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Pedal the rails: Railbike excursions guide (2024)

By Nastassia Putz | March 25, 2024

| Last updated on April 5, 2024

Rain or shine, get ready to pedal

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Railbike excursions

a man and woman on a railbike on tracks
Skunk Train

What’s the fuss about?

This concept has existed roughly since the 1850s, when maintenance workers on railroads used handcars and railbikes to get from point A to point B.  Something had to be used to carry the crew and materials for track inspections and/or repairs. In 1877, a Michigan farmer named George Sheffield was accredited for inventing the first three-wheeled railroad velocipede — a handcar that used a combination of hand and foot power to propel forward (“push-pull fashion”).

With many variations of this today, railbikes are primarily used for pleasure. The construction of each railbike may differ — some are 2-seaters, others 4 — and can come with electric assist. Essentially, the railbike may offer you a different perspective of the railroad — in essence you become the train. You chug along at a speed that is comfortable for you, while taking in the beautiful scenery along your chosen destination. It’s a great opportunity to relax, try something different, and take some spectacular photos.

Reserving your spot

With several groups of people out on a railroad at any given time, it’s not meant to be a race. The idea is to enjoy your time out on the tracks. Tailgating is not preferred. Each operation will have its own set of rules that you must follow. So don’t just plan on showing up the day of without a reservation and in flip flops — it’s not going to happen.

It’s like riding a bike

These “hands free,” people-powered rail vehicles are gaining momentum all over the United States on a variety of railroads, so here’s a guide to help you find one near you.

two people on railbike looking at each other
Skunk Train

Note: Cancellations may occur if weather conditions are dangerous. Riders may be turned away if rules are not observed. Weight/height/age restrictions may be present. If children are allowed to ride, but cannot reach the pedals, a car seat or baby sling may be advised.

This list is not all-inclusive.

Skunk Train
Location: Fort Bragg, California
Season: All year
Price: $265 (2-seater)
Length: 7 miles (2 hours) or 25 miles (4 hours)

Note: Want to bring your pet along? A limited number of dog trailers and crates are available for an extra charge ($30).

River Fox Train
Location: Sacramento, California
Season: All year
Price: $109 weekday, $129 weekend (2-seater)
Length: 10 miles (1 hour)

Rail Explorers USA
Location: California, Rhode Island, New York, Iowa, and Kentucky

  • Amador, Calif. Uses Amador Central Railroad tracks (mid-March thru December)
  • Bluegrass, Ky. Uses Bluegrass Scenic Railroad (late-March thru November)
  • Boone, Iowa. Uses Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad (mid-April thru October)
  • Catskills, N.Y. (late-April thru October)
  • Cooperstown, N.Y. Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley Railroad (early-May thru October
  • Rhode Island. Uses Newport and Narragansett Bay Railroad (late-April thru early-November)

Price: Varies, $65 to $175
Length: Varies by location

Colorado Railbike Adventures
Location: Erie, Colorado
Season: All year
Price: $160
Length: 8 miles (2 hours)

Note: Learn about the Erie Coal Train

Revolution Rail Co.
Location: Colorado, New York, Maine, and New Jersey
Season: Cape May, N.J. (March to December),
Colorado, New York, and Maine (May to October)
Price: $90/$160 (2-seater/4-seater), Maine $60/$100
Length: Varies by location

Note: Full moon rides are available at specific locations

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
Location: Blue Ridge, Georgia
Season: March to December
Price: $48.75 (per seat)
Length: 5.7 miles (1.5 hours)

Tracks and Yaks
Location: Frostburg and Berlin, Maryland
Season: Feb. 17 to Dec. 31 (Frostburg), Apr. 1 to Nov. 24 (Berlin)
Price: Varies, $99 to $299 (2-seater/4-seater)
Length: Varies by location (2 to 4 hours)

Wheels on Rails
Location: Traverse City, Michigan
Season: May 24 to Sept. 15 (Thursday to Monday)
Price: $45 (M-37 Expedition), $50 (Hoosier Valley)
Length: Hoosier Valley Hotshot (6 miles) or M-37 Expedition (3 miles)

Hobo & Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad
Location: Laconia, New Hampshire
Season: Begins in May
Price: TBD, 4-seater
Length: 5 miles (1.5 hours)

Scenic Railriders
Location: Concord, New Hampshire
Season: May 11 to Nov. 3
Price: $75 to $90, $145 to $160 (2-seater/4-seater)
Length: 6.2 miles (1.5 to 2 hours)

Adirondack Railbike Adventures
Location: Thendara or Tupper Lake, New York
Season: May to October and/or July to October (Timber Ridge)
Price: $45 per seat or $150 per private bike (2 to 3 seats)
Length: 7 miles (1.5 to 2 hours)

Note: Haunted Halloween option $25

Finger Lake Rail Riders
Location: Penn Yan, New York
Season: May 4 through October
Price: $88 (2-person bike)
Length: 5 miles (2 hours)

American Rail Bike Adventures
Location: Boulder City, Nevada or Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania
Season: All year
Price: $80 to $170
Length: 7 to 8 miles (1.5 to 2 hours)

Mount Hood Railroad
Location: Hood River, Oregon
Season: April to October
Price: $199 (2-seater)
Length: 11 miles (2.4 hours)

Joseph Branch Railriders
Location: Joseph, Oregon
Season: May 18 to Sept. 30
Price: Varies, $60 to $240 (2-seater and 4-seaters available)
Length: Varies, 6 to 20 miles (1 to 4 hours)

Note: Evening tours available. Onsite unsupervised boarding ($10 to $20) available for pets comfortable with crates — only offered during daytime trips.

Secret Valley Excursions (Colebrookdale Railroad)
Location: Boyertown, Pennsylvania
Season: May through November
Price: $155/$175 (3-seater/4-seater)
Length: 45 mins. to 1.5 hours

Note: Explore magical rock cuts hand-dug by Civil War veterans.

Pennsylvania Rail Bike
Location: Hawley, Pennsylvania
Season: Memorial Day through Halloween
Price: Price varies $125/$315 (2-seater/4-seater)
Length: 10 miles (2 hours) or 20 miles (3.5 hours)

Vance Creek Railriders
Location: Shelton, Washington
Season: May 18 to Sept. 29
Price: $24 (11 and younger), $36 (12 plus), 4-seater
Length: 13 miles (2 hours)

What to bring with you?

  • The No. 1 thing to bring with you on a railbike excursion — an adventurous spirit
  • Weather appropriate clothing: hats, gloves, etc…
  • Closed-toed shoes (no opened-backs shoes either)
  • Helmet (some places may provide them)
  • Water or other non-alcoholic beverages
  • Snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunglasses
  • Light jacket/poncho (rain gear)
  • Camera/smartphone
  • Benadryl/EpiPens
  • Binoculars
  • Small bag/fanny pack
  • Car seat/baby sling

Watch Trains LIVE episode “Ridin’ the Rail Gliders,” to see more on railbikes.

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