Hidden Adventures: Roaring Camp Railroads

Stephen Hicks Image
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
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If you've got a day off, do you head to the beach or the mountains? In Felton, near Santa Cruz, you can see both in the same day.

It's seemingly the age-old question - if you've got a day off, do you head to the beach or the mountains?

In Felton, just north of Santa Cruz, a heavy dose of nostalgia will help you see both in the same day.

It hearkens back to a different time, a simpler time.

At Roaring Camp Railroads, that time is 1880.

The town sits in the middle of a forest of old redwood trees.

The train engines in operation here date back to the early 1900s, one still running from back in 1899.

There are two lines running. The steam engine takes guests through the forest and over trestle bridges up to the top of Bear Mountain.

"I've heard many people say that it is one of the most enjoyable ways to go experience a redwood forest. You're just sitting in the cars and you're listening to the rhythm of the train while it's heading uphill and it just kind of lulls you into this kind of comfort zone," says Roaring Camp Railroads CEO Melani Clark.

If you're not happy with the view inside one of the cars, you can walk out into one that's open air to better take in the views.

The other line has been known for years as the 'Sun-Tan Special.'

Instead of going up the mountain, this standard gauge train takes you down the San Lorenzo river and through a tunnel built in 1875. After an hour ride, you're spit out right on the Santa Cruz boardwalk.

Hang out for an hour - of up to five hours - but be sure to catch the last train back up the mountain at 4 pm.

Norman Clark founded the camp in 1963 with the goal of recreating the logging rails used across California in the 1880s. Tragically, he died at the age of just 50 - leaving his daughter Melani to take the mantle of keeping alive this living history.

"Almost seems like a labor of love. It very much is. They're not doing this to get rich. It's not about money here it's really about the passion and making people happy."