4345
Colorado
The Best of Colorado’s Historic Railroads
The story of Colorado is stitched together with mining seams and railroad lines. Come learn why as you ride historic trains, visit historic towns and witness grand feats of engineering.
Rating (5)
Program No. 4345RJ
Length
9 days
Starts at
2,949
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9 days
8 nights
22 meals
8 B 7 L 7 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Dinner, Presentation
Denver, CO
D
Hilton Garden Inn - DIA

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration. After you have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation. 4:00 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. As a special feature of this program, we will be accompanied throughout by a Colorado history and railroad expert who will serve as our resident instructor, provide commentary en route, and lead field trips. Travel and transfers other than railroad field trips will be by comfortable motorcoach. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: In the hotel dining room, we'll enjoy a plated meal catered by the hotel with salad, entrée, and choice of soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Our resident Colorado Railroad expert's introductory lecture this evening will begin the fascinating journey of discovery for the amazing rail adventures ahead. Our expert will accompany us throughout the entire program and provide vivid descriptions along the route. Often in the motorcoach, we'll learn the fascinating history of Colorado and the impacts railroads made on the settlement of the state. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night's rest for the day ahead. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
2
Colo. Railroad Museum, Georgetown Loop Narrow Gauge Railroad
Colorado Springs, CO
B,L,D
Hilton Garden Inn Colorado Springs

Activity note: Walking about 1 mile total for the day; standing for a total of about 1 hour; gravel or paved sidewalks/paths with some stairs. Getting on/off motorcoach and train; driving approximately 80 miles total; about 1 hour in morning and 1.5 hours in afternoon, with stops. Train ride is about 12 miles; approximately 1.5 hours roundtrip.

Breakfast: At the hotel, the hot and cold breakfast buffet includes juices, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we'll board our motorcoach for a field trip to the Colorado Railroad Museum in the town of Golden, a former important mill town at the foot of the Rockies. Most participants prefer to navigate this museum independently, but our resident expert will accompany those who want more information. We’ll take our time exploring key areas of the 15-acre museum, which collects over 100 narrow and standard gauge steam and diesel locomotives, passenger cars, and cabooses. They offer a unique opportunity for experiencing visual history by showcasing the state’s important role in the railroad industry. Next, we’ll transfer to the well-preserved Victorian mining town of Georgetown, nestled in the mountains at an elevation of 8,530 feet (2,600 meters).

Lunch: At a restaurant in Georgetown, we’ll order from the menu, soft drinks and water included.

Afternoon: After taking a few minutes after lunch to walk around and view the historic downtown surrounded by the rugged mountains, we’ll then take our first historic railway field trip aboard the Georgetown Loop Narrow Gauge Railroad. An impressive engineering feat, this railroad connecting the towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume became a popular attraction in Colorado after it was completed in 1884. Though only 2 miles apart as the crow flies, the railroad is twice that length as it navigates the narrow canyon of Clear Creek up steep grades totaling a 600-foot gain in elevation with switchback turns. Of the four bridges crossed along the wending journey, one is the Devil’s Gate High Bridge at 95 feet high over the gorge. Following our train ride, we'll continue our journey to Colorado Springs via motorcoach.

Dinner: In the hotel dining room, we'll enjoy a plated meal catered by the hotel with salad and an entrée, plus a choice of soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Garden of the Gods, History Museum, Glen Eyrie, Broadmoor
Colorado Springs, CO
B,L,D
Hilton Garden Inn Colorado Springs

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; driving approximately 10 miles throughout the day; about 1 hour total, with stops. Walking up to 1/2 mile during field trips; standing up to 1 hour throughout the day; steps in museum, hotel, and castle.

Breakfast: In the hotel, the hot and cold breakfast buffet includes juices, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll board our motorcoach and travel to the Garden of the Gods, so named by a surveyor in 1859 who said it was a fit place for the Gods to assemble. Now a registered National Natural Landmark and Colorado Springs City Park, we will visit several viewing locations where there are dramatic views of towering 300-foot sandstone rock formations in the foreground and Pikes Peak in the background. This is Colorado Springs iconic and must see attraction! We will next visit the Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum for a docent-led field trip. The Museum is located in the elegant and lavishly restored 1903 County Courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is one of the premier history museums not only in Colorado but also in the U.S. The museum’s thematic historical exhibits cover many fascinating topics about the Pikes Peak region. Included are Colorado’s Native American cultures; western exploration; General William Jackson Palmer, the founder of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad and of Colorado Springs; the men and women who settled and developed the area; mining and related industries of the region; and the tourism industry that makes the Pikes Peak area the premier tourist destination in Colorado. Be sure not to miss the section about the era in which tuberculosis patients came to Colorado Springs from all over the world for treatment. Decorative and fine arts are also highlights of the museum’s collection including the largest public collection in the world of the Art Nouveau inspired Van Briggle Art Pottery, produced in Colorado Springs from 1899 until just recently. We’ll then travel to the world famous Broadmoor Hotel.

