Royal Gorge is one of the most remarkable canyons in the area. I was pretty amazed at the canyon and the high walls and rugged nature of the place. There’s a lot to see and do in the area of canon city along with the gorge. And one of the best ways to experience it is via the rails.
The Royal Gorge Train offers people the chance to experience the gorge via a scenic train ride. The train is set-up only for tourism and returns visitors to the same station they leave. There’s a lot of options and we help you break down the best for your vacation.
Table of Contents
Below are the seating options in the train. We recommend booking online as they do sell-out. They have morning, afternoon, and evening trains depending on the day selected and season.
Website: Royal Gorge Tickets (select book now on the top left to select tickets)
The cheapest seats on the train. It’s actually a pretty good, comfortable group of 4 seats with views of the canyon through large side windows. Unfortunately the view is better on the left side of the train than the right (the right faces the canyon wall).
A glass roof that gives you a overlooking view of the canyon and surrounding area. This is probably best served for colder days in the canyon. It’s pricier but gives you a bigger view.
Ride with Engineer
For those with an absolute love of trains. It allows you to sit with the conductor at the front of the train. It’s definitely a unique experience for someone and one with few tickets per train-ride. It’s also the most expensive. It’s over 2x the price of the other tickets, so it’s not a cheap experience.
Deluxe affords you more of a table in the railcar. This is a good option if your primary plan is to eat (the coach seats you eat on a tray on your lap). However, otherwise it’s not really worth the extra cost. I still think the coach is the best deal with a similar window and access to the open air car.
Which Seat Should You Choose?
In my opinion, coach was the best value on the train. If the weather is warm enough, it’s by far the best option as you’ll want to spend more time in the open air train. The open air car gives you a great view of the canyon as you go through. There are even heaters if it’s a bit chillier near the area where it meets the next car (although people tend to congregate here, so you might not have space).
I found the windows of the vista dome to not be anything particularly special. If you are eating though, the deluxe or vista seats which have a table may be easier for you. However, you are also paying nearly 40% more for that privilege.
My whole family found the windows of coach fine for viewing things on the trip. Even looking up to see the Royal Gorge Bridge as we passed under and to spot wildlife, rafters and more.
If you are on the right side of the train, you’ll have a less ideal view than those on the left. Unfortunately you won’t know which seat you are in until check in.
There’s both a training car as well as the option for dining at any of the seats within the train. You can either pre-purchase meals on the website or they have a menu while you are on the train.
Prices are a bit higher than if you went outside for sure. But overall not bad for the type of venue. I found it to be hit or miss in town for food options.
You should check the menus here to see if the food is to your liking for the service you chose.
Royal Gorge periodically has special trains for various different holidays or events. Those include Santa trains around Christmas Time which are particularly popular with families. The train is a lot of fun so it’s nice that they add in some extra character to trains. Especially for winter trains where you are spending more time indoors.
Santa and Holiday Train: There is both a holiday train and a Santa train. They are decorated and themed for the holidays. If you are looking for santa themed with particular focus on children, be sure to book the santa train. Each child even receives a small gift!
Murder Mystery: Occasionally on saturday evenings Royal Gorge hosts a professionally presented “murder mystery” performed by an acting troupe. It’s pricier (double a regular training generally). It is a pretty unique experience doing it on a train, however it does mean you are paying much more since it’s on a train vs. in a theater. The train adds to the atmosphere but it’s generally dark later in the trip, so you’ll have to decide if it’s worth the extra money for you.
Oktoberfest Train: The train has an option of beer and food inspired by Oktoberfest. I realized recently I was on the Oktoberfest train. Honestly it’s not much different than a regular train if you don’t choose a special oktoberfest meal.
About the Ride
The overall train ride is about 2 hours in length. It ended up being slightly less than that as we left a little late and still arrived around the 2 hour mark. The trip takes you through the canyon from the Santa Fe junction to a point along the tracks. You’ll know you are close to the end when you pass the yurts.
Following the end you’ll stop briefly and wait for them to get the system ready for the return. The train is not a loop but instead you’ll return along the same route you left on. So for those who can’t deal with going backwards you may want to see if there’s a free seat or a way to switch with someone (or go to the open air car).
Highlights of the trip were seeing folks rafting and kayaking in the water. We also caught some bighorn sheep in the canyon. So keep your eyes peeled for any wildlife.
Also be sure to be ready for going under the royal gorge bridge. You’ll also likely stop under it on your return trip for those who want to take photos or learn more about the bridge and area.
Tips and FAQs
- It’s recommended to check in at least 30 minutes prior to departure. There were a few people who were almost late, and still got on though.
- If you really want a specific meal, we recommend ordering it ahead of time (such as the special meals on certain trains)
- All classes have access to the open-air train. If the weather is warm enough it’s the best way to experience the trip.
- If you are not getting food, you’ll likely be served well with a coach seat without a table.
- If you are on the right of the train, ask the staff if there are any seats available on the left. Our train was not close to full and they were able to accommodate some folks.
- Royal Gorge Bridge and Park is open from 9 am – 6pm, if you are planning to visit that around your train ride.
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