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.
CAÑON CITY, COLORADO
Royal Gorge Route Railroad. This two-hour round-trip ride from Cañon City to Parkdale, Colorado, and back ventures through Royal Gorge, passing 1,000 feet below the world’s highest suspension bridge. Where the river canyon narrows to 30 feet, the train skims the rapids on a suspended track. Weekends only through mid-May, then daily through Oct; $27, $17 ages 3–12, Sat dinner train $80, Sun lunch train $60. www.royalgorgeroute.com or (888) 724-5748.
Winter Park Ski Train. A Denver tradition for nearly 65 years, this train―the largest passenger train in the United States―delivers up to 750 passengers per trip to the base of the Winter Park ski area. Highlights include views of Boulder’s craggy Flatirons and a trip through the 6 1/4-mile Moffat Tunnel. Fri–Sun; from $45. www.skitrain.com or (303) 296-4754.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Originally constructed for hauling valuable ore, this route along the Animas River became a tourist attraction as soon as the first train rolled down the tracks in 1882. Today it’s the only railway that operates steam locomotives through the winter, scheduling five-hour trips into San Juan National Forest to stop for hot cocoa and cider in Cascade Canyon. Wed–Sat through Mar 9, daily Mar 10–May 7; $45, $22 ages 5–11; www.durangotrain.com or (970) 247-2733.
BAY AREA TO RENO
Amtrak’s California Zephyr. The route of this popular train offers great Sierra Nevada scenery in both directions, but perhaps the best view comes as you crest the mountains near Donner Pass to see icy Donner Lake cupped in a snowy bowl below. One daily departure from Emeryville and from Reno; $136 round trip. www.amtrak.com or (800) 872-7245. Key Holidays offers a Reno Snow Train package on a privately chartered Amtrak train that includes some meals and entertainment. Departs Tue and returns Thu; from $169 round trip without accommodations. www.keyholidays.com or (800) 783-0783.
SEATTLE TO GLACIER
Amtrak’s Empire Builder. From Seattle, the train crosses the Cascades before continuing east to Spokane. From here you enter some of the West’s most spectacular scenery as the train crosses northern Idaho and then skirts the southern boundary of Glacier National Park. Along the route, Whitefish and West Glacier Park make good destinations. Daily departures; from $304 round trip. www.amtrak.com or (800) 872-7245.