Lunch: At the popular Golden Bee English restaurant on the Broadmoor Grounds, we’ll enjoy a plated lunch with lemonade, iced tea, coffee, water included.

Afternoon: After lunch, we’ll enjoy a stroll around the Broadmoor’s historic structure and beautiful grounds. Businessperson, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Spencer Penrose built the Broadmoor in 1918 with the goal of making it the finest hotel in the U.S. It was certainly grand for its day: designed by the same architects who created the Ritz-Carlton and Biltmore hotels with thousands of surrounding acres landscaped by Frederick Law Olmstead and filled with artwork from Europe and the Far East. It even once had a shooting school run by Annie Oakley! The Broadmoor is listed as a member of Historic Hotels of America of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Most participants prefer to navigate the hotel and grounds independently, but our resident expert will accompany those who want more information by exploring key areas. Our next stop will be the Glen Eyrie estate, popularly known as the Castle. It began as the home of Civil War veteran General William Jackson Palmer, founder of several railroads and the city of Colorado Springs. The name refers to the eagle's nest that overlooks the canyon. The original frame house was enlarged and remodeled in 1881 to resemble a Tudor-style castle. With our resident expert, we’ll explore the beautiful castle and grounds.

Dinner: In the Glen Eyrie Castle dining room, we’ll enjoy a delicious buffet with non-alcoholic beverages included.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
4
Canon City, Royal Gorge RR, LaVeta, Rio Grande Scenic RR
Alamosa, CO
B,L,D
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Alamosa

Activity note: Walking about 1/2 mile throughout the day; standing for approximately 1 hour total; gravel or paved sidewalks/paths with some stairs. Getting on/off motorcoach and trains; driving approximately 140 miles total; about 1 hour in morning and 2 hours in afternoon, with stops. Morning train ride is about 30 miles, approximately 2 hours; afternoon ride is approximately 60 miles, about 3 hours. Elevations up to 7,543 feet.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Boarding our motorcoach after checking out of the hotel, we’ll set out for Canon City. Our resident expert will brief us along the way regarding the history of the area and sights to come. Upon arrival, we’ll climb aboard one of Colorado's most scenic trains for a 24-mile journey through the spectacular Royal Gorge. The Royal Gorge Route Railroad was established in 1879, making it Colorado’s oldest scenic railroad as well as one of the most exhilarating rides. We’ll learn about its dramatic, complex, and sometimes violent history as we traverse tracks that follow the Arkansas River amid 1,000-foot granite cliffs. A unique feature is the suspension bridge devised to transit the narrowest point in the gorge. We’ll then return to Canon City and board our motorcoach for transfer to LaVeta.

Lunch: Aboard the motorcoach, we’ll have boxed lunches with sandwiches, fruit, chips, dessert, and bottled water.

Afternoon: We arrive in the quaint town of La Veta in time to board our next railroad adventure, the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad’s Excursion Train, which travels over the Rockies through the historic La Veta Pass on the way from La Veta to Alamosa, our destination for the night. As one might expect from the highest standard-gauge railroad in the United States, the views from the train over the landscape along the way are remarkable. Alamosa is located in the historic San Luis Valley at an altitude of roughly 7,000 feet, technically characterizing it as a high desert. However, the landscape conceals a system of aquifers that disclose their presence through warm springs, marshes, and lakes, which helped establish the area’s agrarian communities in the late 1800s. Upon arrival, we’ll transfer via motorcoach and check into the hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy a catered plated meal with salad, entrée, and a choice of soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. You might like to have a swim in the heated indoor pool, try the sauna, or simply relax. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
5
Cumbres & Toltec Narrow Gauge Railroad, To Durango
Durango, CO
B,L,D
Best Western Durango Inn and Suites

Activity note: Walking about 1/2 mile throughout the day; standing for 1 hour total; gravel or paved sidewalks/paths with some stairs. Getting on/off motorcoach and train; driving approximately 140 miles total; about 1/2 hour in the morning and 2.5 hours in the afternoon, with stops. Train ride is approximately 40 miles; about 5 hours with lunch stop of 1 hour. Elevations up to 10,015 feet.

