This post was most recently updated on June 20th, 2021
I’ve always loved the redwood forest: the beautiful auburn bark, crisp woodsy scent, and hundreds of magnificent trees towering high above my head. My three year old son also loves the great outdoors, but that love might be trumped by his love of trains! When I discovered a place that could fulfill both our needs–train rides and redwoods–I was sold!
Welcome to Roaring Camp
Roaring Camp in Felton, CA is home to several railroad lines offering routes through the redwood forest and to the Santa Cruz boardwalk. Their trains have been carrying tourists since 1875! The original settlement dates back to the 1830s, but this re-creation of an 1880’s logging town will have you feeling nostalgic. Upon arrival to this beautiful settlement, you will be brought back in time to a much simpler and rustic way of living. From the Bret Harte Hall barn to the blacksmith shop, gold panning station and old time photo studio, the entire camp has a very historic feel.
Roaring Camp Railroads owns several locomotives and diesel engines. My family and I were scheduled to ride Engine #7, Sonora Shay. This beautifully sleek engine was built in 1911 and worked long and hard for many years until being retired to a county park in Sonora. In 1977 it was refurbished to operate and has been steaming along ever since!
Back in the 1880s, steam locomotives like Sonora Shay would have been used to haul giant redwood logs out of the mountains. Going up and down the steep grades of Bear Mountain is no easy task, either. In fact, the steam engine stops for an 800-gallon drink of water before each trip up Bear Mountain!
During our visit, we were fortunate to see the Thomas and Percy engines as well; many may recognize these iconic trains from the Thomas & Friends show. Every year, these trains make their debut at Roaring Camp Railroads to offer short train rides and lots of fun activities. While the Thomas and Percy Halloween Party event is already over for the season, look out for future events with this famous duo!
Riding the Steam Train
As eleven o’clock drew closer, my family and I boarded the train and eagerly awaited our trip up the mountain. We sat in the very first car giving us a great view of the engine and a very immersive experience. The train whistle blew loudly and the mighty puffs of steam rose up and delicately misted our faces. The train slowly chugged up Bear Mountain and we were treated with views of beautiful redwood trees while the conductor shared commentary about the history of the railroad and forest. The white steam from the engine created an ethereal feeling as it rose up through the branches of the redwoods.
My family and I absolutely loved the hour-long ride on the Redwood Forest Steam Train! My three year old was entertained the entire time (which is saying a lot considering a toddler’s limited attention span). It was so relaxing to just sit back and enjoy the ride up the mountain. Here’s just a short glimpse of our steam train adventure!
One of my favorite parts of the entire trip was getting the chance to admire the redwood forest up close! Once we reached the top of Bear Mountain, we had a ten minute break to walk around. While I could have spent the time waiting for the women’s restroom, I decided to go explore the forest instead. As I stood amongst the trees, craning my neck up to witness their tremendous height, I was filled with awe and wonder! These trees that have been growing for a century–with sturdy branches and beautiful auburn bark–hold so much history; it was spectacular and humbling to be among them.
Planning a Visit
If you’re interested in experiencing one of the train rides offered by Roaring Camp Railroads, you can purchase tickets from the ticket window upon arrival or in advance by visiting the website. Adult fares range from $29-$31 and child fares are $22-$25 depending on which route you choose; children under 2 are free. Note that parking costs an additional $10-$12, so be sure to bring some cash. Annual passes are also available for purchase.
Roaring Camp and the Steam Train are open daily (except Christmas Day). The Santa Cruz Train is currently closed due to construction, but will resume weekend routes on November 24. For a more detailed look at the schedule, visit the website.
In addition to regularly departing trains, there are some special holiday events coming up. You’re not going to want to miss the Holiday Tree Walk and Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train. They start at the end of November and go well into December. Check the schedule for more info.
Disclosure**I received complimentary tickets to visit Roaring Camp Railroads, but my opinions are all my own.
Written by guest blogger Heather Young (my lovely daughter!), whose photography is featured on her blog, Heather Hiding Photography.
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