Best Colorado Ghost Towns

Country music was born in the rowdiness of the Wild West, and Colorado held a special place right in the center of that.  However, modern life has done away with most of the craziness of that world, and we’re all forced to live civilized lives.

Do you ever wish you could just take a step back in time?  Well, maybe you can.

You don’t have to be a dusty old miner to experience the Colorado of the 1800s.  All you have to do is hop in the car, or on your horse, and take a trip to the past.  The state is full of ghost towns.  Some of them have just a few remains hinting at what used to be, but others still have people living there and keeping the history alive.


Animas Forks

Animas Forks Colorado Ghost Town

This town near Silverton is nearly 350 miles away from Denver, but it’s worth the trek.  Just make sure you have something tough to drive in, though, because the roads are pretty rough.

People starting building their lives here in 1873, and it was home to almost 500 people at its peak.  It had that standard setup of cabins, a general store, a post office, and a saloon.

Animas Forks is in fairly good shape today because it has been under a protected status, including being on the National Register of Historic Places.  It has a whole selection of rugged cabins, so the only thing that’s missing is the job in the mine.

Plus, it has plenty of intense four wheel drive trails around, so plan on doing some off-roading!


Ashcroft

Ashcroft Colorado Ghost Town

This ghost town is right next to Aspen, but the two couldn’t be any more different.

Some prospectors brought life to Ashcroft in 1880, and they created a Miners’ Protective Society to lure more people.  It worked, and the town eventually blew up to having about 3,500 residents.  This many people, of course, needed 20 saloons, a few hotels, more than one newspaper, and all the other elements of daily life.

Unfortunately, it only made it until 1885 before people started finding better luck elsewhere.  The town slowly dried up, but it saw a revival in the 20th century for those looking for a remote mountain outpost.  It’s been home to soldiers, Olympians, and many other brave explorers.

Today it’s just a few preserved wooden buildings, but it’s a great bit of culture to balance out any visit to high-priced Aspen.


Dearfield

Dearfield Colorado Ghost Town

If mountain roads aren’t your thing, then head up to this neighbor of Greeley for your ghost town experience.

Dearfield was a settlement mostly inhabited by African-American people, and it got its start as recently as the 1920s.  The life of the town was pretty mellow and short, but it’s a great way to experience what life was like on the plains.


Independence

Independence Colorado Ghost Town

This is another ghost town near Aspen, and it was one of many places that attracted people venturing out from Leadville.

Gold was first discovered on the 4th of July, and it started out with a lot of promise as a town.  It started to grow rapidly, and they even built a sawmill to help.  However, a series of setbacks caused many to reconsider moving there, and it was hard to attract new residents because of the high altitude and harsh weather.

The town itself slowly died out, but the remaining cabins are still nestled in a very picturesque spot.


St. Elmo

St Elmo Colorado Ghost Town

St. Elmo is nestled in between the Collegiate Peaks near Buena Vista, and the area is so a beautiful that it would be worth a visit even without this little treasure.

It began its life in 1880, and was home to 2,000 people back in the day.  It remained a popular mining town until the beginning of the 1920s, but then people decided to pack up and move on to greener pastures.

Many call this the most well-preserved ghost town in Colorado (so much that there’s even debate about whether or not it is a ghost town), and it still feels quite alive.  The only thing that makes a walk down the main street feel like the 21st century is the cars and people with cameras.

If you feel like some adrenaline, this is a great starting point to rent ATVs or snowmobiles and explore the surrounding areas.


Tin Cup

Tin Cup Colorado Ghost Town

This ghost town near Gunnison has seen a rebirth in modern times with vacation houses, and a few people even live here year round.

Tin Cup started its life as Virginia City in 1879, but it was eventually confused with a similar town in Nevada.  Since the original gold was panned into a tin cup, it wasn’t too difficult to think of a new name.  

The original townsfolk seemed to split their time between mining and having rowdy gunfights, so you can still feel the thrill of the Wild West in the air.

Some entrepreneurs have started renting out their houses here, so you could seize the opportunity to spend some time living like a 19th-century miner.


Find Your Own Ghosts

All of these ghost towns make great trips throughout the state, but you shouldn’t stop there.  The mountains are littered with remains of old mines and towns, and sometimes the best discoveries are those that you mosey up to unexpectedly.

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