Colorado is famous for its ski areas, but its history was formed during the mining era of the 1800s. At first, skiing and horseback were the only modes of transportation. The arrival of the railroad put Colorado on the map. These narrow gauge trains carried people and goods to and from the mining towns, lumber towns and farmlands of Colorado. "Narrow gauge" refers to the three-foot distance inside the track rails. This type of transport was suitable for the narrow, winding trails of the Rocky Mountains. You can explore this important period of history by taking the train tours offered by various Colorado counties.
Georgetown Loop Railroad
Outdoor enthusiasts associate Georgetown with the Loveland ski area, which is famous for its early October opening. Georgetown also is home to the Georgetown Loop Railroad, which was completed in 1884. The train connected Georgetown to Silver Plume. These silver mining towns are two miles apart. They are located in a steep and narrow mountain canyon, which required the railroad's builders to design a "corkscrew" route that traveled twice the distance. The train slowly gained more than 600 feet in elevation. The train is now open as a tourist attraction between May and October. You can take the 75-minute train ride or extend the trip to 90 minutes by adding a mining tour.
P.O. Box 249
Georgetown, CO 80444
Rio Grande Scenic Railroad
The narrow gauge rail of Alamosa, Colo., was completed on June 22, 1878. After its establishment, a train carrying pre-built buildings from nearby Garland City arrived in town and put the buildings into place. The entire operation took one day. Today, visitors can enjoy a scenic ride between Alamosa and LaVeta. In addition to its regular train rides, the Rio Grande scenic railroad offers specialty tours such as a Charles Dickens train and a Winter Wonderland ride.
The Rio Grande Railway recently became the hero for skiers and snowboarders by purchasing the defunct Winter Park ski train. Winter sport enthusiasts can now take the train from Denver to the Winter Park resort.
601 State Ave.
Alamosa, CO 81101
Pikes Peak Cog Railroad
The Pikes Peak Cog Railroad was completed in 1891. Today visitors can take the historic train ride, which ascends 14,110 feet. The 8.9-mile train passes cascading streams and aspen and pine forests. As you travel along the route, you begin to understand why Pikes Peak inspired Katherine Lee Bates to write "America the Beautiful."
The Pikes Peak Cog Railroad offers a sweet deal for hikers and bikers. You have the option of taking the train to the summit and hiking or biking down, or hiking or biking up the summit and taking the train down to the depot.
Manitou & Pike's Peak Railway Co.
PO Box 351 / 515 Ruxton Ave.
Manitou Springs, CO 80829
(719) 685 - 5401
Article Written By Lisa Mercer
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.