San Juan Mountains

My family used to vacation in Colorado, so I have been many times.  I, however, have never been as an adult.  So, this past May, I decided to take a road trip with my pop-up and best friend to spend some time in the San Juan mountains again.  It was not disappointing! 

Now, I am not going to tell you about all the adventures we had.  Instead I picked a particular one that I insisted we do.  The Durango-Silverton NG train.  I had rode the train all the way to Silverton as a child and loved it!  I really wanted to experience it as an adult.

The railroad has a very long, rich, and unique history that is super interesting.  I would absolutely love to put it all in there, but then I would be writing a book instead of just a wee newsletter.  I can throw some bullet pointed facts at you though:

  • It’s a Narrow Gauge (NG) railroad.  Meaning that the tracks are smaller than normal tracks. NG tracks are less than 4ft 8.5in wide.  The D&SNG comes in at 3ft.
  • The original name was Denver & Rio Grande Railway
  • The locomotives are 100% coal fire and steam operated 
  • Locomotives are from the 1923-1925 era and are completely rebuilt to original condition
  • They own the rights to Polar Express train entertainment.  Meaning EVERY Polar Express Train has to get permission, buy, and get trained by the company who owns the rights, which is in turn owed by D&SNG.

These were just some little fun facts about the railroad.  There are a ton of interesting facts that include how the railroad shaped the area to what it is today and how it has an affect on everything around it to the history on why it was put where it is in the first place, as well as, the trials and tribulations of maintaining a railway going through the San Juan mountains.

It’s an absolutely wonderful experience!  As you are heading out of the town EVERYONE that sees the train either waves, honks their horns, or both!  It truly is a pretty awesome experience.  It’s like the whole town just embraces and loves the railroad.  It’s a tradition of sorts and it’s an awesome way to start a journey through some of the most beautiful country you’ve ever seen.

We did not ride the train all the way to Silverton.  We went to Cascade Canyon which is roughly halfway to Silverton and on a different track, plus it’s a half a day ride instead of an all day one. There are no words for the scenery.  We road in the Knight Car, which is all windows, so we go to see a 360 degree view of everything.

The rhythmic swaying of the car and the beautiful scenery puts you in a kind of a trance.  Enjoying the ride, the view, the fresh mountain air, and the fact that you are traveling exactly how people did a hundred plus years ago will not only clear your mind, but show you that a trip out into the San Juan mountains will have you wishing you could turn back time.

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Hi, I'm Erin Lowe

Through Living Travel Designs, I craft custom vacations that get you engaging with the world around you—particularly on nature and wildlife-focused trips that leave you in awe. 


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