things to do in Colorado in the summerHead to Georgetown on your next trip to Colorado. It’s an easy day trip from Denver where you’ll find the Georgetown Loop Railroad, a classic American vacation attraction, operating since 1884. A train ride is fun for all…well, almost. Read on to learn what you need to know before you go.
6 Tips for Taking Kids on the Georgetown Loop Railroad
I’ve always been fascinated by train travel. I grew up watching old Westerns which always included the obligatory train ride with women dressed in fancy Victorian dresses and pillbox hats and the men in bow-ties and cowboy hats.
Known for its Wild West and mining past, historic Georgetown, Colorado, offers the perfect backdrop for a modern train ride with the Old West flavor just a short road trip away from Denver. And train travel is so much fun for the whole family. Except pets. Only service animals are permitted onboard.
History of Georgetown Loop Railroad
Railroad heritage is a big part of Colorado history, and the Georgetown Loop Railroad was actually one of Colorado’s first visitor attractions – way back in 1884. When completed, this three-foot narrow gauge railroad with steam locomotives was considered an engineering marvel, transporting passengers and freight from 1899 to 1938.
Then in 1973, the Colorado Historical Society began the tedious process of restoring the historic railroad into a 978-acre Georgetown Loop Historic Mining and Railroad Park in Clear Creek County. Today, History Colorado and Historic Rail Adventures offer two iconic preserved steam engines (“iron horses”) that operate as a tourist attraction in the historic Colorado mountain towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume taking passengers on historic rail adventures.
Today, it is one of the best things to do in Colorado in the summer.
Where is Georgetown Loop Railroad?
This is a perfect day trip from Denver! Georgetown Devil’s Gate station is located on I-70 about 45 miles west of the city, a few minutes off Exit #228. Silver Plume is one exit (two miles) west of Georgetown on the south side of I-70, Exit #226.
1. What to Expect and How Long is the Ride?
Today, tens of thousands of adults and children step on board for a journey on rails back in time. Powered by diesel or steam-powered locomotive, the train whistle announces the arrival into the depot for a train ride lasting approximately one hour and 15 minutes, passing through two miles of mountain terrain.
Our multigenerational family adventure included me, my daughter and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren (3, 5 and 14-year-olds). Everyone enjoyed it equally, and the most exciting was that for most of my multigenerational family members it was their first train ride.
Our Georgetown Loop Train Ride
Although it was a fall day in September, the weather was Colorado sunny perfect, and sometimes the mountain breeze did require wearing a light jacket. (It’s Colorado – always bring a jacket no matter the season!) We didn’t see any wildlife on our ride, but we were told that wildlife sightings (Big Horn Sheep, burros, deer, elk) are always possible.
We opted to board at the Devil’s Gate Station in Georgetown, rather than the Silver Plume station location as that time schedule worked best for us. The loop connects both towns, so you’ll still have the opportunity to see both stations.
Remember to look up during your ride for views of the incredible Colorado Rockies towering above you, and opportunities to see train trestles and the replica of the High Bridge, completed back in 1984 in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its original construction.
NOTE: Train Reservations are for a specific date and departure time.
SheBuysTravel Tip: There are NO restrooms on the train. However, restrooms are available at both train stations and near the mining tours.
2. Fare Options at Georgetown Loop Railroad
There are several fare options for your train ride with children under 3 free:
- Ride in the Open Box Cars in Coach Section: Best views in the house, although it is open seating (first-come, first-seated), so be sure to get in line quickly. Boxcars with bench seating, enclosed and heated during the winter months. Passengers for open boxcar seats board last. Round Trip Tour lasts 75 minutes.
- Ride in Parlor Cars: Fully enclosed, carpeted, with table and chair seating. Guests receive some small snacks and a non-alcoholic beverage. Beer and wine are available for purchase.
- Presidential/ Waldorf Car: This ultimate VIP option car is available during the November-December holiday season and other special events. A dedicated attendant offers holiday drinks and snacks with beer and wine for purchase. During the Santa Trains, guests also receive a special “golden ticket.” Price varies on season.
- Add Mine Tours and Panning for Gold: Additional cost. Details below
Georgetown Loop Schedule
During the regular summer season, the Silver Plume Depot opens at 9:00 AM, and the Devil’s Gate Station in Georgetown opens at 9:30 AM. Trains depart from both locations. Please check the schedule for departure times. The Georgetown Loop Railroad is open year-round at the Devil Gate’s Depot location, and the Silver Plume Depot location is only open May through October.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Reserve well in advance! Due to its close proximity to Denver, the Georgetown Loop Railroad can be very busy and often sold out on weekends, holidays and during the holiday season. Purchase tickets online in advance on their website, or you may also call 888-456-6777. Check local websites like Groupon or Travel Zoo for discounted coupons.
