Maybe you’re a train enthusiast, maybe your kids are obsessed with trains. Whatever the reason, there’s something fun and nostalgic about taking a ride on a train…especially old vintage steam trains. We’ve got a list of places to ride trains in California, from small-scale electric trains to locomotives dating back to the 1800s so you can find the perfect excursion.
We’re also throwing in a few destinations to try railbikes, because this is another fun way to enjoy a day on the tracks.
Best Places To Ride Trains In California
If you want to take a ride on a modern, fully functioning train, there are many trains and buses that connect over 150 destinations in California. The Pacific Surfliner covers routes from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, the Coast Starlight runs from Los Angeles to Seattle, the Capitol Corridor covers the East Bay ad San Francisco Area, and the San Joaquins connects Southern California to the Bay Area. There are even train that connect Los Angeles to Dallas, New Orleans, and Chicago.
111 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
The California State Railroad Museum is perfect for train lovers of all ages. There is over 225,000 square feet of exhibit space featuring informative and educational displays about locomotives and railroad history, plus 21 restored locomotives and train cars.
Excursion Train Rides (on hold through fall of 2023 for track replacement) take passengers on a 50-minute ride in luxury-style train cars, complete with refreshments. The route runs along the Sacramento River offering views of the waterfront and surrounding area.
The Railroad Museum is part of Old Sacramento State Historic Park and the Old Sacramento Waterfront District. Visitors can explore the history of early settlers and the Gold Rush, check out the passenger station, the freight depot, the Big Four Building, and many other historic buildings and destinations nearby.
1275 McKinstry Street, Napa, CA 94559
Book a ride on board a well-restored vintage Pullman car and tour some of Napa Valley’s finest wineries. You’ll travel in style and luxury as you embark on a 36-mile journey to St. Helena and back, making several stops at some of the areas most celebrated wineries. Passengers will enjoy a 4-course meal on board and exclusive winery tours.
Niles: 37029 Mission Blvd., Fremont, CA 94536
Sunol: 6 Kilkare Rd., Sunol, CA 94586
Here you can take a ride on a full-size train, either steam or diesel depending on the schedule. They offer a few rides per month through the scenic Niles Canyon, plus regular special and seasonal event rides including the Holiday Train of Lights.
There are two boarding locations: one inn Sunol and one in Niles. Be sure to note the boarding location when you book a ride. Tours are generally an hour and 20 minutes.
In addition to train rides, you can take to the tracks in a different way… book a ride in a Speeder Car. These small cars are like the golf carts of railroad tracks, and you can take several people in one car for an unforgettable ride through the heart of Niles Canyon.
Campo Depot (Train Rides): 750 Depot Street, Campo, CA 91906
La Mesa Depot (Museum Only): 4695 Nebo Drive, La Mesa, CA 91941
Take a ride on one of these San Diego area trains and see unexpected views of the Southern California Countryside. The 45-minute Golden State Ride is the regularly scheduled weekend excursion, but there are a variety of other seasonal rides and special events. You can even book a ride in the cab of the locomotive.
The Sunset Special runs during summer months. Board the Bunny Train for a fun Easter-themed ride with a visit from the Easter Bunny. The Pumpkin Express runs on select dates during October for not-so-spooky Halloween fun. And the North Pole Limited begins at the end of Thanksgiving and runs through mid-December for holiday themed fun and a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
10501 Reservoir Road, Jamestown, CA 95327
Take a ride on a historic diesel locomotive, complete with a working roundhouse. At Railtown, passengers can enjoy a scenic ride on the Sierra Railroad through the heart of gold country. The 6-mile journey takes about 45 minutes round trip and offers views of the hillsides and the water tower from Petticoat Junction. After your train ride, explore the Sierra Railway Shops to get a peek at historic industrial work sites including a blacksmith, see more steam and diesel locomotives, and more.
