Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad Goes Where No Road Goes, Steaming Through Aspens and Fall Scenery

One of the most unusual ways to the enjoy the brilliant fall colors of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and New Mexico is by riding the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad (C&TSRR).  This is the highest, longest and most authentic steam railroad in America, voted twice by the readers of USA Today  (2017 and 2019) as the “best train ride in the country.”  

And in the fall, the C&TSRR steams through hundreds of thousands of colorful aspen trees, chugging at a top speed of 12 mph and going where no roads go, twisting and turning for 64 miles through Rocky Mountain wilderness between Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico.  Passengers can ride outdoors in an open gondola car, in historic coaches, or in a luxury parlor car.  The train has restrooms and a bar and snack car, and all full day rides include a delicious hot lunch of roast turkey or meatloaf at scenic Osier Station.  Most of the ride is “off the grid,” so people are forced to put down their mobile devices, relax, and enjoy the natural beauty surrounding them.

The train crosses state borders 11 times, steaming through tunnels and over high trestles, along the edge of deep canyons and up to the summit of Cumbres Pass, 10,015 feet above sea level. Along the way, passengers can see deer, elk, antelope, and even an occasional bear. 

And aspens!  The railroad route passes through millions of colorful trees. Built in 1880, the Cumbres & Toltec is today a National Historic Landmark that moves  – a “Williamsburg on wheels,” that re-creates the magic of the glory era of steam railroading

While the ride is spectacular at any time, it is especially gorgeous in the fall when the aspens put on their annual show. 

Fall in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico

There are more than two million acres of aspen trees in Colorado and New Mexico — one billion trees that if placed together would cover Rhode Island and Delaware.  Aspen trees in the Rocky Mountains grow from 6,500 to 10,500 feet in elevation. Their cousins in the popular tree family, cottonwoods, grow in the Rockies to 6,500 feet and are just as colorful.  Although many factors make leaves turn color, as a general rule, the higher the elevation, the sooner the leaves turn gold.  That means that over a period of time, you can often see a variety of shades of color on one mountainside, with deeper golds on top at 10,000 feet, blending to pale yellow in the 8,000 foot range. Since the Cumbres & Toltec runs from 6,800 feet to 10,015 feet at the top of Cumbres Pass, you can expect to see pretty fall aspens all along the route.

Rocky Mountain aspen leaves don’t just turn color in the fall, they positively glow a bright luminescent yellow gold, almost as if they had their own light source. The leaves are small, delicate and tissue-thin with an aerodynamic shape that keep them in perpetual motion.  Even a slight breeze sends every leaf on the tree shimmering. 


In addition to daily departures through October 20, 2019, there will be a Speakeasy Saturday Night Dinner Train on Sept. 14, 2019, where the train becomes one big speakeasy with dinner at Cumbres Pass and a Roaring 20’s costume contest. The dinner special offers a chance to experience sunset from the outdoor observation gondola car, as well as delicious steak or chicken dinner served almost two miles above sea level. 


Fall rides are extremely popular and do sell out, so book early to avoid disappointment at

MEDIA CONTACT:          Joy Meadows, 303-522-9045 or