If you're planning on exploring the great state of Colorado this summer, ghost towns and mining ruins should undoubtedly be a part of your itinerary.
Words by Shane Williams, Explorer
While there are literally hundreds of sites to explore, we love these four particular gems to get a true sense of western history.
1. Crystal Mill
The Crystal Mill is one of the most photographed relics in Colorado, and for good reason: it's gorgeous! This ghost town east of Marble had as many as 400 residents in the late 1800s. The route to this town is rated moderate to difficult, so please plan accordingly.
2. St. Elmo
An easy drive on dirt roads brings you to St. Elmo, one of the most well-preserved ghost towns in Colorado. During the gold rush in the 1880s over 2,000 people inhabited the town. As with so many other Colorado Ghost Towns, St. Elmo slowly became a ghost town as the mines stopped producing. The largest mine, Mary Murphy, shut down in 1922.
East of Aspen is the well preserved Independence Ghost Town. The population of this town was once as high as 1,500 and included 3 post offices and 40 other business ventures. During the winter of 1899 the town was cut off from supplies, so the few remaining residents turned their houses into skis and headed down the mountain.
The highest paved crossing of the Continental Divide is Independence Pass, and is only open during a very short window in the summer.
Sitting 3,000ft above Telluride, the remnants of Tomboy Mine greet visitors of all kinds during the cool summer. From the late 1800s to early 1900s, over 2,000 people called Tomboy home and lived in the town year round. This town can be accessed most easily by driving K68 Rd up from Telluride. You can continue the journey over Imogene Pass and into Ouray, although just as many explorers start from the Ouray side so keep an eye on the narrow road.
Continue the adventure from Tomboy Mine by heading over Imogene Pass:
As an added suggestion, if you're already in the SW Colorado area, you will likely have the chance to see Animas Forks. This ghost town is 19km northeast of Silverton, and can be accessed along the Alpine Loop.