The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad is a delightful family-friendly attraction just outside Yosemite National Park. Every day from April through to the end of October, passengers of all ages ride in open-air cars pulled by genuine vintage steam trains. The trains chug along 4 miles of narrow-gauge tracks through the scenic Sierra National Forest, interrupting the tranquility of nature with the occasional boisterous blast of steam. It’s otherwise a serene ride that shows off the sun-speckled beauty of the Sierras. You’ll take in hillsides dense with mature redwoods, firs and pines, among them the sugar pines that first drew loggers and steam trains to the site.
The 4-mile return train ride takes about an hour and includes a stopover in Lewis Creek Canyon. Here, take a close-up look at the powerful steam train that pulled or pushed you through the forest. The company operates two impressive locomotives: Shay #10, built in 1928, and Shay #15, built in 1913. Both were originally logging trains used elsewhere in the Sierras, and are kept in immaculate condition. During the stopover, the trains’ engineers fill the tanks with water and perform other such nostalgic tasks. It’s a compelling scene surely reminiscent of the work of their railroad-era predecessors.
Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad was founded in 1965, but it follows a section of the original railroad route used by the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company from 1899 to 1931. The company logged some 30,000 acres of the forest, launching logs down flumes into the valley below and transporting more via wood-burning locomotives to nearby lumber mills. You can learn all about this era and see antique artifacts at the Thornberry Museum on site.
Another fun activity available at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad depot is panning for gold. Visit the prospector’s cabin for a brief history lesson to learn about the discovery of gold in California, then try your luck with a pan at the adjacent sluice boxes. The friendly prospector will show you how to scoop, shake and shimmy the water and pebbles apart from any tiny gold flakes you’re lucky enough to pick up. And yes, you get to take home your fortune.
Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad is open from April through October for daily steam train rides. It also offers Moonlight Special rides with a barbecue and campfire songs, and seasonal events such as the Halloween steam train ride. It’s just a 10-minute drive from the south entrance to Yosemite National Park and a wonderful activity to include during any visit to Oakhurst and Yosemite.
56001 Highway 41, Fish Camp, CA 93623