The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


Durango-Silverton train

Looking at the Animas River from the window of the Durango-Silverton Train

Tips for the fall colors: Durango-Silverton train ride


The long and winding road that leads to the Four Corners area is now so smooth, vehicles practically glide unobstructed into Bloomfield. A recent trip to Colorado to ride the Durango-Silverton train for the fall colors served as a reminder of the improvement to Highway 550. What used to take four to five hours of slow-and-go traffic can now be traveled in three and a half hours driving the speed limit. The thought of a leisurely train ride through the Rocky Mountains to see the aspens changing color sounded very appealing.

For three and a half hours, the narrow-gauge train lumbered pleasantly through scenic terrain along the Animas River. Sheer cliffs; gorges; the lush Animas Valley where a flock of snow geese come to rest; the coarse, woolly mullein plants that flourish here; the snowcapped mountain peaks; the multitude of colors from wildflowers and trees; and the aroma of fresh pine and clean air filled our senses.

Enjoying the scenery and the ride through the brisk mountain air, but still unable to “relax,” I busied myself with taking photos and videos. We arrived in Silverton, checked into our hotel and continued our three-day weekend of “rest and relaxation.”

Things I wish someone had told me before embarking on a weekend getaway in a small mountain resort:

• When signing up for a package deal, ask about the accommodations, i.e., room size, electrical outlets, work space (desk or counter), and sitting and lounging space—otherwise you may end up in a very small room with none of the above.

• Just because one rides the train up the mountain doesn’t mean one has to ride it back down! One can ride the train up and take a bus back down or vice versa. This cuts at least an hour and a half out of travel time. It’s a three-and-a-half-hour train ride with a two-hour layover in Silverton before heading back for another three and a half hours. That’s a nine-plus-hour day, which can be very fatiguing to the frail and elderly. If you’ve made the trip before and are traveling with visitors to the area, let them ride the train up while you drive. That way, you have transportation once you reach Silverton.

• There is no transportation in Silverton. The silver mines are five miles outside of town, with no trams or trolleys or horse-drawn carriages to get you there. Nor are short excursions around the valley for photographs available unless you have your own transportation. Jeep rides and rentals go for half-day or whole-day rates (four-hour minimum). Persons staying overnight without their own vehicle are at a great disadvantage and are limited to sightseeing within the city limits or their willingness and ability to walk (remember you’re in a valley at 9,305 feet, and the air is already thin).

• Space on the train’s bench seats are numbered and assigned to three persons but only fit two and a half adults, not taking large and obese persons into account. This is especially a concern in the “high tourist” season when trains are booked to capacity. They don’t call it “narrow gauge” for nothing. Even the onboard bathrooms are built to accommodate the petite.

• There are plenty of restaurants, reasonably priced, with a wide variety of cuisines. The only grocery store in town is about half a mile from the train stop at the southwest end of town. Some of the fast-food places and ice-cream parlors do offer sodas and bottled water for sale.

• Even in early fall, bring a jacket, earmuffs, and gloves, especially if riding in the gondola car. Pack light and bring only what you can carry; the hotels don’t meet the train. Depending on the location, one may have several blocks through tourist “gawking” traffic to navigate one’s luggage.

• The train is on a fixed schedule. Checkout time from hotels is around 11:00 a.m. The earliest departure from Silverton is 2:00 p.m., arriving in Durango about 5:30 p.m. For the drive back to Bernalillo-Placitas, add another three and a half hours, not taking into account stops for gas or dinner. That would put one back home by 9:00 p.m. at the earliest, after a full day of travel.






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