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5 Socially-Distanced Fall Foliage Train Rides

Fall foliage train rides are a great way to socially distance while also getting out and about a bit!

Downeaster Route Amtrak – Maine to Boston

The Downeaster is a 146 mile route serves 12 different stations from Brunswick, Maine to Boston Massachusetts. While not technically just a fall foliage train, this is a fantastic way for leaf peepers to enjoy the colors while also using it as a fun mode of transportation for the kids! They even allow small pets, so be sure to bring your furry friends along as well! The trains boast free wifi as well as outlets at every seat. There are also the all-important restrooms in every car, so don’t worry about having to time your stops! Prices vary depending on how far you intend to travel and range from $6-$30 for a one-way ticket.

Covid Precautions

All Downeaster trains are sanitized every evening and also before each roundtrip. Face masks are required for both passengers and crew members, and the trains will be booked only to 50% capacity. In addition to these precautions, they have also installed plexiglass barriers at the food stations and touchless payment options. Their website also boasts of air filtration systems that generate clean air every 4-5 minutes. So you can rest easy that Amtrak is doing all it can to keep you and your family safe!   

The Cog – New Hampshire

The Cog has a great fall foliage train ride

Located in New Hampshire, The Mount Washington Cog Railway will take you on a stunning journey through three climate zones as it makes its way to the highest point in the Northeast. With views that reach from Quebec to the Atlantic Ocean, you are sure to get some great family photo ops with the fall colors as your backdrop!

When it opened to passengers in the 1860’s, it was considered an engineering marvel due to the rocky terrain of the mountain and the steep incline. In fact, it’s the second steepest mountain railway in the world! In order to circumvent this problem, its builder, Sylvester Marsh, decided to construct the railway entirely off the ground using a cog gear and rack system. Now affectionately known as The Cog, the train carries visitors from all around the world. The autumn season is particularly popular as the bright red, orange and yellow colors make a dramatic backdrop to the railway. So be sure to book this fall foliage train ride early to ensure you get tickets!

The entire journey takes approximately three hours with an hour each way for the train ride and an additional hour on the Mount Washington summit. Ticket prices start at $42 for children and $72 for adults. Be sure to book in advance as most times will sell out in advance. A jacket is highly recommended due to the fact that it can snow at the top even in the middle of summer! 

Covid Precautions

The Visitor Center at the top is open, but it is now required to make additional reservations to it in advance. Head over to the New Hampshire State Parks website and book your Visitor Center time for approximately 45 minutes after your train departure time. The other areas at the top such as the museum, observatory and Tip Top house will be closed for the remainder of the 2020 season. The observation deck and famous summit sign are still accessible however! 

All employees receive a daily health screening, and both employees and passengers are required to wear masks while on the train and in the stations. Tickets will be limited to allow for social distancing on the train and in the Visitor Center; and high touch areas will be sanitized throughout the day. In addition, the only food items that will be available will be “grab and go.” 

 

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad – North Carolina

North Carolina is a great place to check out the changing of the leaves, but to add even a little more excitement to the season, book a ticket on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and really get yourself into the Autumn mood! Starting in Bryson City, this train will take you 4.5 hours through the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains with jaw-dropping vista views of the red, orange, and yellow trees that splash the countryside with color. You will also get great photo opportunities as you pass over the Tennessee River and through the Nantahala Gorge, so be sure to have those cameras charged for this colorful fall foliage train trip! 

Prices start at $32 dollars for kids and $59 for adults; children 2 and under are FREE! If you book one of the open-air cars, it can be a bit chilly, so be sure to bring a jacket or purchase a souvenir blanket to wrap around yourself as the train whisks through the cool, crisp air. Also, between now and September 30th, if you book an adult ticket on one of their two scenic rides you receive a complimentary kid’s ticket! Your ticket is also good for free entrance into the Great Smoky Mountain Trains Museum which is a great stop for the kids or the young at heart!

 Covid Precautions

All reservations must be pre-booked as they are limiting train capacity to 50% and face masks are required by both passengers and crew members. Touchless payment options have been installed and enhanced cleaning procedures for high touch areas have been put into place. The passenger cars are cleaned thoroughly using a safe fogging technique and only food that is pre-ordered ahead of time will be served and delivered directly to your seat. 

 

Georgetown Loop

A great fall foliage train ride in Colorado is the Georgetown Loop

The Georgetown Loop is a popular train for families that is only about a 45 minute drive outside of Denver. The train snakes its way for approximately an hour through the mountains giving you an amazing view of the golden Aspens in mid to late September. If the foliage season is running a bit later than usual, book the pumpkin fest train which is the first two weekends in October. The kids will get to enjoy some spooky activities while you enjoy the beauty of the Rockies! Taking you from Georgetown to Silver Plume and then back again, the Georgetown Loop fall foliage train ride makes for a great half-day family excursion and will have you craving the pumpkin spice and chai in no time!

Prices start at $21.95 for kids, $29.95 for adults, and is free for 3 and under! There are no restrooms on the train itself so be sure to use them at either of the stations before boarding. 

Covid Precautions

The railroad is limiting capacity so that everyone can maintain social distancing protocols. They also have added additional open-air cars for passengers who are uncomfortable sitting inside. As it can be colder in the mountains during the Fall season, be sure to check the weather and bring a jacket! 

Conway Scenic Railway – New Hampshire

If your kids are anything like ours, having options is great. This scenic railroad has three different trips you can book depending on how much time you want to spend leaf-peeping! The first two trips stay within the valley and are 60 minutes and 90 minutes round trip, respectively. These are great options if you have kids that are more excited by the train itself than the changing leaves around them! The third option is a five and a half hour round trip that will take you up into the mountains with a front row view to the beauty and magic of Autumn in New Hampshire. On all three routes, however, you will enjoy the history of both the area and the train itself. The vintage passenger cars are close to 100 years old while the tracks were laid in the 1870’s! 

Be sure to also check out the North Conway Freight House that houses the Model Railroad Club. It is open to the public Tu/Th/Sa from July through September. 

Prices for the Valley trains start at $13 for kids and $19 for adults. Children 4 and under are free on both Valley routes. The longer mountaineering excursion is $13 for children 4 and under, $43 for kids, and $62 for adults. 

Covid Precautions:

Passenger cars will be limited in their capacity and only families will be allowed to sit together. Masks are required by both staff and guests; and moving throughout the car is discouraged.

 

As you are booking your fall foliage train excursion, be aware of local mandates regarding Covid19. Some states have mandatory quarantines or negative Covid tests on arrival. Be sure to bring your mask and stay home if feeling ill. Otherwise, enjoy and be safe!

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