The Skunk Train steams into the redwood forest. Photo by Robert Jason Pinoli.
Summer is a time for family vacations, and whether it’s a multi-day trip or daytrip, not much can get children more excited or add to the memory bank than a train ride.
“Family” incudes dogs of course, and there are many dog-friendly “all aboard!” choo-choo options in California. Here are a few of our favorites, including some tail-wagging surprises. This issue is powered by Mendocino County’s Skunk Train.
Don't get skunked by the Skunk Train
Cruising for history and scenery in Santa Cruz County
All aboard for Gold Country history
Wag your way through the Central Valley
Unsure about your dog on a train? Try a small-scale starter train more »
Summer is a time for family vacations, and whether it’s a multi-day trip or day trip, not much can get children more excited or add to the memory bank than a train ride.
Skunk Railbikes with dog carrier. Photo by Robert Jason Pinoli.
For more than 130 years, this No. 1 vintage excursion train in California (it started out as a logging train carrying cargo and workers) has traveled through Northern California redwood forests. These days, there are two departure points — Fort Bragg, on the Mendocino Coast, and Willits, inland off Hwy. 101. The original name was the California Western Railroad, and has been known as the “Skunk Train” since 1925. more »
Engineer in-training on Roaring Camp Railroad. Photo by Visit Santa Cruz.
Roaring Camp Railroads, based out of Felton in Santa Cruz County, provide more than just a dog-friendly ride. The company’s Redwood Forest Steam Trains roll on a narrow-gauge track once used to haul giant redwood logs from the forest. They cruise now on 75-minute trips from Roaring Camp to Bear Mountain, where a picnic stop and hiking trails await.
There’s also a Beach Train that makes 3-hour excursions along the San Lorenzo River to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park (sorry; it’s not dog-friendly). more »
Yosemite Mtn. Sugar Pine Railroad. Photo by Tenaya Lodge-Delaware North Companies.
Tuolumne County is the heart of California Gold Country, and to get a feel for it, you and your family will want to visit both Columbia State Historic Park, with its living history attractions, and just six miles away, the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. The steam train and water tower, featured many Hollywood movies and TV shows, is a centerpiece in what is known as the Movie Railroad.
Also, further south in the Gold Country, you will discover the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.
Western Railway Museum. Photo by Chris, Western Railway Museum.
Redwood forests and mountains might be more scenically impressive, but there’s a different kind of ambience to be had in California’s flatlands. And the dog-friendly excursion trains that operate here provide plenty of diversions.
Take, for example, the electric trains of the Western Railway Museum, a repository of history from the pre-Interstate days when Northern California communities were connected by “interurban” railroads. The biggest player was the Sacramento Northern, whose trunk line stretched 184 miles from Chico to San Francisco. more »
Redwood Valley Railroad in Berkeley’s Tilden Regional Park. Photo by David McSpadden (CC).
Don’t know if your dog will like riding the rails? You can always try a training ride on the Tilden/Redwood Valley Railway in Berkeley’s Tilden Regional Park. It’s an authentic miniature steam train featuring more than 30 pieces of rolling stock. Call ahead if bringing a dog.
One of the East Bay Regional Park District’s three oldest parks, Tilden has been called the jewel of the system, and its recreational activities have become a happy tradition for generations of East Bay youngsters. more »