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From Arizona, Destinations, Southwest

Travel Arizona – “Cliffs” Part 2 – Ridin’ the Verde Canyon Railroad

Mountains surround the Verde Canyon Railroad depot in Clarkdale, Arizona.

The Verde Canyon Railroad Trip

I promise you that I am going to wax poetically while describing this trip – there is just no other way to do it justice.  If you live in Arizona and haven’t taken this trip – stop right now, scroll down to the link and make reservations – it is that good.

Here’s a look at our trip.  We chose the Starlight Tour which leaves at 5:30 PM on select Fridays and Saturdays from May through September.  If you are booking your trip for other months, be aware that the train runs year ‘round with a variety of special seasonal trips and varying times so don’t worry – there will be a great trip available for you, too. 

We arrived at the depot in Clarkdale, a small town located just a short drive from Cottonwood, and spent some time in their interesting gift shop before boarding the train.  (There is also a snack bar at the depot and you can eat there or take something onboard for later.)  Our tickets were for First Class but you can also choose Coach Class with Adult, Child and Senior tickets available.  Couples and others looking for a little quiet time should definitely consider the First Class option.

Once we boarded and settled into our comfy sofa-style seating, we were introduced to the amenities of the First Class car including a cash bar and the complimentary snacks which, for our trip, included hot wings, mini-sandwiches, a cheese and cracker selection plus my favorite, a fresh mozzarella and tomato salad.  After what the train staff calls their traditional “toast to a good ride” – your choice of champagne or sparkling apple juice – we were off. 

The setting sun gives a molten glow to the mountaintops.

Red cliffs and molten gold mountaintops on the Verde Canyon route.

The train travels along the upper Verde River, through red rock canyons and past soaring cliffs colored orange and gold, sage and slate with bits of lavendar and rose thrown in for good measure.  Along the way, your bartenders and hosts will provide a running travelogue of sites set against a backdrop of original music.  You can stay in the enclosed car or for the best experience, enjoy your ride outside on the open-air viewing car.  During your journey, you’ll see ancient cliff-dwellings, bald eagle nests, and some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere.   If you’re lucky, you may spot an eagle gliding through the canyon or an elk stopping by the river for a cool drink.   There’s so much more but I want you to be surprised when you see it first-hand.

My favorite part of our journey was the nighttime ride back to depot when the only lights came from the seemingly millions of stars above and from the headlamps of the train reflecting off the canyon walls.  This is a ride I would love to take again – either a daytime trip in the Spring when the wildflowers are in bloom or perhaps one of their wine-tasting journeys. 

For online reservations visit their website here – Verde Canyon Railroad

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