All kids love trains. It’s a scientific fact. Trains are big. Trains go choo-choo. What’s not to love?
When my mother-in-law asked if we wanted to ride a historic train that went through Provo Canyon, I had two thoughts run through my mind – one, yay! Trains! And, two, does this fit with naptime? After a long nervous mom thought process, I decided to throw caution to the wind and risk whatever happened with the nap…because my daughter doesn’t sleep while we’re away from home anyway, so what difference did it make if she didn’t sleep on a train instead of in a bed?
The train in question was the Heber Valley Railroad, also fondly called the Heber Creeper because – to be sure – you are definitely not stepping aboard a bullet train when you board the Heber Valley Railroad. Ride this train if you want to take a leisurely amble along a creek or beside the Wasatch mountain range, or if you want something to do that encourages you to enjoy some sparkling conversation with your out-of-town guests.
We took the three-hour Provo Canyon Limited train, but there are a few different train rides to choose from, including seasonal and special trains like the Pumpkin Train, North Pole Express, Wizard’s Train, and the Cowboy Train. Choose your own adventure, but if you aren’t sure what to do, the Provo Canyon Limited was a lot of fun with a little bit of everything.
Things to Know
- These are actual historical trains dating to the early 1900s.
- Always keep an eye out for special or seasonal trains as the lineup changes. In addition to a few scenic train rides, there are also holiday trains, a cowboy train, and even a train trip combined with a white water rafting adventure.
- The train trips are very family friendly.
- There is some loud-ish music at times during the experience if you’re sensitive to sound.
- Rail cars are heated in colder weather, but don’t have AC.
- If you’re intrigued by the history of the railroad and the individual trains, you can read more on the Heber Valley Railroad website.
- You can buy tickets online or at the depot in Heber, Utah. If you’re buying in person, make sure to get there at least a half hour in advance as trains do leave promptly. The Heber depot is located at 450 S 600 W, Heber City, Utah, 84032.
The Provo Canyon Limited
The Provo Canyon Limited departs from the Heber depot (as do just about all of the trains) and meanders its way past mountains, Deer Creek, and Deer Creek Reservoir (sit on the left side of the train heading out if you enjoy looking at the water) out to Vivian Park.
Getting on the train, you might first notice that the seats don’t offer a ton of legroom. Tall people beware! These are actual historic trains and I guess legroom wasn’t a big priority back in the day. On board, there’s a concessions car where you can buy snacks along the way, and there’s a restroom right on the train, but the conductor either jokingly or seriously informed us that the bathrooms were very old so we didn’t use them. When you stop midway at Vivian Park, there are restrooms (pit toilets so take your pick between old train bathrooms and…pit toilets).
If you’re traveling with a toddler or young children, you can let them get up and walk around the train car whenever you like, which is nice.
Also note that there is a mock robbery on the train with a few gunshots (I didn’t actually hear them so you can’t hear them in all cars), and there is decently loud music that plays for parts of the journey, so if anyone in your party is sound sensitive, be aware. I had been concerned the mock robbery might scare my toddler, but it’s quick and on the silly side (mostly just hanky-masked men telling everyone to put their hands up) so it wasn’t an issue at all.
Once the train gets going, the fun starts. While I’ve been on other similar historic railroads, I’ve never had one go all out with entertainment like the Heber Valley Railroad. The mock robbery was just the start. As the train heads out, you’ll enjoy some tunes playing over the loud speaker while you watch the scenery go by. The conductor character comes through a few times with updates. On the way back, cast members rotate through the cars and offer different types of entertainment. One told old cowboy stories, while another strummed a guitar and sang to us.
And remember my toddler who doesn’t sleep on vacation ever? She fell asleep during this part and slept right through the cowboy stories and songs and a train full of kids howling like coyotes during one song. Go figure. I guess she had to sleep sometime.
The train stops at Vivian Park to turn around, and everyone can get off and stretch their legs here or use the pit toilets. There’s also a playground for kids, and a pretty park to walk around. Just don’t go too far as the stop is only 15 or 20 minutes.
The Provo Canyon Limited is just one of the train ride experiences you can take. Others include:
The 90-minute Deer Creek Express is a shorter version of the Provo Canyon Limited journey, and still includes the mock robbery, but does not go all the way out to Vivian Park.
The 90-minute North Pole Express around the holidays features hot chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, a visit with Santa, and lots of carols and character entertainers.
The 40-minute Pumpkin Train is short and sweet and involves character actors, a pumpkin cookie and a Halloween sticker for all, and a trip through the family-friendly haunted car at the depot. And, bonus, you get to choose a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch to take home, too.
The 90-minute Monday Night Trains journey along Deer Creek Reservoir and feature cheap tickets, sing-a-longs, and other fun.