In Clarkdale, Arizona, a train line offers a chance to experience beautiful landscapes and a vintage railroad experience all in one.
The Mogollon Rim, made famous by numberless Westerns from Zane Grey onward, is a prominent escarpment that runs roughly east to west through much of central Arizona. It is the southern erosional edge of the Colorado Plateau, a large area of generally flat-lying strata that hosts many of the Southwest’s most iconic national parks. Along the Mogollon Rim itself, south-draining streams have locally carved deep canyons through the scarp, which are made more spectacular by their red bedrock. Oak Creek Canyon south of Flagstaff, traversed by Arizona State Route 89A, is a well-known example. A lesser-known example is the canyon carved by the Verde River some 20 miles west of Oak Creek. In contrast to Oak Creek, it has difficult to nonexistent vehicle access, which no doubt accounts for its relative obscurity.
However, the Verde River is paralleled by a short line, the Clarkdale Arizona Central Railroad. Under the name Verde Canyon Railroad, scenic excursion trains are run through the Verde River Canyon, providing stunning views of this otherwise inaccessible area.
The Verde Canyon Railroad runs on tracks that first opened in 1912 to link copper mines and production facilities. The line ran until 1988, when it was purchased by a new owner. Passenger trains began running in the early 1990s, with cars pulled by vintage diesel locomotives, some of the few of this type still operating in North America.
Know Before You Go
Excursions start at the station in Clarkdale, Arizona. Check the website for directions and schedules.