For a higher ticket price, most of these trains offer first-class service, including food and seating in a special car, often with a bar.

The train to winter

Day trips

Royal Gorge Route Railroad. This two-hour round-trip ridefrom Cañon City to Parkdale, Colorado, and back venturesthrough Royal Gorge, passing 1,000 feet below the world's highestsuspension bridge. Where the river canyon narrows to 30 feet, thetrain skims the rapids on a suspended track. Weekends only throughmid-May, then daily through Oct; $27, $17 ages 3-12, Sat dinnertrain $80, Sun lunch train $60. www.royalgorgeroute.comor (888) 724-5748.

Winter Park Ski Train. A Denver tradition for nearly 65years, this train ― the largest passenger train in the UnitedStates ― delivers up to 750 passengers per trip to the baseof the Winter Park ski area. Highlights include views of Boulder'scraggy Flatirons and a trip through the 6 1/4-mile Moffat Tunnel.Fri-Sun; from $45. or (303)296-4754.

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Originallyconstructed for hauling valuable ore, this route along the AnimasRiver became a tourist attraction as soon as the first train rolleddown the tracks in 1882. Today it's the only railway that operatessteam locomotives through the winter, scheduling five-hour tripsinto San Juan National Forest to stop for hot cocoa and cider inCascade Canyon. Wed-Sat through Mar 9, daily Mar 10-May 7; $45, $22ages 5-11; or(970) 247-2733.

Longer excursions

Amtrak's California Zephyr. The route of this popular trainoffers great Sierra Nevada scenery in both directions, but perhapsthe best view comes as you crest the mountains near Donner Pass tosee icy Donner Lake cupped in a snowy bowl below. One dailydeparture from Emeryville and from Reno; $136 round trip. or (800)872-7245. Key Holidays offers a Reno Snow Train package on a privately chartered Amtraktrain that includes some meals and entertainment. Departs Tue andreturns Thu; from $169 round trip without accommodations. or(800) 783-0783.

Amtrak's Empire Builder. From Seattle, the train crosses theCascades before continuing east to Spokane. From here you entersome of the West's most spectacular scenery as the train crossesnorthern Idaho and then skirts the southern boundary of GlacierNational Park. Along the route, Whitefish and West Glacier Parkmake good destinations. Daily departures; from $304 round trip. or (800)872-7245.

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