Is the Conway Scenic Railroad worth it?

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The Conway Scenic Railroad is one of the most popular activities in New Hampshire — especially around peak foliage time.

This old-fashioned railroading experience, which dates back to 1874, is one of the best leisurely activities in the White Mountains (and one of the best things to do in North Conway).

As much as we at New Hampshire Way wish there were decent passenger trains around the Granite State (the only Amtrak route here is a blink-and-you’ll-miss it journey along the Seacoast stopping in Exeter and Dover), you can’t deny that we have the best scenic train rides in New England.

From the Mount Washington Cog Railway to the Hobo Railroad and Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad, New Hampshire is absolutely gorgeous when viewed from a train!

The Conway Scenic Railroad is one of the most famous, offering both Heritage Train Excursions and Scenic Train Rides through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. You can take these journeys from late May to mid-November, but we think they’re one of the best things to do in New Hampshire in the fall.

You can’t miss striking North Conway Station in North Conway Village, built in a “Russian Victorian” style by architect Nathaniel J. Bradlee and painted a sunny yellow. Today people from all over New England and beyond line up to get a taste of New Hampshire train adventure — and a journey into the past.

This post was most recently updated in May 2023.

An old-fashioned train riding through a forest of orange leaves.
Conway Scenic Railroad, via Bob Pool on Shutterstock

Conway Scenic Railroad FAQ

Is the Conway Scenic Railroad worth it?

We think the Conway Scenic Railroad is especially worth it for train fans, people with mobility challenges, and people who want a leisurely activity in North Conway.

Should you book the Conway Scenic Railroad in advance?

We highly recommend booking in advance, and advance booking is crucial for fall foliage season or special seasonal rides.

How long does the Conway Scenic Railroad take?

The Conway Scenic Railroad offers rides ranging from 55 minutes to 5.5 hours.

How much does the Conway Scenic Railroad cost?

Prices vary depending on the journey and class you choose, but prices for the one-hour journey start at $21 for adults and $15 for kids.

What time of year does the Conway Scenic Railroad run?

The Conway Scenic Railroad runs from late May through mid-November, in addition to some special holiday journeys.

Is the Conway Scenic Railroad family-friendly?

Kids are welcome on the railroad, but we recommend choosing the 55-minute Conway Valley Train if you have young children.

Is the Conway Scenic Railroad accessible to people with disabilities?

As a historic train, the Conway Scenic Railroad is not ADA-compliant, but they do have a wheelchair lift and the First Class and Premier Class cars are wheelchair-accessible.

A shiny maroon train parked next to a yellow train station.

Types of Excursions on the Conway Scenic Railroad

There are three kinds of excursions on the Conway Scenic Railroad: the Conway River Valley, Sawyer River, and Mountaineer (as well as special or seasonal trains). The Conway River Valley train and the Sawyer River Valley train are Heritage Rail Excursions, while the Mountaineer is a Scenic Train Ride.

The Conway River Valley Excursion is a 55-minute, 11-mile roundtrip journey down to the town of Conway and back. This classic rural train ride is the best choice for young children.

The Sawyer River Excursion is a two-hour 10-minute, 21-mile roundtrip journey along a historic rail route in vintage passenger cars. On this train journey, you cross several bridges with picturesque river views, especially during foliage season.

The Mountaineer is the big, famous excursion: a 4-5.5 hour, 50-60 mile roundtrip journey through the Mount Washington Valley, into Crawford Notch and back. Formerly known as the Notch Train, this is the most scenic of the Conway Scenic Railroad’s journeys.

Lunch is served on the Mountaineer, and Premier Class gives you the option of dining in a domed area for surrounding views of the spectacular scenery. You can enjoy the whole journey on 1950s-era streamlined passenger cars.

Which train journey is best? If you’re here for the scenery, you should choose the Mountaineer. The scenery you see on this train is significantly better than what you see on the other two rail journeys. If you’re up for a shorter, less scenic journey, you can choose between Conway River Valley and Sawyer River.

Our Experience on the Conway Scenic Railroad

Kate, our New Hampshire Way editor, took the Sawyer River excursion on the Conway Scenic Railroad in early October. Originally we were booked in First Class, but we had to reschedule last-minute due to illness and the only seats left on our new date were in Coach Class.

We arrived at the ticket window 30 minutes prior to departure, as recommended on the website, and queued up for the train.

A hand holding a ticket reading "Conway Scenic Railroad"
A huge crowd of people waiting to board a train.

Now, this is one thing we think the Conway Scenic Railroad could do better — the crowd was a bit unruly, there wasn’t enough room for everyone to line up, and the worker at the ticket counter was yelling at people for standing in the wrong spot. This may be due to it being peak foliage crowds, but the system could be improved.

We got on board our coach class car — two people in each seat with an aisle in between. Most of the crowd appeared to be retirement-aged, which isn’t unusual on a weekday afternoon in New Hampshire in the fall!

An old-fashioned train car filled to the brim with retirees.

First Class and Premier Class have airier seating. The original ticket we had booked in First Class had wicker chairs facing the windows directly.

And soon we were off — driving through North Conway and on to Bartlett, Attitash, and beyond. We crossed rivers and took in brilliant foliage views. Yet these views were very brief, and the bulk of the trip was through timberland.

But when we took those bridges — wow, was the scenery beautiful!

