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Nestled in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and with a fascinating history, the tiny town of Creede is an underrated travel destination in Colorado. Here you’ll find storefronts that have been in place since the 1890s, local entertainment, and a small-town vibe that’s welcoming and friendly. It’s an ideal place for outdoor recreation throughout the year and offers some of the most picturesque landscapes anywhere in Southwest Colorado. Here are the top 10 things to do when you visit Creede, Colorado.
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Production from the Last Chance Mine ended several decades ago, but this was the last major strike in the area. This mine was once a source of amethyst vein ore and has its last underground exploration in the 1970s. You can visit the site between Memorial Day weekend and the end of September and also come by to see if you can find the geocache hidden at the mine. This is also a place to shop for jewelry, rocks and minerals, and clothing. Another mining history destination is the Creede Underground Mining Museum, which has been open since 1992 offers tours. This is another place to learn about the history of the mining industry and a chilly place to cool off on a hot day.
The Bachelor Loop spans about 17 miles and travels through the region’s old mining camps. You can drive through the loop and make a few stops to see the old sites in just an hour or two, but the experience is certainly worth the time and effort. Take some time to notice the bristlecone pine trees, interpretative points with information, and there’s even a guidebook you can buy from the Creede Visitor Center. Alternatively, you can bike the loop, which takes about 1.5 to 3 hours and is best done in a counter-clockwise direction. Make sure to respect posted signs and not trespass where indicated to help maintain the integrity of these historic and natural sites.
One beautiful area that you must check out when you’re in Creede is North Clear Creek Falls. This natural landmark is about 25 miles west of town and just off Highway 149. The falls are undeniably impressive and accessible because they are just a short walk from the parking area. The falls’ observation site is managed by the U.S. Forest Service and features safety railings, interpretive signs, and a handicapped trail to an accessible lookout spot. Make sure to bring your camera for great photo opportunities. There is no fee to enter the area and it is open year-around, but the site is not plowed and often snowed in between December and April. This is when the site becomes an excellent snowmobile destination!
Even though Creede has a population of just 296 people, there is a great theater in town that produces local shows. The Creede Repertory Theatre has won numerous awards and has some excellent actors who come to town to perform in the summer season. The theater was founded in 1966 and produces seven to ten plays each season. The venue also hosts musical events and concerts, offers educational programming, and has been named one of the best places to see a performance in the state. This theater is actually the largest summer employer in town, often employing at least 90 people per season. Shows include Barefoot in the Park, The Wizard of Oz, and Boomtown improv comedy.
The town of Creede has a historical museum that features mining history, natural minerals, and the interesting characters who have lived here over the years. It is run by the Creede Historical Society and is open every day from 10am to 4pm from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, and then on weekends through September. The admission fee is just $2 for adults and $1 for seniors.
This part of Colorado is also a wonderful place to take a scenic drive and enjoy the amazing landscapes all around. Take a drive on the 75-mile Silver Thread Scenic Byway, which runs from Lake City to South Fork. Along the way, you can see historic mines, waterfalls, and other natural landmarks. The route passes along Highway 149 and crosses a couple mountain passes with scenic overlooks. The Alferd Packer massacre site and the Slumgullion Earthflow are must-see sights along the way.
When you’re looking for something to eat and drink in Creede, head to Kip’s Grill, a local spot that has been in operation since 1996. It’s open every day of the year from 11am to 9pm, and it’s also a great place to catch live local music. The concert schedule is posted on the restaurant’s website. This is a place that specializes in tacos, so try a few or perhaps other Mexican favorites or American grub. The fresh margaritas are amazing, and there are daily happy hour specials from 3-6pm.
If you’re looking for a souvenir for yourself or a gift in Creede, stop by Rare Things Gallery. This gallery sells custom jewelry and crafts and has become one of the best artisan shops in the Southwest. The shop is on Main Street and open daily from 9am to 5pm.
It’s also fun to plan your trip to Creede on Labor Day weekend to participate in the annual balloon festival. The weekend also hosts a mountain run, salsa fiesta, ATV rodeo, and fireworks. More than 15 balloons typically lift off that Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings at 7am, and the balloon glow evening parties are also not to be missed.
The Wolf Creek Ski area is about 45 minutes from the town of Creede and a popular recreation site for locals and visitors to the area. This ski region receives about 400 inches of snow each year. Closer by, you can find national forest lands that are ideal for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. All of these activities make Creede a great wintertime destination for snow lovers in Colorado.