The first sign of autumn isn’t always the changing of the leaves; sometimes it’s the changing of the kegs. When the air turns crisp and pint glasses are raised in celebration, it can only mean that Oktoberfest has arrived. Ales on Rails is Verde Canyon Railroad’s way of toasting this German tradition, providing a rollicking farewell to summer beginning Tuesday, September 14 and running through Sunday, October 31, 2021. Sample a wide range of local Arizona breweries, proudly showcased on the depot patio, these are richly crafted local beers ranging from the lightest pilsners to the hoppiest IPAs and deepest stouts the Copper State has to offer.
Now in its 19th year, the very popular Ales on Rails season always sells out in advance and may be reserved to include a Verde Canyon Railroad logo beer glass with four beer-tasting tickets, a made-to-order lunch from the Copper Spike Cafe and a large selection of fine Arizona-brewed craft beers for only $125 per person. The party begins on the depot patio from 10:30am -12:45 p.m., with beer tasting on tap prior to the train’s 1:00 p.m. departure. The fun continues as favorite beers of the day will also be available canned for purchase aboard the train, to enjoy while marveling at the vibrant Verde Canyon scenery.
Echoing the celebration of amber brews are the brilliant bronze and gold colors vividly on display throughout Mother Nature’s masterpiece during the Fall Colors Tour, with autumn foliage ranging from chartreuse to ginger, and vermillion to violet for a wide range strikingly seasonal hues. If you mixed all four seasons together and skimmed off the very best, you would create autumn. Radiant colors and mild temperatures with a hint of briskness in the air charges Verde Canyon with a fresh energy. Residents of the Verde Canyon, as well as visitors, feel the seasonal change. Wildlife sightings increase as deer, Javelina, coyote and other species grow more active. Amidst the fall finery, a chorus of wings adds a touch of music, as migratory birds return to the sanctuary between the canyon walls.
The Verde Canyon’s resident Bald Eagles are joined by these migrating visitors, adding to the population, and the train’s connection with these noble birds. The train is a proud sponsor of Arizona-based rescue Liberty Wildlife, who share scheduled Raptors at the Rails programs with depot guests, featuring hawks, owls, falcons and vultures from their education program at the depot, and a bald eagle riding the train each month.
As October draws to a finale, the Verde Canyon’s low whistling winds are perhaps ghostly whispers of ancient Sinaguan cliff-dwellers or of miners’ spirits restlessly roaming from nearby famed “Ghost City” Jerome’s abandoned copper mine shafts. No matter what your plans might be for the spookiest night of the year, spend part of your day aboard the Haunted Halloween Express on Sunday, October 31st. In addition to the blazing colors of fall and the smooth, cool flow of artisanal beer, train staff will be in Halloween disguises ranging from mild to wild, and there will be a costume contest for passengers, with fun prizes and plenty of candy making for ghoulish good fun for the whole family.
Leave the confines of city life in favor of high-spirited fun and an unforgettable journey around every bend and over every bridge as the train winds through its beautiful and historic red-rock riparian canyon home this autumn. Surrounded by the colors of the season, the flavors of Arizona, the curves of the Verde River, a trip aboard the train inspires wonder and fills cameras.
The Verde Canyon Railroad depot is in Clarkdale, Arizona, 25 minutes southwest of Sedona and two hours north of Phoenix. For reservations book online at VerdeCanyonRR.com or call 800-293-7245.
It’s not the destination, it has always been the journey