Arizona’s Colorado Plateau is a wonderland of geological riches including the Grand Canyon, the volcanic San Francisco Peaks, the red rocks of Sedona and the largest stand of Ponderosa Pine forest in the world. Situated in the heart of this wonderland is Verde Canyon Railroad, sandwiched between the Coconino and Prescott National Forests and adjoining the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness area.
The train travels a diverse swath of Arizona landscape along a rare ribbon accessible only by these heritage rails. Operating since 1912, the Railroad is right at home within its wild corridor, sharing the Canyon with javelina, mule deer, elk, Great Blue Heron, bald eagles and a wealth of resident and migrating raptors. Within this region one finds some of Arizona’s most treasured iconic scenery. The chasms carved by the mighty river and creeks of the lower valley rise to meet the Mogollon Rim and mountains of the Colorado Plateau. The dramatic shift in geology and elevation offers an incredible variety of very special species visible from the train.
A rare and endangered bloom seen along the rails is the Arizona Cliffrose. Protected since 1984, this shrub now thrives; its delicate flowers filling the air with sweet scent during spring and early summer. The Verde Valley also is home to its own specific variety of Yucca, Elata Verdiensis, standing as graceful sentinels with their creamy white buds floating overhead. It’s a rare vantage point for wildflower viewing from the open-air car of a train, especially with Prickly Pear Margarita in hand.
Sedona and the Verde Valley bloom long into summer in a colorful crescendo from March through June with a wide and wild variety of flowers. During this time Verde Canyon Railroad welcomes favorite annual highlights such as newborn baby eaglets, the ever-popular Easter Bunny Express and the celebration of National Train Day.
The Black-tailed Jackrabbit, a Verde Canyon resident, may be one of the largest hares in North America but he’s got nothing on Verde Canyon Railroad’s resident rabbit, the Easter Bunny. On Sunday, March 27, depot guests enjoy hugs, candy and photo-ops with the mischievous hare. The fun continues onboard as the winner of the jellybean counting contest is awarded a giant jar of candies to take along on the ride.
National Train Day, commemorating the historical importance of the American Railroad, is celebrated nationwide on Saturday, May 14, and Verde Canyon Railroad joins the party locally with an entertaining and educational celebration at the Clarkdale depot. This free event, taking place from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., is open to all, with guided tours of our historic train and John Bell Museum. Liberty Wildlife, a Scottsdale, Arizona raptor rescue, will be present with rescued educational raptors. An All-American barbecue luncheon will be available for purchase on the patio.
A treasured bit of history traversing a rare and scenic Arizona wilderness, Verde Canyon Railroad is a fresh view into the unspoiled heart of the West. Postcard-perfect scenery is only part of the magic. The train provides a comfortable and exciting journey as it travels a leisurely four hours from the charming Clarkdale depot to the ghost ranch at Perkinsville and back. Awe-inspiring rock formations, historic trestles, ancient cliff dwellings and soaring raptors are just a few of the trip’s many highlights. First-class cars boast plush seating, complimentary appetizers and a full-service bar. Coach offers vintage Pullman-style seating, panoramic windows and snack bars. Everyone has access to open-air viewing cars offering 360-degree views and spectacular photographic opportunities.
A stone’s throw from the hillside mining town of Jerome, Verde Canyon Railroad’s Clarkdale depot is located in the heart of the Verde Valley, a diverse crossroads featuring amazing adventures in every direction. Only two hours from Phoenix and 25 minutes from Sedona, Verde Canyon Railroad is the perfect Arizona day trip. Reservations are accepted at 800.293.7245 or online at verdecanyonrr.com.