Keep an eye out for special seasonal events like the Polar Express Train Ride featuring an hour-long adventure to the North Pole to meet Santa, and the Skeleton Starlight, a slightly spooky evening train ride during the Halloween season.
18095 County Road 117, West Sacramento 95691
River Fox Train offers a variety of train excursions from family friendly to 21 and over only. They even have railbike adventures for those looking for an even more unique experience on the tracks (see below). Experiences range from 1 to 2.5 hours in length. Choose from the River Fox Refresher, Murder Mystery Train, and the Boba Tea Train, or enjoy some of the family friendly seasonal excursions like the Pumpkin Patch Express and the Magical Christmas Train.
5401 Graham Hill Road, Felton, CA 95018
Choose from two exciting excursions at Roaring Camp – the Redwood Forest Steam Train, and the Santa Cruz Beach Train. The Redwood Forest Steam Train engine dates bake to 1890 and takes passengers on a 75-minute ride through the redwood groves along winding narrow-gauge tracks to the summit of Bear Mountain. Here you can get off the train and take a few minutes to enjoy the majestic old growth redwoods.
The beach train travels from the depot at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, along the San Lorenzo River, over a 1909 steel truss bridge and through an 1875 tunnel, down to the ever-popular Santa Cruz beach boardwalk. This route is one hour each way and can be booked starting from either end point.
Roaring Camp also offers a variety of special event and seasonal train rides, so keep an eye on the calendar! After the train ride, explore the rest of Roaring Camp’s historic exhibits, and head over to Henry Cowell to explore the hiking trails through the redwood forest.
2201 S. A Street, Perris, CA 92570
Known for their popular event Day Out With Thomas, families can come out and see life-sized Thomas and Percy in real life, right there on the tracks and take a ride on the train pulled by these childhood favorites. They have one of the largest collections of locomotives and other train cars, trolleys, and artifacts, and a wonderful museum to explore. In addition to weekend train and trolley rides, they offer many other regularly scheduled events with opportunities to ride, plus the Run One program where you can learn what it takes to drive a train and operate one yourself for an hour.
5848 State Highway 12, Suisun City, CA 94585
Western Railway Museum has a number of historic buildings, exhibits, and artifacts to explore. In addition, passengers can take a 50-minute ride on vintage streetcars and interurban trains on an electric track. The route is 11 miles long with scenic views of the Solano County countryside, Mount Diablo, and nearby marshlands.
100 West Laurel Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
299 East Commercial Street, Willits, CA 95490
The Skunk Train has been running since 1885 traveling through ancient redwood groves on a historic Redwood Route, carrying passengers and cargo. There are train rides available from Fort Bragg and Willits. In addition to regularly scheduled train rides, there are seasonal options as well such as the Pumpkin Express, Mushroom Train, and Christmas Tree Train. Passengers will enjoy magical scenery, views of local wildlife, travels through historic tunnels, and time to get off the train and explore the forest.
Other adventures and excursions are available here as well such as railbike rides (see below), redwood walking tours, and nightlife at Glen Blair Bar.
56001 California 41, Fish Camp, CA 93623
As if the beauty of Yosemite isn’t enough, Sugar Pine Railroad offers yet another unforgettable experience. Choose from a variety of train rides through the majestic Sierra National Forest and take in the beauty of the mighty trees growing here.
The Logger Steam Train is the regularly scheduled ride here, for a 1-hour tour through the forest. They also offer a variety of other rides like the Moonlight Special, a 3-hour tour that includes dinner and entertainment, special event trains like the Yosemite Jazz Train, and seasonal train rides like the Halloween Limited.
Before or after your train ride, be sure to explore the other attractions here like gold panning, the rail museum, and the gift store.
Smaller Trains Tor Ride In California
Los Angeles & Orange County Area
1238 S. Beach Blvd., Anaheim, CA 90680
Amusement Park train ride on a 1938 vintage miniature train.
