12 Day Colorado’s Scenic Rails
It was the Iron Horse that helped tame the Old West, bringing an entire continent together and leading to the historic expansion of the United States. Now you can relive the thrill and excitement of that historic era on our Colorado’s Scenic Vintage Railways Tour. Colorado is beautiful anytime of the year. Eagerly, we board our deluxe motorcoach traveling through Nashville, our state capital, on our way north into the Bluegrass State of Kentucky. We cross the Mississippi River before arriving at St. Louis, Missouri, our destination for the night. The majestic Gateway Arch towers above the city’s skyline.
We continue our journey westward today through the farmlands of Missouri stopping in the Kansas City area for lunch. After lunch we enter “The Sunflower State” of Kansas. Our next stop is the capital city of Topeka. We will make a photo stop at the Capitol Building and visit the First Presbyterian Church to view its sanctuary decorated extensively with Tiffany stained glass windows. The work represents America’s foremost designer of stained glass, Louis Comfort Tiffany. We continue to Salina, Kansas, for our next overnight.
Our Colorado adventure continues this morning as we depart Salina traveling through Kansas into the Centennial State of Colorado to Colorado Springs for a two night stay. Colorado Springs, dubbed Olympic City USA, is home to the United States Olympic Training Center and the headquarters of the United States Olympic Committee.
Colorado Springs is situated near the base of one of the most famous American mountains, Pikes Peak, rising over 8,000 feet above the city on the eastern edge of the Southern Rocky Mountains. This morning we will visit the Garden of the Gods—a 1,367-acre park at the base of Pikes Peak where the Great Plains meet the Rockies. It is like a little piece of heaven! You will be amazed by the abundance of plant and animallife here, as well as the magnificent red sandstone formations such asthe Kissing Camels and Balanced Rock. Some of the most spectacular views of Garden of the Gods Park are only accessible from the Visitor & Nature Center terrace—which spans the entire front of the building. This iconic perspective of Pikes Peak framed by the foothills and the red sandstone of the Park is simply breathtaking. This morning we will ride the Cog Railway to the summit of Pikes Peak. The view from this peak inspired the writing of the song “American The Beautiful”. (The Cog Railway is scheduled to reopen in 2020-21.) If for some reason they do not, then we will take the Grayline tour to Pikes Peak.
It’s a short drive to Canon City, located in a mountain bowl along theArkansas River valley as it flows east from the Rocky Mountains and themouth of the Royal Gorge. The Royal Gorge Bridge is suspended from towers that are 150 feet and remains among the ten highest bridges in the world and is the highest in the United States. There will be time to visit the bridge before boarding the train—“North America’s most scenic railroad”, the world famous Royal Gorge Route! The Rocky Mountain News named the Royal Gorge Route Railroad as Colorado’s best. From the comfort of your enclosed coach seat, you’ll enjoy a delicious luncheon along with the fabulous scenery and wildlife. Their classic, old-time diesel engine chugs along the Arkansas River and winds its way through the steep granite cliffs of the gorge. Along the way, we’ll pass under the Royal Gorge Bridge, suspended more than 1,000 feet above the tracks. We continue to Alamosa, Colorado for the night.
Return to the exciting days of the Frontier West during our trek on the old-fashioned Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. The memories begin the minute the stately steam engine blows its horn! Relax in your comfortable coach or open-air observation car as we climb high mountain passes and travel through a breathtaking gorge. Our unforgettable journey from Antonito travels to the old stagecoach town of Chama, New Mexico, home to one of the last coal tipples in the country. We’ll stop mid-way in the small mining town of Osier for a delicious lunch. We continue to Durango for our next overnight. Durango was founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Railway in 1879. Durango is near the Four Corners junction with New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, and is perched at 6,512 feet, nestled between red sandstone bluffs in the vast Animas River Valley. To the north lie the peaks of the San Juan and Needles Mountains, which rise to an average elevation above 10,500 feet. To the west are arid desert lands, and to the south lies the southern border of the two million acre San Juan National Forest, and stark canyon country.
Immerse yourself in yesteryear with the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum’s memorabilia, including full-size locomotives, maps, photos and artwork. Then it’s “all aboard!” the historic 1880’s Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. You’ll travel by coal-fired, steam powered locomotives on the same track miners, cowboys and settlers did over a century ago. The route to Silverton aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is an unforgettable journey along the spectacular Animas River. The Animas River is one of the last free-flowing rivers in the entire western United States. The train will cross the river five times on its journey to Silverton, offering views of spectacular vibrant golds and yellow aspen trees from both sides of the train. We will pass fertile farmlands, old stagecoach roads, the breathtaking “Highline”, the remote Tacoma Power Plant, old mining camps, and be in the shadow of peaks reaching over 14,000 feet. After lunch and time to browse in Silverton, we will board our coach and travel the Million Dollar Highway. It stretches 25 miles (40 km) in western Colorado and follows the route of U.S. 550 between Silverton and Ouray, Colorado. It is part of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway. Between Durango and Silverton the Skyway loosely parallels the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.We will make a stop in Ouay. The entire Main Street is registered as a National Historic District with most of the buildings dating back to the late nineteenth century. The Beaumont Hotel and the Ouray City Hall and Walsh Library are listed on the National Register of Historic Places individually. Gunnison is our destination for the night.
We travel to the mining town of Leadville for lunch included. Leadville is a special place…a treasure…a gem in the middle of Colorado at the hub of the Top of the Rockies Byway. Leadville is North America’s highest incorporated city (10,430 feet elevation), and the frontier West’s wildest, richest, silver mining Boom Town. We continue to Denver, Colorado area for the night. Denver, the capital of Colorado, is an American metropolis dating to the Old West era. Denver is nicknamed the Mile-High City because its official elevation is exactly one mile (5,280 ft) above sea level, making it one of the highest major cities in the United States.
Our journey continues north through Colorado and into Nebraska arriving in Paxton for lunch at Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse. It’s a short drive to North Platte and a visit to Golden Spike Tower where you get a birds-eye view of Bailey Yard, the world’s largest railroad classification yard. We “Ride with the Wild Bunch” at Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park and tour Buffalo Bill’s home and barn. A barbecue dinner is served as the cowboy band entertains. Overnight in North Platte, Nebraska.
Our next stop is Kearney, Nebraska to visit the Great Platte River Road Archway. This is a two-story structure stretched over Interstate 80. Wander through the exhibits paying tribute to the pioneers who traveled the Oregon Trail and the Great Platte River Road. We continue to St. Joseph, Missouri for the night.
St. Joseph is known for the start of the Pony Express and the end of Jesse James, and Patee House played a role in both. Patee House is St. Joseph’s only National Historic Landmark. It has been listed by True West magazine as one of America’s Top 10 Western Museums. Built in 1858 as a luxury hotel, Patee House served as the Pony Express head quarters from 1860 to 1861. During the Civi lWar, the Union Army occupied the building, using it as their Provost Marshal’s office and holding war trials in the ballroom. It is one block away from the home of infamous outlaw Jesse James, where he was shot and killed by Bob Ford. After his death, the James family stayed and were interviewed in the hotel. We continue to Sikeston, Missouri for our last night. This evening we will enjoy a delightful dinner at Lambert’s Throwed Rolls Restaurant where you can eat all the rolls you can catch!
Today is the final day of our tour as we depart Sikeston traveling to Knoxville ending another journey with Knoxville Tours.