The historic Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad takes passengers on a spectacular 45-mile (72-kilometer) journey through the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, connecting the two towns for which the railroad is named. The steam-powered locomotive is a vintage—though comfortable—train that makes you feel like you’re traveling back in time. It also provides access to extraordinary wilderness scenery and mountainous areas of Colorado that you can’t get to by car.
The Narrow Gauge Railroad was originally constructed in 1882 to haul gold and silver ore between the mining town of Silverton and the railroad-built town of Durango. Today, out of the train windows, you will see some of America’s best canyon views as well as former stagecoach lines and mining camps. Local wildlife including deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and even the occasional black bear, often make an appearance. Train tracks line the beautiful Animas River, which can be an added visit for a scenic railroad and rafting trip. You can do a 9-hour round-trip train tour, which stops in Silverton for lunch, though many visitors opt for the Skyway Tour to ride the train one way and catch a bus tour the other way for a different perspective of the mountains. Standard, deluxe, first- class, and presidential- class train tickets are available. All are best booked in advance.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Tours depart from either Durango or Silverton. The train ride takes around 3.5 hours one way, while the bus ride is much shorter.
- There is one wheelchair-accessible car on the train.
- Pro tip: Hand-pick your seats in advance to ensure you’re on the side of the train with the best views.
How to Get There
Durango and SiIverton are in southwest Colorado, about a 6-hour drive from Denver. Durango is near the Four Corners, where the borders of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico meet. There is a small airport in Durango as well.
When to Get There
The train runs year-round but has some route changes based on the season. There are also themed rides throughout the year, such as the Polar Express or Full Moon Ghost Crawl. Sunshine covers the area around 300 days a year, but check local weather before planning your journey.
Off the Rails and onto the Trails
Another way to experience the mountainous landscape around the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is by 4x4 tour. With waterfalls, rugged peaks, and quiet trails to discover, you’ll see even more of the San Juan National Forest this way. If you’re sticking to the train, the 5-hour journey to Cascade Canyon is another great way to get off the beaten path (trains run November to May).