The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad are some of the most scenic train rides in America. The train ride takes passengers on a 64-mile long day trip from Chama in New Mexico to Antonito in Colorado. Interestingly, the railroad’s name is from two geological features along the route, the 10,022-foot high Cumbres Pass in the San Juan Mountains and the Toltec Gorge.
The railroad was originally a part of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad’s narrow gauge network and was jointly owned by Colorado and New Mexico. It was originally built to support mining operations in the San Juan Mountains. Today tourist trains operating mainly in the summer months, with special trains in winter.
Hop on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad
Once aboard the train at the Chama, the journey begins, pulled by a powerful steam engine. The train chugs through pristine canyons and then up a steep incline into the San Juan Mountains. Views include the grasslands of historic Lobato sheep ranch and Wolf Creek, where passengers often catch a glimpse of deer, elk, and an occasional bear.
The train moves into steeper plains, and a look back helps you soak in the entire Chama Valley. Soon the train starts pulling into the Cumbres Pass, hugging the rock face as it reaches the 10,000-foot high summit. The train moves along many of the original buildings along the route. At the top of the Cumbres Pass is the historic Cumbres Section House.
Mid-Journey Lunch Stop
Moving on, the train passes Tanglefoot Curve, traversing a tight loop where the trees are sparse, but the views of the mountains are indeed amazing. The train then crosses the Cascade Creek Trestle and into Osier, Colorado. This is the midway point on the journey as well as the lunch stop. Included with the day trip ticket price is a lunch buffet served at Osier Station.
Explore the magnificent Toltec Gorge
After leaving Osier, the train heads towards the Toltec Gorge and passes through two long tunnels, the Mud Tunnel and Rock. Once through the tunnels, stunning views await you as the train heads to the end of the line Antonito Colorado. The return trip back to Cumbres, New Mexico, is by motorcoach. Passengers can take the day trip tour from either Antonito or Cumbres. Both Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad trips leave at 8:30 am and return around4:00 pm.
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad Half-day Trips
For a shorter adventure aboard the railroad, opt for the half-day trips that include lunch. You may opt for the Cinder Bear Experience designed especially for families with kids and runs in July and August on select dates. If you have limited time, opt for the Cumbres Express, a half-day trip from Chama to Cumbres Pass, with a return to Chama by motorcoach.
Special trains offer evening departures with fun, live entertainment, and dinner onboard the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. Special events like the 4th of July Dinner Train, Sunset Dinner Train with a tribute to John Denver, Sunset Dinner Train with Mariachis Azteca are popular. You can also try the themed train rides focusing on the geology and botany of the area, or during Winter, hop on board the Santa Train ride for some special Christmas fun!
Getting To Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad
Chama, New Mexico, is a three-hour, 160-mile drive from Albuquerque. There are several hotels in the small town of Chama, along with camping and RV options. Dining options are limited, but there are more than enough eateries for an overnight stay—railroad Website.