All Aboard the Santa Cruz Beach Train at Roaring Camp Railroads

Family fun for all ages - even the teens!

By Jennifer Hill Macaroni KID Fremont Publisher April 13, 2024

We took advantage of spring break to spend some time in Santa Cruz. We had family visiting from out of state and the weather was not going to be warm so the beach for more than just some photos was out. But we still wanted to be outside and enjoy the beautiful area -- Roaring Camp Railroads was the perfect choice!

Author received train tickets to facilitate this article. All thoughts and opinions expressed are their own.

Roaring Camp Railroads has two train options. You can ride the Redwood Forest Steam Train roundtrip to Bear Mountain from Roaring Camp (which we've done several times before) or the roundtrip Santa Cruz Beach Train from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk or Roaring Camp in Felton. The Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway operates passenger and freight services on one of the oldest and most historic lines in California.

We chose to park at the Boardwalk ($25 for the day) and boarded the noon train there. It's an hour train ride up to Roaring Camp. It was an informative and pleasant excursion through Santa Cruz and then the Redwoods down the scenic San Lorenzo River Gorge. We traveled through an 1875 tunnel and crossed a 1909 steel truss bridge before arriving at Roaring Camp Railroads

The scenery was beautiful and there was plenty of seating. You could choose from an entirely indoor car, covered car, or open car. You can also move between the cars, if you'd like. It was fun to see people come outside to wave at us as the train passed by businesses and homes and also from their cars - everyone seems to enjoy seeing the train pass!

The conductor shares info about the scenery and the area throughout the trip, but there are a few areas in the train cars where it is difficult to hear, so I recommend asking upon boarding for a good spot to hear the speakers. Our conductor, Charlie, had us laughing a bit, and was quite informative.

Once you reach Roaring Camp, a charming replica of the Old West, everyone exits from the same ramp, and depending on your timing, you have at least one hour to enjoy exploring the area. You will find a General Store, a museum, and a place to purchase food and drinks, as well as an outdoor BBQ area. You can also bring a picnic or snacks and enjoy them at one of the picnic tables. Food and drinks are also allowed on the train.

We were lucky to be nearby when the Steam Engine rolled into Roaring Camp from its return to Bear Mountain which was enjoyable for my train-loving husband. The kids enjoyed the one-man band. Henry Cowell Redwood State Park is about a 3-minute walk from the train depot at Roaring Camp Railroads. If you have time, I highly recommend exploring a bit. It's beautiful and you will not regret it.

As mentioned, our family has enjoyed visiting Roaring Camp several times over the years. This visit included our youngest two (14 and 15), one of our oldest (28), and some of her friends and we all enjoyed this visit - proof that it's perfect for all ages. The train ride allowed time for conversation and time to enjoy the nature surrounding us. Once at Roaring Camp, we could stretch our legs, use the restroom, and explore the area.

I highly recommend adding a visit to Roaring Camp Railroads to your bucket list - an old-fashioned day of fun for the whole family. Check their website here to learn about special events.

Accessibility Tips: 

  • Each train car has several steps to board. However, if needed, they will use a chair lift to get a wheelchair on and off whichever train car you would like to ride on. A wheelchair would not be able to move between the cars as the space is not wide enough. 
  • They allow strollers - if you have any young kids, bring yours. I saw quite a few napping littles on the ride back down the mountain and a stroller would make this a much more likely (and easier) scenario.
  • Roaring Camp Railroads is dog friendly as are their trains. Keep in mind, dogs are not allowed on the Boardwalk, the main beach area, or wharf there.

Roaring Camp Railroads is located at 5401 Graham Hill Road in Felton, CA (831) 335-4484.