Breakfast: In the hotel, the breakfast buffet includes hot and cold items, juices, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Once checked out, we’ll leave Alamosa via motorcoach for a scenic drive along the San Luis Valley to the tiny town of Antonito. We’ll step back in time as the steam engines start their winding journey to the top of Cumbres Pass as we board the Cumbres and Toltec Historic Narrow Gauge Railroad. The line was constructed in 1880 as an extension of the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, but its gauge of only 3 feet between the rails — rather than what would soon become the standard of just under 5 feet — made it an anachronism almost from the start. Nevertheless, it operated off and on until the 1960s, and was on the verge of being completely abandoned and dismantled until a group of railroad enthusiasts persuaded the states of Colorado and New Mexico to purchase the most scenic stretch of the line. Congress authorized an interstate agency to operate it in 1974, while a non-profit organization preserves these assets for the public as a living history museum that interprets railroad history and heritage. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad’s equipment and structures, and the vast landscape of the Colorado and New Mexico border, exist today as they did generations ago. During our ride, we will have assigned seats but may wander to the open observation car and snack bar where food and drink items will be available for purchase. Our resident expert will accompany the group and strategically locate himself in an announced location to provide narration and to answer questions.

Lunch: Arriving at Osier Station, the extensive lunch buffet offers multiple tasty entrées — all made from scratch in the Osier kitchen — plus a large salad bar, dessert bar, and choice of beverage.

Afternoon: We’ll change trains and continue our journey to Cumbres Pass where our train ride will end at an elevation of 10,015 feet. Getting off the train, we’ll board our motorcoach and transfer to Durango, arriving in the late afternoon.

Dinner: At a restaurant in Durango, we’ll have a plated meal with salad, choice of entrée, and beverage choices including soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
6
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge RR, Million Dollar Highway
Ouray, CO
B,L,D
Ouray Chalet Inn

Activity note: Walking about 1/2 mile throughout the day; standing for approximately 1 hour total; gravel or paved sidewalks/paths with some stairs. Getting on/off motorcoach and train; driving approximately 60 miles total; about 1.5 hours in the afternoon, with stops. Train ride is approximately 50 miles; about 3 hours. Elevations up to 9,305 feet.

Breakfast: In the hotel, the breakfast buffet includes hot and cold items, juices, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Back aboard the motorcoach after checkout, we’ll make the short transfer to the train station and enjoy a self-led visit to the roundhouse museum prior to boarding the train for the all morning trip. The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has been in continuous operation since 1882, taking passengers and mine ores from Durango at an altitude 6,512 feet to Silverton at 9,305 feet. In addition to a federally designated National Historic Landmark status, the American Society of Civil Engineers recognized it as an historic civil engineering landmark. National Geographic Traveler has also been named one of the Top Ten North American Train Trips. We will have the same kind of experience as passengers of old, boarding at the original 1882 depot and riding the line pulled by a vintage steam locomotive. The leisurely pace of about 18 miles an hour provides wonderful opportunities to appreciate the spectacular scenery experienced by Native Americans, settlers, cowboys, and miners. Participants will have ticketed assigned seats. The conductor will give narration along the route and our resident expert will circulate for commentary and to answer questions. We’ll get off the train upon arrival in Silverton and walk the short distance to our lunch venue.

Lunch: At a popular restaurant in the historic Grand Imperial Hotel in Silverton, we’ll have a buffet lunch with lemonade, iced tea, coffee, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After enjoying some time strolling downtown Silverton’s Historic District, we’ll board our motorcoach and drive along the most spectacular highway journey of our program, the “Million Dollar Highway” (U.S. Route 550) to Ouray. Built in the 1930s, the 25-mile stretch follows the old miners’ trail through the magnificent San Juan Mountains, some of the most rugged and scenic of all Colorado's mountain ranges. The highway cuts through steep cliffs in several places with hairpin turns that might give you a few butterflies, but the reward in awesome views makes it well worthwhile. Late melting snows encourage Summer wildflowers, while stands of Aspen trees turn golden in the Fall. We check into our hotel in late afternoon.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a buffet dinner with salad, a choice of entrée, and choice of soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Yankee Boy Basin Field Trip, Ridgeway Railroad Museum
Ouray, CO
B,L
Ouray Chalet Inn

Activity note: Walking about 1 mile throughout the day; standing for approximately 1 hour total; gravel or paved sidewalks/paths with some stairs. Getting on/ off motorcoach and 4-wheel-drive vehicles; driving approximately 30 miles total; about 1 hour in afternoon, with stops. 4WD ride is approximately 20 miles; about 3 hours. Elevations up to 12,526 feet.

Breakfast: We’ll walk to a local restaurant and order plated meals from a select menu, with juice, coffee, tea, water included.