3. Add Silver Mine Guided Tours to your Train Ride
During the summer season (May to October), passengers have the option to add three silver mine tours to their train ride. Step off the train to walk to the mines, extending your roundtrip tour to last 2 1/2 hours. For those taking the mine tour, wear a lightweight jacket and closed-toe shoes – no high hills or sandals. The mine is underground and chilly at only 40 degrees.
- Train Ride with Lebanon Mine Tour (May-Oct): Add a guided Lebanon Mine Tour during the summer season to your train ride. Involves about 3/4 of a mile of walking. Guests wear a hard hat and go about 540 feet into the mine. Note: Children under 5 not allowed on this mine tour.
- Train Ride with Extended Lebanon Mine Tour (May-Oct): This mine tour skips exterior buildings, taking visitors 900 feet inside the mountain. Note: Children under 7 not allowed on this mine tour.
- Train Ride with Everett Mine Tour (May-Oct): The newly opened Everitt mine goes 50 feet underground. Includes lunch (hot dog, chips, beverage). Note: Children under 5 not allowed on this mine tour.
More About the Mine Tours
Disembark from the train and walk down a hill to the bottom where the mines are located. For those with ambulatory issues or small children, the path is rocky and perhaps not fit for older folks and super young kids, especially since you have to climb back up the hill. If this describes your family, I’d suggest the train ride only and skip the mine tour.
Your mine experience also includes panning for gold (also available to those opting out of mine). The grandkids loved this, dipping their hands in the water and learning how to rotate the pan to find the slivers of gold. Once you’ve finished panning, keep what you find and the staff will actually add the gold to a small vial to take home.
The mining tour is informational, and the walking tour of the mine, led by Colorado Historical Society guides, starts at the mine manager’s office, the miners’ change room, the blacksmith shop and the tool shed. At the mines, the first step is to select a helmet and then follow the guide down the mine shaft for a tour.
My 14-year-old grandson completed the tour with me, but at the start of the tour, the 5-year-old thought it was too cold and scary so I walked her back to her mom.
Things to Do When Not Taking the Mine Tour
For adults and children not participating in the mine tours, other activities in this area include panning for gold, playing in the sandbox and burning off pent up energy exploring the area while waiting for your family members who are exploring the mines.
NOTE: There is an additional charge to add the mine tours to your train ride. Check the website as pricing for the 2020 year is not available yet.
4. Best Time of Year to Experience Georgetown Loop Railroad?
Our recent family train adventure was in September, which gave us the opportunity to view the fall colors, but personally, any time is really a great time to experience this train travel. Summer is busiest as many families are enjoying their summer vacation.
Georgetown Loop Railroad also offers seasonal and holiday experiences with coach, parlor or VIP options. My daughter and her family loved stepping onboard during Santa’s North Pole Adventure when her kids were younger. My grandkids loved meeting Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus – the highlight of their train ride.
Other special events include Haunted Mine Tour, Big Horn Sheep Festival, Holiday Lighted Forest and Victorian Holiday Celebration.
5. Explore Historic Georgetown
Allow additional time to explore historic Georgetown, a National Historic Landmark District. This small “village” features shops and restaurants, blending present with its Victorian mining era architecture.
When we visited, we dined at the Happy Cooker, a family-friendly restaurant with a kids’ menu. The food was delish and there were also adult beverages including mimosas, Bloody Marys, beer and spirits.
Visit the Hamill House, Heritage Center, Hotel de Paris Museum, Georgetown’s Firefighting Museum and the Energy Museum
6. Experience Clear Creek County Mountain Towns
Allow time to stop in historic Idaho Springs for more family fun. Activities include a zip line and ropes course, horseback riding, white water rafting and more gold mine tours. Your family can also check out their museums, breweries, restaurants, shopping and even hot springs.
We ran out of time to explore Idaho Springs on this trip. However, we’ve visited here multiple times with the grandkids enjoying the zip line and ropes course at the Colorado Adventure Center, which also offers white water rafting and special event. We then explored downtown Idaho Springs, followed by lunch at the Tommyknocker Brewery.
Want More Colorado Train Travel?
Colorado is home to the finest scenic railroads in the country.
- The historic Royal Gorge Route Railroad is a heritage railroad located in Cañon City, near Colorado Springs. These tracks follow the Arkansas River with a chance to view the Royal Gorge from below.
- Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad reveals scenic wonders around every curve as century-old steam locomotive transports you back to the gold mining days of Cripple Creek & Victor, Colorado.
- Get ready to fall in love with this family-friendly, all ages Colorado train travel experience on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
- The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is a 64-mile ride from the rustic train station in Antonito, Colorado, to its counterpart in Chama, New Mexico, winding in and out of both states 11 times.