Calico Odessa Railroad
36600 Ghost Town Road, Yermo, CA 92398
Up and running since 1958, take an 8-minute ride around this authentic mining ghost town and see historical sites and mining equipment.
Descanso Gardens Enchanted Railroad
1418 Descanso Drive, La Canada Flintridge, CA 91011
Climb aboard this miniature electric train for a tour through the gardens.
El Dorado Frontier
El Dorado Park East: 7550 E Spring Street, Long Beach, CA 90808
Open on weekends for train rides, plus a carousel, panning for gold, playgrounds, and more!
Goat Hill Junction at Fairview Park
2525 Placentia Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Small scale train rides hosted by the Orange County Model Engineers offering free rides to the public on select dates.
Griffith Park & Southern Railroad: 4400 Crystal Springs Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Travel Town: 5200 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Open daily for rides on miniature antique trains. Many other attractions to explore at Griffith Park including the Observatory and hiking trails.
Irvine Park Railroad
Irvine Regional Park: 1 Irvine Park Road, Orange, CA 92869
Take a ride on this 1/3 scale train for views of Irvine Regional Park. Fun seasonal events are hosted here annually including the Pumpkin Patch and Christmas Train.
Knott’s Berry Farm
8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, CA 90620
Multiple train rides here including the Calico Railroad and Grand Sierra Railroad.
Riverside Live Steamers
Hunter Hobby Park: 1421 Iowa Ave, Riverside, CA
Take a free train ride in the park on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month.
Santa Ana Zoo
1801 E. Chestnut Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92701
Climb aboard the Zoofari Express for a 6-and-a-half-minute ride around the zoo and see some of the sights and animals that live here.
Southern California Live Steamers
Wilson Park: 2100 Washington Ave., Torrance, CA
Take a free ride around Wilson Park on these miniature trains hosted by the Live Steamers on select days each month.
23900 Temescal Canyon Road, Temescal Valley, CA 92883
Miniature train ride around Tom’s Farm, with several other attractions on-site.
*Fillmore & Western, a popular place to ride trains in the past, is no longer operating.
Central & Northern California Area
Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Oak Meadow Park: 233 Blossom Hill Road, Los Gatos, CA 95032
Casa De Choo Choo at Casa De Fruta
10021 Pacheco Pass Highway, Hollister, CA 95023
Enjoy shopping, dining, a carousel, and other attractions including a ride on a miniature train that tours the grounds on two miles of track.
Central California Children’s Railroad at California Living Museum
10500 Alfred Harrell Hwy., Bakersfield, CA 93306
The miniature train takes passengers around the grounds of the museum with views of the Kern County foothills.
Cover’s Apple Ranch Train Ride
19211 Cherokee Road, Tuolumne, CA 95379
Take a ride around the ranch through tunnels and around the pond on a miniature train, then explore the other attractions and enjoy some fresh apple pie.
Folsom City Zoo Train
Folsom Valley Railway at Lions Park: 50 Natoma Street, Folsom, CA 95630
Take a 10-minute ride on this miniature scale live steam train.
Gilroy Gardens Bonfante Railroad Train Ride
3050 Hecker Pass Hwy., Gilroy, CA 95020
Take a ride around the park on this 1/3 scale narrow gauge railroad.
Laws Railroad Museum & Historic Site
Silver Canyon Road, Bishop, CA 93514
Not quite a train ride but close enough, at Laws you can take a rode on the Death Valley Brill Car No 5, a 1927 motorcar that takes to the tracks and transports passengers on a 15-minute ride. Check the calendar for operating times. Then, walk around and check out the big trains, historic exhibits, and more.
Howarth Park Train Rides
630 Summerfield Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95405
Take a quarter-mile train ride around the park on a miniature steam train.
Nevada County Railroad
5 Kidder Court, Nevada City, CA 95959
This narrow-gauge railroad museum offers railbus rides for free! Please consider donating to keep them running.
