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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)
Give One Year of 5280 for just $16.
From the moment you board the Rocky Mountaineer in the Mile High City, you’ll be treated like a Vanderbilt. First, you’ll wind west through the Front Range peaks before the tracks sidle up next to the Colorado River, its banks lined with golden leaves, on your way to Glenwood Springs. There, sneak away for a relaxing soak in the mineral pools before tucking yourself into a cozy, king-size bed at a partner hotel. 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 lemon and herb roasted chicken breast with peach demi-glace—and describe the sights, like the 6.2-mile Moffat Tunnel, outside your panorama-windowed passenger car. From $1,456
The Journey: Choose from All Aboard full excursions (includes a required bus ride) between Antonito and Chama, New Mexico; out-and-back Half Limited routes to the turnaround at Osier Station; and quicker four-hour Express Trips if you’re time-limited
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 $54 per adult, $32 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. Book your leaf-peeping expedition early, as this locomotive only runs through October 8. $19 per adult, $17 per senior over 65, $14 per child ages three to 12, free for children under three
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, 3:30, or 6:30 p.m. departure between September 9 and October 21. From $89 per adult, $84 per child