View of mountains and a river punctuated with bright red fall foliage trees.
The views of the White Mountains were astounding!
A small white cottage set among green trees starting to turn red.
We loved the glimpses of small town New Hampshire along the way.
A bright green forest.
Most of the views were of timberland like this.
A still lake surrounded by colorful fall trees.
But the river crossings were the best part!

We stopped once we got to the halfway point. And from there we were shown how to lift our bench seats to change the seating pattern, effectively keeping the same seat but facing in the other direction. Neat!

Throughout the journey, we listened to historic commentary about the region. Perhaps this was an issue with our car, but we found the speakers distractingly scratchy and found it a bit difficult making out all the words. So we sat back and enjoyed the scenery.

And soon we were back to North Conway again.

A rock-strewn river surrounded by trees changing from green to orange and gold.

Best Time to See Fall Foliage in New Hampshire

If you’re planning a trip to North Conway for fall foliage, we recommend timing your trip for early October. We took our Conway Scenic Railroad trip on October 6, 2022, which is about as close as you can get to peak foliage, and it was so worth it. New Hampshire fall foliage is beyond spectacular, and scenic train rides are one of the best things to do in New Hampshire in the fall.

Keep in mind that peak foliage is the busiest and most expensive time of year to visit North Conway. Places tend to book out very quickly, especially the small B&Bs, especially on Columbus Day weekend. As soon as you have your dates set, book your accommodation.

So where’s the best place to stay in North Conway? Check out our guide to North Conway hotels and B&Bs, as well as the best North Conway bed and breakfasts, or even our favorite New Hampshire cabins with hot tubs (most of which are in North Conway or nearby Jackson!).

Read More: Where to See the Best New Hampshire Fall Foliage

Other Seasonal Journeys on the Railroad

The Conway Scenic Railroad offers a variety of rail journeys throughout the year. Be sure to check out their excursions page for the latest trips.

One notable trip is Santa’s Holiday Express, which is one of our favorite Christmas activities in New Hampshire. This hourlong, 11-mile round-trip journey includes a visit with Santa, along with a treasure hunt, and each kid receives a goody bag with milk and cookies.

You can learn more about Santa’s Holiday Express here. Coach class rates start at $25 for adults, $19 for kids, and free for babies and toddlers. First Class and Premium Class will cost you more.

A shiny maroon train parked at a station.

Conway Scenic Railroad Cost

The cost of the Conway Scenic Railroad depends on the journey you take, the class you choose, and the time of year. Here are the latest prices:

One-hour Conway Valley Train

  • Coach class: $23 for adults, $17 for children 4-12, free for children 3 and under
  • First Class: $29 for adults, $22 for children 4-12, $14 for children 3 and under
  • Premium: $36 for adults, $27 for children 4-12, $17 for children 3 and under

Two-hour Sawyer River Valley Train

  • Coach class: $52 for adults, $35 for children 4-12, free for children 3 and under
  • First Class: $63 for adults, $46 for children 4-12, $27 for children 3 and under
  • Premium: $80 for adults, $60 for children 4-12, $36 for children 3 and under

Four-hour Mountaineer Train

  • Coach Class: $69 for adults, $47 for children 4-12, $15 for children 3 and under
  • First Class: $95 for adults, $58 for children 4-12, $28 for children 3 and under
  • Premium Dining Class: $125 for adults, $78 for children 4-12, $48 for children 3 and under
  • Mountaineer Dome Dining Class: $165 for adults, $130 for children 4-12, $95 for children 3 and under

Please keep in mind that September and October Mountaineer trains feature a longer, 5.5-hour journey to Fabyan Station in Crawford Notch, and rates are a bit higher ($79 for coach adults, $125 for first class adults, etc.).

A row of red painted shops in small town North Conway.

How to Get To the Conway Scenic Railroad

The Conway Scenic Railroad is located right in the heart of North Conway — you can’t miss the bright yellow station right on Schouler Park. The address is 38 Norcross Circle, North Conway, NH.

Street parking can be a bit of an issue in North Conway, especially during peak foliage. The Conway Scenic Railroad offers parking on the other side of the railroad tracks — but if a train is parked there, you can’t access it!

We recommend taking one of the side streets off Route 16 (White Mountain Highway) and finding street parking there.

North Conway is a 90-minute drive from Portland, Maine; a two-hour drive from Manchester, NH; and a 2.5-hour drive from Boston, Massachusetts.

A mountain rising behind a valley, colored grasses covering the landscape.

Is the Conway Scenic Railroad Worth It?

Overall, our opinion is that the Conway Scenic Railroad is definitely worth it — as long as you book the right excursion! We were under the impression that the Sawyer River journey would be more scenic than it is. We should have booked the Mountaineer for the maximally scenic experience, and we hope to book it next year for foliage season.

If you don’t have time for the 4-5.5 hour journey on the Mountaineer, you can absolutely enjoy yourself on Sawyer River or Conway River Valley, but just know that it’s more of a historic experience than a scenic journey. There’s a bit of scenery, but nowhere on the level of the Mountaineer.

If you want a shorter journey that is very scenic, we highly recommend the Mount Washington Cog Railway, which is about a 3.5-hour journey altogether, including time at the Mount Washington Summit. Keep in mind that this leaves from Bretton Woods, about a 45-minute journey from North Conway.

Finally, if you’re a train junkie, you’ll love any of these rail journeys. And if you have mobility challenges or need a relaxing, leisurely activity in North Conway, you can’t do any better than this!

Overall, the Conway Scenic Railroad is one of New Hampshire’s great traditions. Go book a trip on their website, and we hope you enjoy it!

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