The Georgetown Loop Railroad is a popular attraction near Denver that provides a nostalgic journey into Colorado’s mining and early tourism days.
It offers a distinctive and picturesque experience, appealing to train enthusiasts, families, and travelers from all walks of life.
But with a somewhat steep price of $34 per adult passenger, you might be wondering whether or not the experience is worth it.
In this article, I will provide you with everything you need to know about the Georgetown Loop Railroad so that you can make an informed decision on whether or not the experience is for you.
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What is the Georgetown Loop Railroad?
The Georgetown Loop Railroad is a historic narrow-gauge railroad located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
It offers scenic rides through breathtaking mountain landscapes along a three mile route that allows travelers to relive the same picturesque experience cherished by tourists a century ago.
The Georgetown Loop Railroad has a rich history that dates back to the late 19th century.
Completed in 1884, it was originally constructed as a part of the Colorado Central Railroad network.
Financier Jay Gould who controlled the Union Pacific (UP) wanted the Colorado Central to be the first rail line to reach Leadville but the terrain past Georgetown would prove very difficult to build upon.
That’s because at this junction the Clear Creek Valley rises almost 640 feet in under two miles. This incline created a grade of over six percent, which was simply too steep for most locomotives.
So engineers got creative and designed a way to reduce the grade to around three percent. They designed the track to form two hairpin turns, looping over itself above Clear Creek, which you will be able to experience firsthand when you make your way over the High Bridge.
The engineers also had the train cross the creek a couple of times and climb through a 30 degree horseshoe curve called the “Big Fill.”
The Georgetown line never made it to Leadville because the Denver & Rio Grande (D&RG) arrived there first and sort of killed the movement but the railroad still flourished for decades to come.
It gained significant prominence during the silver rush of the 1880s when it played a vital role in transporting silver ore from the mines in Silver Plume. Over time, its appeal expanded to include railroad excursions, further cementing its tourism legacy.
With seven trains a day running out of Denver at the height of its popularity in the early 1900s, the Georgetown Loop was Colorado’s scenic “must see” attraction.
However, with the rise of the automobile and with changes to the mining industry coming at the outset of World War II, the railroad faced financial challenges and ceased operations in 1939.
In the 1980s, efforts were made to restore and preserve the historic railroad.
The Georgetown Loop Historic Mining and Railroad Park was established, and the railroad tracks were rebuilt to offer scenic rides to visitors once again.
The reconstructed line replicates the original route, including the loop section, providing tourists with the opportunity to relive the sights and sounds that the tourists of the early 1900s enjoyed.
How to book a ticket to the Georgetown Loop Railroad
You can purchase a ticket for the Georgetown Loop Railroad online which I would recommend. For adults (16+), the price is $34.00 each, and for children (3-15), the price is $28.00 each.
Some of these rides will sell out so it’s a good idea to purchase your ticket as far in advance as you can.
During the holidays, they do offer certain types of special rides like the Santa’s Rocky Mountain Adventure, including the lighted forest experience.
Other special rides to look out for include the Sasquatch Adventure Train and Old West Days, so always look for these special themed rides.
How to get to the Georgetown Loop Railroad
You can find the Georgetown Loop Railroad at 646 Loop Dr, Georgetown, CO 80444.
Make sure that after you book your ticket you are 100% clear on which depot you will be departing from. Most likely it will be the Georgetown Devil’s Gate Station, which is found just west of Downtown Georgetown about 50 minutes west of Denver.
But some trips do depart from Silver Plume.
Our experience at the Georgetown Loop Railroad
It’s recommended to show up at least 20 minutes before your departure but we showed up about 45 minutes before departure in order to secure our spot.
The parking lot was pretty full but we were able to find a few open spots without too much trouble.
As soon as we arrived at the depot we headed over to the gift shop and checked in and received our tickets, which make for a good souvenir.
There’s a gift shop, bathroom, and a couple of odd things to check out but not a whole lot to do while you’re waiting around. You have a pretty awesome view of the creek to keep you occupied though.
About 40 minutes prior to departure, a line started to form and we jumped to the front. It only took about ten minutes until they started letting us lineup at the actual boarding station but not before they insisted on taking our photo, which of course you will be able to purchase for a good fee. We simply opted for our own commemorative free photo with a quick snap of a selfie.
