5 Enchanting Train Journeys in Northern California

Steam Train Railroad and Trestle Bridge over Redwoods - Santa Cruz, CA

5 Enchanting Train Journeys in Northern California

May 31, 2023 | By The Railyards

Northern California is home to prosperous forests and the scenic coast, but within it lies another secret, historic gem…trains! Locomotion history runs deep in California, from the gold rush to the future of transportation and shipping. However, over the years, these beloved tracks have become popular travel destinations for those visiting the Golden State. Take a trip with us and visit our top 5 train rides in Northern CA.

Napa Valley Wine Train

Starting in the heart of wine country, the Napa Valley Wine Train is a must-see for all our wish-to-be sommeliers. Featuring restored 20th-century Pullman rail cars traveling through 150-year-old rail corridors, this exquisite train experience is fit with everything you could want, from fine dining to seeing the historic and scenic sites of Napa Valley. In addition, you can enhance your journey and order their signature Sommelier Flight tasting, exploring the flavors of three Napa Valley Legends, Far Niente, Opus One, and Joseph Phelps. Happy tasting!

Skunk Train

Though this may seem like a hard left, it's a steer in the right direction. The Skunk Train not only played a vital role in the history of California but is also now one of the oldest and most popular destinations for travelers and train enthusiasts alike. Dating back to the 1880s this railway provided a lot of support and transportation for the logging families along the route. By 1925, it had earned the name Skunks from the gasoline-powered engines and pot-bellied stoves burning crude oil to keep passengers warm. Today, the Mendocino Railway runs tours and other adventures throughout the deep redwoods and Noyo River within Mendocino County. 

Sonoma TrainTown

Founded in Oakland, CA by Stanley L. Frank in 1959, TrainTown is the number one location in this list for those with a love for train history and table-top model building. As described by Frank himself, the location is essentially “a 10-acre elaborate table-top railroad, which is outdoors and rideable; where sense of direction is lost, and best appreciated by the under sophisticated and over sophisticated.” Featuring four miles of track going through tunnels, over bridges, and stops at Lakeview (their miniature town and petting zoo), TrainTown provides beautiful sightseeing and fun family activities fit for those old and young. 

Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad 

With a blend of gorgeous scenery, insightful museums, and a hearty family history, the Sugar Pine Railroad holds a strong spot in California's locomotive line. Similar to the Skunk Train, this Yosemite railway was the home to a bustling logging business supporting over 140 miles of track at its peak. Today, there are 4 lines that can take you through the logging site, to a jazz show, and much more! The Shay #10 and Shay #15 run mid-March through Thanksgiving weekend so make sure to plan your trip!

Roaring Camp Railroads

As the first open-air, narrow-gauge Redwood Forest Steam train, Roaring Camp is last on our list but definitely not least. Their first line travels deep into the coastal redwoods before taking you up the side of Bear Mountain and switching back. For our beach lovers, the other line takes you down the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk after your trek through more redwoods, gorges, tunnels, and a historic steel truss bridge. Hosting a number of seasonal events, this railway would be a perfect beginning or end to any family outing or trip. 

Regardless of what you decide to include in your itinerary, the California railroads will always be waiting for you. With endless history, scenic views, and much to discover, if you're ever planning to visit Northern CA or are lucky enough to live here, spend some time at the tracks. There will always be something new to learn or somewhere new to travel!

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