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Nothing against autumnal car rides or hikes, but leaf-peeping deserves your full, undivided attention. This year, keep your eyes on Colorado’s colorful fall foliage—not oncoming traffic or the rock-strewn trail beneath your feet—during one of these five train rides.
The Journey: One-way options from Denver to Moab, Utah (or vice versa)
From the moment you board at Union Station, the staff of the new-in-August Rocky Mountaineer will treat you like a Vanderbilt. First, you’ll chug alongside the Colorado River, its banks lined with golden leaves, toward Glenwood Springs, where you’ll overnight in a partner hotel, such as Hotel Colorado. On day two, the forest gives way to tawny-hued canyons and thin rock spires called hoodoos. Don’t pack a lunch: Hosts serve multicourse meals—like rosemary-crusted pork loin—and describe the sights, like the 6.2-mile Moffat Tunnel, outside your panorama-windowed passenger car. From $1,375
The Journey: One-way (with motor shuttle options) and out-and-back routes between Antonito and Chama, New Mexico, or to the turnaround at Osier Station restaurant
This National Historic Landmark’s vintage cars have long lured Hollywood: The coal-colored engines appeared in Wyatt Earp and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Full- and half-day rides offer you cinematic scenes, too, including a peek down the 800-foot walls of the Toltec Gorge as the train inches along its rim. Snag a glare-free photo of the changing foliage from the open-air gondola car. From $135 per adult, $80 per child
The Journey: Out-and-back from Leadville
Visitors ascend about 700 feet into the reds, oranges, and yellows of the aspen-covered upper Arkansas River Valley at a leisurely 10 miles per hour—slow enough for an Instagram-worthy snap-fest on the 2.5-hour trip. Insider tip: At the depot, choose a seat facing town so you’ll be looking toward the valley, rather than turning your head, as you descend. From $50 per adult, $25 per child ages four to 12
The Journey: Out-and-back from Cripple Creek
The still-active Cripple Creek & Victor Mine is considered the richest in Colorado history—and you’ll steam right up to it on this 45-minute, four-mile trip. Look for wild donkeys, descendants of the hard-working burros that hauled pay dirt out of the tunnels more than 100 years ago. Littles will love the locomotives’ cheerful color schemes, reminiscent of Thomas the Tank Engine and his vibrant cartoon train friends, and get a kick out of the engineer’s long-standing tradition of blowing the whistle in the aptly named Echo Valley. $17 per adult, $12 per child ages three to 12
The Journey: Out-and-back from Cañon City
With rugged canyon walls rising 1,000-plus feet overhead, this Arkansas River–adjacent route is a geologic and historical marvel: Two railroad companies skirmished in the 1870s to claim right of passage through the Royal Gorge to Leadville’s silver mines. Modern-day train operators spin tales of those times while you enjoy a scratch-made meal with ingredients largely sourced from Colorado (such as brioche from Denver’s Harvest Moon Baking Company and chicken raised at Red Bird Farms in Englewood) during the 1.5-to-2.5-hour ride. For Oktoberfest-inspired entrées and beers, choose the 12:30 or 3:30 p.m. departure between September 8 and October 21. From $79 per adult, $74 per child