Then, about eight minutes until the scheduled departing time, we were able to board.
We chose to sit in the very back of the train and on the right side so that we could have a great vantage point of the “money shot.”
This is going to occur towards the very beginning of the train ride when the train heads over the High Bridge. If you’re seated on the right side and in the rear you’ll be able to get a great shot of the train making its way over the bridge.
It’s worth noting that when you’re sitting in the back (the “caboose”) at the beginning of the ride, you’ll later be in the front of the train on the way back.
If you have a baby or small child keep in mind that the horn could be really loud for them so you may not want to sit at either end of the train.
You also have different types of train cars to choose from.
A few of them are open cars that may or may not have a top covering.
Others are enclosed although the windows are removed throughout most of the car.
The enclosed cars offer a little bit more protection from all of the steam/smoke that comes from the train’s engine so if you want to limit your exposure to the fumes consider getting in one of those. In our case, Steam Locomotive #40 released an impressive amount of exhaust!
As far as what to wear, I recommend layers. It was quite cool on our trip in the middle of the summer but it could be a bit cold depending on the clouds, the weather that day, etc.
The scenic train journey will lead you along the picturesque Clear Creek Canyon, meandering through dense forests adorned with majestic pine, fir, and stunning aspen trees. This idyllic setting creates an ideal autumn getaway.
You’ll also catch some great views of Clear Creek below you and its lively white water rapids cascading through the picturesque landscape.
If you’re not accustomed to spending time in the mountains, the forest scenery is likely to really impress. However, for seasoned hikers or outdoor enthusiasts who frequently immerse themselves in nature, the scenery (with close proximity to the highway) may not elicit the same level of breathtaking amazement.
Scattered throughout the path are a variety of things to look for. From elusive Sasquatch sightings that ignite the imagination to the echoes of a bygone era through remnants of ancient rail lines, the path reveals its secrets to those with keen eyes.
Tip: If you want to see some really beautiful mountain scenery, I would suggest going on the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway.
Despite sitting directly beneath a speaker, we found ourselves struggling to discern 95% of the narrative being shared as we journeyed aboard the train.
Perhaps the speakers were better in other cars but that was a major loss to the tour, as I was very interested in learning more about all of the history.
Eventually, you make your way to the Silver Plume Station, which is the turnaround station.
It’s here that the train will stop and you’ll have a chance to get out and wander around but only for a short while. You basically have 10 minutes to get off the train and check out the gift shop or the small train museum. It’s definitely a pretty rushed experience and it seemed like a lot of people were not entirely comfortable stepping off the train.
On the way back, the train will make a stop where you can step off if you signed up for one of the mine tours.
For those of you looking for a true adventure, I’d recommend signing up for the mining tour because the train ride by itself may leave you yearning for something more.
This walking tour takes you 500 feet into the once-operational Lebanon silver mine tunnel where your guide will point rich veins of silver and tell you about the history of early day mining in Georgetown. You can also opt to pan for gold like a real prospector (and keep what you find)!
There are even haunted mine tours you can go on if that’s your thing.
The mine tour extends the duration of your trip by 1 hour and 15 minutes, making it a 2 hour and 30 minute excursion when combined with the train ride. Please note that children under 5 years old are not permitted to enter the mine in accordance with state safety regulations.
After dropping people off for the mine tours, we continued our journey through the mountainside forest and eventually we made our way back to the original point of departure about 35 minutes after we departed.
So is the Georgetown Loop Railroad worth it?
For people with the fascination of trains, I think they will really enjoy the experience. This is also a very popular attraction for families, especially those with young kids.
As for myself, I thought the ride was a little underwhelming.
Maybe because we do so many outdoors activities, the views weren’t quite as mind blowing as I would have preferred. And although I’m a huge fan of history, it was difficult to hear anything said over the speaker system so I wasn’t able to learn much.
For people like me, I think it’s worth doing the mining tour because it gives you a chance to break up the experience with something uniquely hands-on and is sure to enlighten you on more of the history of the site. So that would be my recommendation to make the experience well worth it!
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.