A History Past the Rocky Mountains—Colorado’s Ghost Towns
When you think of a typical ghost town, do you think of a wide open desert with a red hue? Or do you think of wooden towns, built at the base of still lush mountains, showing how life continues even after history moves on?
If you are looking for the latter, a trip around Colorado to visit the old mining towns needs to be added to your calendar. There are hundreds of ghost towns, all in different levels of functionality or disarray. But to many travelers, the more ruined buildings and simple structures left, the better the exploration will be!
St. Elmo is regarded as one of the best-preserved ghost town in Colorado today. By the late 1880s, the town was home to mostly men, but that doesn’t mean it lacked saloons and dance halls. The town feels like a movie set, with many buildings remaining standing. The General Store is open for snacks and drinks and there is even a bed & breakfast you can stay for a few days and take a few hikes in.
Independence has an interesting end, when miners in 1899 had to flee the settlement on wooden skis in order to avoid a terrible winter storm, leaving one man behind. Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t changed too much, and visitors may have a hard time seeing the town between October and March due to bad weather conditions. But during the summer, there still many buildings to walk in and around, like the general store, mill, stable, and houses.
At its peak silver mining town in the late 19th century, Teller City had more than 25 saloons and a decent sized hotel. But by the turn of the century, silver lost its value and Teller City became a ghost town. You can visit this settlement in Roosevelt National Forest. Just make sure you wear appropriate hiking boots since many of the buildings are scattered throughout the forest.
When Dearfield was found in 1910, it became the first all-Black and African American settlement in Colorado. The town slowly grew until the Great Depression. Now a Colorado Registered Historic Landmark, visitors can meander through founder Oliver T. Jackson’s home, and the towns gas station and diner.
If you want to incorporate some exercise into your ghost town exploring, take a mountain bike from Telluride to see the remains of Tomboy settlement (don’t worry, the town can be accessed by rented ATVs as well). Make sure to visit the “social tunnel”—named for the types of encounters miners would have with women, the tunnel has been used for 130 years to access the town.
Colorado ghost towns are probably best seen in the warmer months, so you don’t have the same fate as the former residents of these fateful towns. Many of these towns still have buildings that remain standing but be careful since not all towns have been preserved the same. Keep your eyes out when hiking through these towns—it is not unheard of to find old burlaps becoming unburied and maybe they’ll even have some treasure inside!