I am an ordinary guy who enjoys riding motorcycles. I love riding all makes and models. I love short rides, long rides, and multi-day road trips. I post reviews about motorcycle gear, motorcycles, roads, restaurants, sights, gadgets and more. The Motorcycle Facts,Trivia and History page has a lot of good info. Be safe and enjoy the ride, Oz.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Two Wheels to Train Tracks


Riding in the Colorado Rockies, July 2023

Riding in the Rocky Mountains is always a great experience.  Each mountain town has something fun, unique, historic, beautiful or a combination.  Durango sits on a portion of US Hwy 550 known as The Million Dollar Highway.  This road is deservedly on many lists of great roads to ride.  I have ridden it several times and enjoy the ride each time.  However, I have not always taken the time to stop and enjoy various towns, sites, attractions and experiences that are available along the way.

My 2023 Beat The Heat (BTH) tour was based out of Durango and we had five great days of riding and enjoying the breathtaking views, the unique and at times quirky mountain towns in Southwest Colorado.  Over the years I had ridden through Durgango several times but had not made time to experience the Durango - Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, well in July 2023 that changed.

The crew is preparing the train for the day's trip.

The Durango - Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has a rich history having arrived in Durango in 1881.  Transporting both people and freight the train was very busy. Over time it is estimated the rail hauled over $300 million in precious metals through the years.  The train is a registered as a National Historic Landmark and Hollywood has used the trains while filming various movies including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Today the train is a popular attraction and provides year-round rides.  Several differnt rides/experiences are offered, all using original locomotives and cars.

Hollywood used the train in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

We decided on the excursion day of the BTH 2023 we were going to ride the train.  The most famous option is the ride to Silverton and back, but that is a 3.5 hour each way ride with a two hour layover in Silverton.  We were riding the motorcycles through Silverton the next day so we opted for the Cascade Canyon ride. 

The gondola allowed us to experience the ride in the fresh mountain air

The BTH group reserved seats in one of the gondolas (roof and seats but open sides) going to Cascade Canyon.  This would be a 2.5 hour ride to Cascade Canyon with a one hour lunch time stop and then the ride back to the station.  We packed our own "brown bag" lunches for the day; however, an option to order a lunch in advance is provided, as well as a concession car is available during the ride.

There are several engines and cars with rich history

We arrived early so we could view the trains, checkout the gift store and some went to the free museum. Parking was easy, but in July there are a lot of people on vacation in Durango.  The staff did a great job of greeting everyone and when time for departure, ensuring we all loaded in a timely member. 

With a tradition long whistle from the steam engine the train pulled out of the station.  The tracks run almost parallel to CO 550 aka the Million Dollar Highway and along side the Animas River for about 16 miles.  It continues to run near the river and rises in elevation through scenic San Juan National Forest in the La Plata Mountain Range.

Our train winding up the canyon

Running along the Animas River the views were breathtaking


The train ride meanders through the forest and rises to 8,500+ feet in elevation.  The train stops in Cascade Canyon allowing riders an hour to explore, eat lunch, relax, play in the river... before the designated whistle signals it's time to board for the ride back to Durango.  

We enjoyed lunch a walk around Cascade Canyon

View from Cascade Canyon

Although the trip back to Durango is on the same tracks you get a different view of the mountains, canyon and river.  Of course the angle of the sun illuminates and shadows different areas making the views different.  

The Animas River carves through the canyon

The train left the station approximately at 9:45am and we arrived back at the station about 3:00pm leaving us time to walk to Cream Bean Berry for some great ice cream!

There is always time for ice cream

When you are riding in southwest Colorado take some time and enjoy a relaxing and scenic ride on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Train.  I bet the the fall or winter train ride would be awesome.

Leave a comment below of your favorite Rocky Mountain town, sight or attraction.

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  1. Thanks for taking us along Oz, I've never taken the train there and imagined the views afforded to passengers!

    1. It was a fun ride. Kind of surprised you and Martha have never ridden it. Have you ridden the one out of Georgetown?

  2. Yes, we've ridden the Georgetown train. Someday perhaps....