Morning: Ouray is sometimes called the Switzerland of America for its alpine landscape surrounded by mountains. Among the many natural wonders is Uncompahgre National Forest covering more than 950,000 acres and Yankee Boy Basin within the forest. We will board specially converted 4-wheel-drive vehicles and take a safe and exciting journey to the beautiful alpine meadows at 12,526 feet. Driving up and along Canyon Creek, we’ll travel under dramatic cliffs, past the lower Camp Bird Mine, through the ghost town of Sneffels, past the Revenue, Atlas and Ruby Trust mines, and up to the beautiful Twin Falls surrounded by rugged mountain peaks. Arriving at the Basin, in summer we will be surrounded by fabulous wildflowers including the Colorado state flower, the Blue Columbine. In autumn, the magnificent fall colors of golden aspen and red shrubs await. Camp Bird Mine, which we passed en route, is one of the most famous and highly productive old gold mines in the San Juan Mountains. It was discovered in 1896 by Irish immigrant Thomas F. Walsh, who became one of the richest men in America and — highly unusual for his time — a progressive advocate for laborers. As a result, Camp Bird Mine did not experience the violent strikes that many western mines of the era underwent. We’ll then hop board our motorcoach for a short ride to the town of Ridgeway.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have plated lunches including salad, choice of entrée, and choice of soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll ride our motorcoach or walk the short distance to the Ridgway Railroad Museum, dedicated to preserving Colorado railroad history with a focus on restoration, education, and research. Our resident expert will lead our walk through the facility. Those who wish to may choose to explore the collection independently. The museum includes railroad equipment, artifacts, historical data, books, and photographs of Ouray County and the San Juan Mountains, plus exhibits and displays of railroad rolling stock. Most famous is the museum's "Galloping Goose" rail-motorcar — a unique combination of locomotives and cars designed and built by adapting gasoline powered autos and trucks into small rail vehicles. Returning to Ouray, the remainder of the afternoon will be free to enjoy on your own. Our resident expert will give recommendations about local historic sites and museums.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions.

Evening: At leisure. Ouray, named for the most famous chief of the Ute people, has much to offer for a small mining town. About two-thirds of the original Victorian structures are still occupied and have been restored. You might like to visit the Ouray County Museum housed in the original St. Joseph Miners’ Hospital or take a dip in the famous, sulfur-free Hot Springs Pool (open until 10:00 p.m.). Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
8
Ute History Museum, Redstone, Return to Denver
Denver, CO
B,L,D
Hilton Garden Inn - DIA

Activity note: Walking about 1/2 mile throughout the day; standing for approximately 1 hour total; gravel or paved sidewalks/paths with some stairs. Getting on/off motorcoach; driving approximately 300 miles total; about 1.5 hours in the morning and 3 hours in afternoon, with stops. Elevations up to 11,158 feet.

Breakfast: We’ll walk to a local restaurant and order plated meals from a select menu, with juice, coffee, tea, water included.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll board the motorcoach for a drive to Montrose and the Ute Indian Museum. While here, we’ll gain a deeper understanding of the native peoples of Colorado through commentary provided by docents about the history and the living culture of Colorado's longest continuous residents. As expressed by the museum, “exhibitions focus on the Ute peoples' history of adaptation and persistence, and unfold around a central theme of geography, highlighting significant locations in Ute history and Ute cultural survival, political self-determination, economic opportunity and the celebration of the Bear Dance.” We’ll then continue our journey via motorcoach and make a stop at the summit of McClure Pass at an elevation 8,755 feet before continuing to the town of Redstone. The tiny town of Redstone was created by John Cleveland Osgood, one of the 19th century’s richest “robber barons.” Completed in 1902, it was intended to be a utopian community for workers connected to Osgood’s coal mining enterprise.

Lunch: At the Redstone Inn, we’ll have a buffet lunch featuring a choice of entrée, salad, and choice of lemonade or iced tea, water included.

Afternoon: The final leg of our journey back to Denver via motorcoach travels by way of Glenwood Canyon, a scenic byway with a uniquely engineered section of Interstate 70. We’ll pass the ski resorts of Beaver Creek, Vail, Copper Mountain, and Loveland along the route, as well as drive through the Eisenhower Tunnel. With a maximum elevation of 11,158 feet above sea level, it is one of the highest vehicular tunnels in the world. The tunnel is the longest mountain tunnel and highest point on the Interstate Highway system. Completed in 1979, it was one of the last major pieces of the Interstate Highway system to be completed. We will arrive in the late afternoon at our hotel and check in.

Dinner: In the hotel dining room, we’ll enjoy a buffet meal catered by the hotel with beverage table service including a salad and entrée, plus soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase. Share some of your favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends as we reflect on our journey.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
9
Program Concludes
Denver, CO
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 10:00 a.m.

Breakfast: In the hotel, the hot and cold breakfast buffet includes egg dishes prepared to order, juices, coffee, tea, water. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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