If you’re a regular visitor to the Rockies, you’ve likely stumbled upon an old log cabin or two deep in the woods; legacies of the rich history hidden in Colorado’s mountains. These cabins are just the beginning: entire towns lay hidden in the hills, waiting to be re-discovered and explored by modern travelers. Prepare to step back in time when walking through these Colorado mountain ghost towns.
The History of Colorado Mountain Ghost Towns
Most ghost towns in Colorado share a common common history in the early mining years of the state. During the silver and gold booms between 1850 and 1900, hundreds of mining camps and towns developed in the Rockies as deposits of minerals were discovered. Some towns remain today, like Telluride and Breckenridge, while many others faded as soon as the deposits were depleted. Here are seven of my favorite Colorado mountain ghost towns you can still visit today.
1) Animas Forks
Of the dozens of ghost towns in Colorado, Animas Forks has among the best preserved structures and buildings. Founded in 1873, the town had more than 450 residents at its peak in 1883. Despite a revival of mining in the early 20th century, the town was eventually abandoned. The most famous structure on the site is the two-story Duncan House built in 1876. Its large bay windows overlook the town remains, a reminder of the fleeting nature of success in the grand scheme of things.
Learn More about Animas Forks Here.
2) Winfield & Vicksburg
If you plan to climb Huron Peak or Mt Belford, it’s impossible to miss Vicksburg. This mining camp from the 1860’s features a main street line with balsam pine trees. The plantings were hauled in by the miners and planted by hand 140 years ago, and are watered by irrigation ditches they dug. Winfield lies 4 miles up the road, and features a museum in what was once the town’s schoolhouse. They’re both worth a bit of your time to explore their mining past.
Learn More about Winfield & Vicksburg Here.
3) St. Elmo
Without a doubt, St. Elmo is the best preserved Ghost Town in the state of Colorado. Dozens of buildings from the late 19th century still stand, including the town hall and jail, general store and numerous residences. The store still opens during the summer months, and there are still a few inhabitants, so some argue if it’s technically a ghost town or not. Regardless, it’s 100% worth a day to visit and explore.
Learn More about St. Elmo Here.
When you first visit Carson high in the mountains, it feels like you’re the first person to step foot in this camp in a century or more. You’ll need a 4WD vehicle with good clearance to make it to this isolated community at nearly 11,600 feet. However thanks to that distance, you’ll be treated to a much quieter experience than some of the other Colorado mountain ghost towns.
Learn More about Carson Here.
5) Teller City
Teller City is among the less preserved ghost towns to make it on this list. Most of the remaining structures are small, dilapidated log cabins in various stages of collapse. However, there’s something truly endearing about the town hidden among the evergreens. The town reached it’s peak in 1880’s and was deserted by 1902.
Learn More about Teller City Here.
Higher in elevation than most towns, Alta was founded in the 1880’s at nearly 11,850 feet. Located between Rico and Telluride, the town is famous for being the first to run on Nicolas Tesla’s AC current system, which today operates nearly all power systems. There are still a few buildings remaining, including the town’s large central ore processing mill.
Learn More about Alta Here.
7) Ohio City
If you’re afraid of visiting a ghost town, Ohio City might be a better option. It remains partially inhabited with several residents and stores mixed in with relic buildings from the town’s past. Walk amongst the ruins, chat with residents, and visit the local general store while visiting Ohio City.
Learn More about Ohio City Here.
Colorado Mountain Ghost Towns
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About the Author: Alex Derr
Alex Derr is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver Colorado. He is working to climb Colorado’s highest 100 peaks, and the 20 tallest peaks in California. He created The Next Summit to share advice, stories, history & reflections from the Colorado Rockies & Sierra Nevada. When not climbing, he is managing the Communications strategy at Visible Network Labs.