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Colorado was part of the Wild West and had a colorful past. Many people fled to Colorado in the 1800s to mine for silver and gold. However, due to harsh winters and mine closures, the once bustling mining towns in Colorado were quickly abandoned. Now there are a number of these mining towns that are considered ghost towns. Explore historic buildings and abandoned roads at these must-visit ghost towns in Colorado.
This small town is located high in the mountains near Independence Pass. Gold miners were drawn to Independence in the late 1800s. In its heyday, more than 1,500 residents lived in Independence. Due to harsh winters, a rough route for stagecoach riders, and the proximity to the commercial hub of Aspen, Independence saw a huge decline. All but one resident was found still living in Independence in 1899. Now, the Aspen Historical Society gives tours of this ghost town where several log cabins are still found in the area.
Forty antique buildings still remain in this Colorado ghost town. St. Elmo, located west of Buena Vista, sits at 10,000 feet in the Collegiate Peaks. This town was a former gold mining town but it now lives as one of the most well-preserved ghost towns in the Centennial State. The town was founded in 1880 and saw a three year boom due to the nearby railroad. However once mine production ceased and the tunnel closed, many residents deserted St. Elmo by 1922.
The Vicksburg Mining Camp was founded in 1867 due to gold found in the creek bed. Trees, planted by the first miners to reside in Vicksburg, still line the abandoned streets. This Colorado ghost town located north of Buena Vista was actually listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
To reach the Colorado ghost town known as Animas Fork, rent an ATV or other four-wheel drive vehicles in Silverton. Located at 11,200 feet, this high elevation town was founded in 1873. Residents in the late 1880s probably fled the town due to its frequent avalanches and brutal winter snowstorms. Now you can visit the Bay Window House, which was owned by a mining mogul whose daughter was one of the last known private owners of the Hope Diamond.
Ashcroft is only 10 miles from Colorado’s skiing mecca Aspen and is one of the state’s most well-intact ghost towns. Simply drive down the paved road known as Castle Creek to view Ashcroft. In the late 1800s, Ashcroft was a booming mining town and home to two newspapers, nearly 20 saloons and over 2,500 residents. The turn of the century saw mine closures and only two residents still lived in the town by 1900. The Aspen Historical Society guides a tour through the town’s jail, hotel, saloons and stable.
Located southeast of the town of Walden is the ghost town of Teller City. This once bustling silver mining town had over 1,500 residents, nearly 30 saloons and hundreds of cabins. By 1902, the town had been abandoned due to the silver bust. For those wanting to see this Colorado ghost town, there is a short loop trail that guides visitors through the last remains of Teller City.
Approximately 700 African Americans settled in Dearfield in the early 1900s. This ghost town is known as Colorado’s only all-black settlement. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl caused residents to vacate this eastern Colorado town, which is located 25 miles east of Greeley. However, three structures still stand in Dearfield, a gas station, diner and a home. Efforts are now being undertaken to preserve this unique Colorado ghost town.
Located 10 miles from the town of Telluride, Alta was once a booming mining town from 1877 to 1940. Alta is another Colorado ghost town that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors to this ghost town can see many of the original buildings, which look spectacular against the town’s mountain scenery. Alta’s demise was caused by a slowing mining industry, a fire that destroyed Alta’s main mill and vandalism during the 20th century.
Tincup, near Gunnison, is proof that the Wild West existed. Founded in 1879 with the name Virginia City, Tincup grew among rowdy cowboys and gold miners. Since there were towns in both Nevada and Montana with the same name, Tincup was named as such since the first person to find gold here panned it out of Willow Creek and carried it in a tin cup. Tincup was a wild city full of gunfights and bar feuds. Still today, a few people actually reside in Tincup. Old buildings have been preserved, and there are even vacation homes for travelers.
You’ll have to hike, bike or ride by ATV to find this ghost town located near Lake City. Like many of the Colorado towns on this list, Carson was a mining town. Carson was known for its silver, but when the silver bust occurred in the late 1800s, the town was abandoned. For those wanting to venture up to this high-alpine environment, expect to find seven historic buildings.
The ghost town of Crystal is another town that was affected by the silver crash in the late 1800s. Crystal, which can be reached via the town of Marble, requires a four-wheel drive vehicle to access. You’ll be glad you drove out here because the rustic and abandoned structures in Crystal are very photogenic. During Crystal’s busiest times, 400 people lived in the town. Once the silver mine closed, there were only 15 people living in Crystal by 1915.