As the mercury begins its yearly dip, the gold, bronze and copper leaves of the Verde Canyon dominate the visual landscape on each of our Fall Color Tours. Ales on Rails, our annual beer festival, is celebrated Thursdays through Sundays in October.
Ales on Rails- Every Thursdays through Sunday in October
Ales on Rails kick starts the hearty harvest season with the robust colors and flavors of autumn. The celebration begins at 11:00 a.m. on the depot patio every Thursday through Sunday in October. A beer garden serves a variety of regional craft beers as well as traditional European ales, by the taste or by the glass, and a mouthwatering luncheon of German sausages, sauerkraut, potato salad, pretzels and strudel, all served to the rhythmic tunes of a polka serenade. The 1:00 p.m. train whistle signals the continuation of the party as it moves onto the rails with specialty beers available onboard, including Verde Canyon Railroad’s own private-labeled brews, crafted in Sedona by the renowned Oak Creek Brewery.
Fall Color Tours- October and November
Verde Canyon Railroad’s rare river landscape makes up just two percent of the state’s geography. For this reason, very few locations in Arizona offer such a bounty of fall color. The vivid foliage combined with the vibrant geology delights train passengers with the saturated hues of autumn. From the middle of October through the end of November, canopies of butter-colored cottonwoods and willows, bronze sycamores, coppery oaks and scarlet ivies festoon the Verde River with a bright autumn burnish.
Eagle Watch highlights mild winter excursions. Our chasm is home to several productive pairs of American bald eagles and a winter respite for other migratory birds including many species of endangered and endearing waterfowl. During December, plan the ultimate holiday gatherings, featuring views that leave your family speechless. Let our diverse chocolate creations dissolve into a heavenly puddle on your tongue as you and your favorite Valentine celebrate aboard the Chocolate Lovers’ Festival.
Family New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve is a time to focus on new beginnings, fresh starts, and the exciting adventure ahead. Just as train tracks link distant locations, Verde Canyon Railroad forms a connection through the past, the present and the future all comprised of precious memories with loved ones celebrating the end of one year and the beginning of another. On Saturday, December 31st from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. revelers of all ages will enjoy a “Family New Year’s Eve” aboard Verde Canyon Railroad.
Eagle Watch- December thru March
Soaring over their winter habitat along Arizona’s perennial streams and rivers, Bald Eagles inspire all with their majestic appearance and graceful acrobatics. During Eagle Watch season December through March, an abundance of high-flying activity may be seen from Verde Canyon Railroad as the raptors jockey for position, mates and nesting locations. Catch a glimpse of our national symbol in its natural environment.
Chocolate Lovers’ Festival- February
The romance of the rails will captivate your senses during Verde Canyon Railroad’s Chocolate Lovers’ Festival celebrated over Valentine’s Day Weekend. Rich chocolate blends with the Verde Canyon’s majestic wilderness. The confectionary celebration will fill your first-class car with the intoxicating scents and flavors of chocolate via tasty pastries, cakes and luscious hand-dipped delicacies. Many ingredients partner well with chocolate but the best embellishment is the clickety-clack of railroad wheels on the track.
Mother Nature is at her best. She masterfully showcases her towering cliffs in desert reds as a sapphire sky dances on her pinnacles. The lively green waters of the Verde River embrace the shoreline. She dots the landscape with multicolored wildflowers and blooming cacti, completing her handiwork and arousing our senses.
Easter Bunny Express- Easter Sunday
A favorite symbol of springtime, the friendly Easter Bunny hops, skips and jumps along the blooming roses at the Verde Canyon Railroad depot on Easter Sunday, sharing pastel-colored candies and photo ops with all guests. The famous “jelly bean counting contest” prior to departure will award one calculating child an entire jar of Easter treats for the train ride.
Spring in Bloom
Riding in exquisitely renovated train cars, passengers are whisked away in pampered comfort as the Verde Canyon Railroad snakes through the red rock landscape. Along the rare and wondrous Verde River, where the high desert and riparian wilderness meet, an abundance of bright hues and sweet scents follow the tracks. Outside panoramic viewing windows, the Canyon reveals a breathtaking display of early blooms in delicate purples, pinks and whites. Barrel Cactus and Prickly Pear add an intensity of hue to the landscape with their seemingly unreal fuchsias, blushing reds and butter yellows.
National Train Day- May
Verde Canyon Railroad celebrates the important history of American railroads with an entertaining and educational celebration at their Clarkdale depot on National Train Day. A delicious BBQ ribs and chicken luncheon will be available for purchase.
Escape the ordinary. Large canopies of cottonwood, sycamore and mesquite trees are in full bloom. Late summer and early evening thunderstorms drape waterfalls over glistening crimson ledges. Starlight Tours, Tequila Sunset Limited trains and Grape Train Escapes (wine-tasting trains) enhance the lure of this unique route under illuminated evening skies.
Summer Starlight Tour
Departing during the cooler temperatures of late afternoon and traveling through sunset, twilight and starlight, the Verde Canyon Railroad’s popular Summer Starlight ride operates on select Saturday evenings June through September. Departing at 5:30 p.m. and returning at 9:30 p.m., the Starlight Ride serves up a wide ranging mix of light, color and shadow as the Canyon transforms into a moonlit dreamscape.
Firecracker Express- July
Make a day of it and celebrate the Fourth of July small-town Arizona style. Enjoy the town’s famous holiday parade down Main Street in the morning before heading over to the red, white and blue festooned Verde Canyon Railroad depot for an All-American barbecue luncheon on the shaded patio prior to the train’s 1:00 p.m. departure. Grilled burgers and hot dogs, baked beans, special recipe potato salad, cupcakes and ice-cold lemonade are served to the tune of rousing patriotic anthems.
Liberty Wildlife Educational Opportunities Year-round
By partnering with Liberty Wildlife, Verde Canyon Railroad provides visitors the opportunity to see wild raptors at the depot and onboard the train.
Raptors at the Depot and Raptors on the Rails
On select dates year-round, visitors from Liberty Wildlife will share educational presentations with railroad guests. Once a month a program takes place on the depot patio from 11:00 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., prior to the train’s departure. Raptor handlers will answer questions and pose for photos with rescued raptors during educational presentations on the patio.
On select Saturdays once per month, a majestic bald eagle spreads her wings onboard this wilderness train ride, as Sonora, the only train-riding bald eagle in the world, enjoys her day aboard Verde Canyon Railroad, visiting each car during the four-hour journey.