“Amish Tourism” To Colorado Town Hit By Amtrak Cuts

I put “Amish tourism” in quotes in the title because those two words usually mean non-Amish tourists visiting Amish areas.

But this is the other, less-common meaning – Amish as tourists themselves. It turns out a good number of Amish people are rather fond of a Colorado hot springs resort town named Glenwood Springs, which happens to lie on an Amtrak train route.

Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Image: GSpics/Creative Commons

It’s not explained in the article, but I’m guessing the scenic Western mountainous setting, health offerings, and easy train accessibility are reasons why Amish people like the place. Also, they might be coming for the whitewater rafting (more on that below).

Unfortunately for its regular riders, Amtrak will be cutting its California Zephyr line service to 3 days a week (due, of course, to you-know-what). Ken Murphy, who runs an outdoor activity company, comments:

Running from Chicago to San Francisco, the California Zephyr line brings thousands of visitors to Glenwood Springs each year and is the primary means of transport for the city’s thriving Amish tourism sector, said Ken Murphy, the Glenwood Adventure Company president.

“Train tourism has always been big for Glenwood,” Murphy said, explaining he helped market the area to groups who abstain from modern travel methods. “We have a lot of Amish visitors that come to us by train from Indiana, Illinois and Pennsylvania.”

The Glenwood Adventure Company headlines with raft trips, but also offers a wide range of things including horseback riding and ATV tours. I wonder which are most popular with Amish customers.

Murphy has actively marketed the town to the Amish:

After building friendships with some of the Adventure Company’s Amish visitors, Murphy said he started visiting their communities and events where word spread about Glenwood Spring’s numerous attractions.

“It’s not a traditional tourist market, but family is everything for the Amish — they travel together,” he explained. “And, Glenwood Springs has something for everyone. Plus, we have a very respectful community that they enjoy visiting.”

Train traffic accounts for about 95 percent of the Adventure Company’s Amish customers, Murphy said.

In turn, the Amish are a decent chunk of the town’s visitors, according to the tourism director:

Glenwood Springs Tourism Director Lisa Langer said about 1 million people visit Glenwood Springs throughout the year, many of whom come by train.

“Our Amish visitors make up quite a significant number of our visitors in the summer and early fall,” Langer said. “And, we promote that train line heavily, especially to our international guests.”

In one of our recent “slice of life” posts we saw Amish travelers disembarking from an Amtrak train in Oregon. Amtrak is a mere drop in the bucket as far as how most Americans move around the country, and – I’m not going out on a limb here – probably always will be.

But of its riders, a disproportionate amount are the Amish. It’s why I once wrote a post called “Amishtrak“.

Amishmen by train
Photo: Rob Sinclair/flickr

As for Glenwood Springs, hopefully this change won’t hurt the Amish visitorship that drastically. Regular service may be restored by next summer.

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    1. Patrick J.

      Ridden the Zephyr many times

      I moved to Illinois from California and rode the California Zephyr many times over the course of 12 years. It was always a joy when Amish were on board with their large families. Many would quietly sing at night before going to bed. Always wondered where they were going, I saw them get off in Colorado but figured it must’ve been a retreat area, tourism hadn’t even crossed my mind.

      I’ve since moved back to California and will be riding a different train now. The difference in luxury in riding a train vs plane is night and day, I could never fly again given the cramped tiny seats and charges for every little thing.

      1. Sounds like a great experience Patrick – both traveling the line and having Amish folks aboard and the singing. I generally like train travel but it’s hard for me to justify the time difference in travel vs. planes. Unless of course it is a scenic route, which would make the way you travel much of the point.

      2. Gene A.

        Amish on Trains

        In the summer of 1974, I traveled across the US from New York via Chicago to San Francisco on the California Zephyr.

        There were a group of Mennonite ladies on board and I befriended one and we talked in great length until she departed, may have been in Salt Lake City, not sure.

        We penpaled for a couple of years, her name was Wilma. She told me a friend had a car stashed away so they could drive and go deer spotting in PA where she lived. And she told me about rumspringa too.

    2. Geo

      Whitewater rafting?

      I never imagined Amish folk whitewater rafting. Nor surfing for that matter.

      1. As I wrote I don’t know for sure, but wouldn’t be surprised if youth do it and maybe some baptized adults. Surfing, not so sure either but water skiing maybe.

    3. Patricia Jackson

      Amish in Glenwood Springs

      I have lived for 36 years in Colorado and make my at least minimum of one trip a year to the Glenwood Hot Springs. It is always interesting to see so many Amish enjoying the springs. I am from back east near an Amish community and before they started coming to Glenwood I had never seen any Amish in Colorado. However recently I met one Amish family that had relocated to Westcliffe, Colorado.

      1. Interesting Patricia, as for enjoying the springs, does that mean something like an inhalatorium or do people drink the waters or something else? I’ve been to “spa towns” in Europe and there are public spring water sources of varying temperatures and mineral compositions (for instance Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, aka Carlsbad). Just curious how it works in Glenwood Springs.

        1. Patricia Jackson

          No ingesting of waters just beautiful hot springs to soak in and see the mountains.

    4. Paul Crawford

      Glenwood Springs offerings

      Just across the Colorado River from the railroad station in Glenwood there are “vapor” caves, and a large area of different temperature hot pools, with all the necessary amenities for enjoyment. Thousands of people engage in swimming and soaking on a year around basis. There is also a “water park” that is popular, on the river, with all sorts of boating and surfing in the summer. There are numerous fly fishing outfitters in the area on the Colorado and other nearby rivers. Many skiers stay in Glenwood and frequent the slopes of Aspen, and areas upriver from Eagle toward Denver.
      Cable cars are nearby the pool area, and climb up above the town to a popular recreation area of scary rides. The area is one of the most scenic in Colorado. If the Amish frequent the town, it would not be a surprise.

    5. Richard Herbin

      Tri weekly service will undermine viability of long distance trains.

      Amtrak’s goal seems to be permanent elimination of these trains.
      Tri weekly service has been tried in the past. It guarantees failure.


    6. I have ridden the California Zephyr twice, round trip from Chicago to Sacramento and to Reno. It is a stunningly beautiful trip through Colorado and the Glenwood Springs and Glenwood Canyon area is the highlight of the trip. I met a number of Amish people while dining in the dining car, and there were many more onboard. One couple did tell me about Glenwood Springs and it has me thinking about making an extended stop there. Amtrak is foolish for cutting back in that route. They should be advertising the route like crazy to get more people aboard to experience the beauty of that ride.

    7. Amish tourists in Colorado

      I am originally from Boulder, Colorado, and miss it terribly! I do recall seeing some Mennonites in Estes Park, but I only once saw an Amish family there. I do know that some Amish have moved to the San Luis Valley, in southern Colorado.

    8. amtrak returning to daily

      With recent transportation funding all of the long distance lines have dates around Memorial Day, the end of May to return to daily service. The easterners have to change trains in Chicago. The travelers have a routine for meeting and greeting in the Chicago terminal to ease the wait time according to an Ohio Amish friend who also reacted to a recent banking report in this series with the statement “Until one is 21 he is working for mom and dad.” That means he contradicted the notion that at 14 years, the graduated scholar is building up wealth with employment wages going into the bank.