mexico to Antonito, Colorado, crossing the state line several times. 888-286-2737.

The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad is on regular-gauge track between Alamosa and La Veta with an extension that runs south from Alamosa to Antonito, where it meets up with the Cumbres & Toltec. I hear rumors of another extension being put together that will run from Alamosa to South Fork and then north to Creede but it's not running yet (2009). 877-726-7245.

The Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad offers another short but beautiful trip through the high alpine countryside between Leadville and Climax. This was originally one of the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railway routes paralleling the headwaters of the Upper Arkansas River, built back in the 1890's when Leadville was one of the West's wildest, roughest and richest silver-mining camps. This is a 23-mile, 2.5 hour round trip on the High Line, leaving Leadville (at 10,152 feet in elevation) and climbing steadily to the summit of Fremont Pass (11,318 feet in elevation). There's no turn-around along the way so the train leaves Leadville caboose first and returns engine first. At one point along the way, the train negotiates a 20-degree curve: in 900 feet it effects a 180-degree turn where the engineer in the locomotive can see the folks riding in the caboose. This is an incredible ride that includes precipitous drop-offs, scree fields, sheer rock walls and classic mountain railroad engineering. The views are simply spectacular. There are 2 trips per day from mid-May to early October. 866-386-3936.

Royal Gorge Line
Cañon City Station of the Royal Gorge Route

The Royal Gorge Route Railroad runs on regular-gauge track out of Cañon City through the bottom of the Royal Gorge: more truly spectacular countryside along the Arkansas River. The trip takes about 2 hours (3 hours for dinner trains) and covers about 24 miles, travelling directly through the Royal Gorge and over the famous Hanging Bridge. The train makes 4 trips a day, the 7 PM one being the dinner, murder mystery and winemaker's dinner runs. 888-724-5748.

The Georgetown Loop Railroad runs through the high country mining district between the silver-boom mining towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume. The Railroad is part of the Georgetown Loop Historic Mining and Railroad Park, a property of the Colorado Historic Society. The original 3-foot narrow gauge railroad was completed in 1884 and was an engineering marvel of its time. Georgetown and Silver Plume are only 2 miles apart in a steep, narrow canyon but the 640-foot difference in elevation required the railroad's builders to design a "corkscrew" route that travelled 3.1 miles between the 2 towns. The route includes horseshoe curves, grades up to 4% and 4 bridges across Clear Creek, one of them being a replica (built in 1984) of the original massive Devil's Gate High Bridge. Colorado & Southern Railway steam locomotive #9, built in 1884, was restored in 2006 and now runs the line on daily trips. A round trip runs about 7 miles and takes about 1 hour, 15 minutes. There is an optional tour of the Lebanon Silver Mine in the middle of the ride that may take another 1 hour, 15 minutes (the mine is accessible only via the train and you'll need to buy a combination train and mine ticket to take the tour). 888-456-6777.

The Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad runs a 4-mile round trip every 45 minutes from mid-May through mid-October. The locomotive is a 15-ton iron house (steam locomotive) and leads the train across the colorful and historic gold-mining district that once made Cripple Creek a city of 50,000 people. 719-689-2640.

Durango and Silverton Scenic Railroad
The Durango & Silverton Scenic Railroad
Cumbres and Toltec station in Chama, NM
The Cumbres & Toltec station in Chama, NM
Cumbres and Toltec engine
Cumbres & Toltec engine in Antonito, CO