Oakland Zoo Train
9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland, CA 94605
Take a ride through Oakland Zoo’s Wild Australia exhibit and get views of some of the animals there.
Pixie Express at Pixie Woods
3121 Monte Diablo, Stockton, CA 95203
All aboard the Pixie Express for a ride through the Pixie Forest, around the lagoon, and through Frontier Town on a miniature train.
Placerville & Sacramento Valley Railroad
705 Sibley Street, Folsom, CA 95630
Train rides available during special events.
San Francisco Zoo Train
Sloat Blvd. at The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA 94132
Take a ride around the zoo on the historic miniature train, the Little Puffer.
Santa Barbara Zoo Train
500 Ninos Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
There are two miniature trains here that circle the perimeter of the zoo for a delightful ride with views of the resident animals.
Sonoma Train Town
20264 Broadway, Sonoma, CA 95476 | 707-938-3912
Small scale train ride on 4 miles of track with tunnels, bridges, and a view of the lake and a stop at the petting zoo.
South Coast Railroad Museum at Goleta Depot
300 North Los Carneros Road, Goleta, CA 93460
Miniature train rides at the historic depot with special events and experiences throughout the year.
Tilden Park Steam Train/Redwood Valley Railway
2481 Grizzly Peak Blvd. Orinda, CA 94563
Open year round on weekends and holidays for train rides.
Timber Heritage Association Speeder Cars
Depots in Eureka & Samoa, CA
Not train rides per se, but these Speeder crew cars take to the rails for a fun cruise along the train tracks. Two routes to choose from – the Eureka Slough Run and the Samoa Branch Run.
San Diego Area
Chula Vista Live Steamers
Rohr Park: 4548 Sweetwater Rd., Bonita, CA 91902
Free public rides on miniature scale model steam or diesel trains on select weekends.
Where To Ride Railbikes
An awesome alternative to riding trains is riding railbikes. Railbikes are 4-wheel pedal-powered bikes that you can cruise along the railroad tracks (safely). Here are a few places where you can ride railbikes in California.
Skunk Train – Railbike Options
Fort Bragg, CA | 707-964-6371
25-mile route that takes you along the Noyo River and through old-growth Redwood groves.
- Electric-powered 2-person railbikes
- Crosses 12 wooden trestle bridges
- Picnic and refreshments offered
- Time to spend by the river
7-mile route on a world-famous redwood route along Pudding Creek.
- 2-person electric powered railbikes
- Wooden trestle bridge crossings
- Ancient redwoods of Mendocino County
- Includes 50-minute layover for hiking a redwood loop or relaxing
Depart at sunset for a moonlight 7-mile railbike ride with light-equipped electric-assist railbikes, snacks, and beverages.
- 2-person railbikes
- Travel through Pudding Creek Estuary and redwood forest
- Time to relax at Glen Blair Bar, roast marshmallows, take a forest stroll
18095 County Road 117, West Sacramento 95691
Enjoy a 10-mile one hour excursion on a pedal powered railbike through the Yolo Countryside.
- Two-seater bikes
- Guided excursions
- Tracks along the Sacramento River with scenic views
200North 10th Street, Santa Paula, CA 93060
Choose from several different railbike adventures at this Ventura County location including a sunset ride, a 17-mile excursion, and seasonal adventures like Railbikes to the Pumpkin Patch.
- 2-seat pedal-powered electric-assist cars
- Routes range from 1.5 hours to 3 hours
- Scenic views of citrus and avocado groves
- Trips to Prancer’s Farm for produce, meeting the animals, picking pumpkins, and more
3071 Del Monte Blvd., Marina, CA 93933
Just north of Cannery Row, you can embark on an old-timey adventure with Handcar Tours. Book an excursion through Fort Ord Dunes State Park with exquisite views of Monterey Bay.
- Handcars and Railbikes available
- 6-mile route
- Electric-assist railbikes
- 2-seat railbikes and 4-seat handcars
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Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights.