Leadville, Colorado - AAA Encompass Magazine Article

Real Estate Agent with Real Estate Showcase Photography




The city in the clouds

By Debi Boucher

Stroll down Harrison Avenue in downtown Leadville. © Debi Boucher

While no longer bustling with the frantic activity of the silver mines, bawdy saloons and dancehalls, Leadville is arguably one of the best examples of a still breathing boom town to be found in Colorado today. In 1893 the city boasted 60,000 residents, and is still home to some 3,000 hearty souls willing to brave winter at 10,200 feet in elevation. Surrounded by 14,000 foot peaks, Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the country. Over 50 significant 19th century buildings grace downtown Leadville, including the Tabor Opera House, once the largest this side of the Mississippi, and the still operating grand Victorian Delaware Hotel built in 1886. A walk down Harrison Avenue is a delightful journey into a bygone era.

The ‘Route of the Silver Kings’ is a 20 square mile auto, hiking and bicycle tour along the Mineral Belt of Leadville’s Historic Mining District east of town. Maps for the tour are available throughout town, and guide visitors through the mines and small mining towns that dotted the area in the silver boom heyday. One such settlement is Finn Town. Originally settled by English miners and later with Finns, Finn Town had its own mercantile and saloons, and a few cabins are still standing today. The Matchless Mine is now a small museum and offers tours that share the story of the famous Baby Doe and her husband, Horace Tabor. Should you travel to Leadville in the spring, or the mud season as it’s known to Leadvillites, be cautious about taking side roads as they may not be plowed and the mud can be treacherous. I know this because I took one, and if not for the vehicle I was driving, I would probably still be there!

Determined to preserve its history, Leadville is home to the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum which opened in 1987 in the original 1890’s Leadville High School building. Allow yourself at least a couple of hours to tour the museum as additions over the years have brought the museum to over 70,000 square feet of displays, including wonderful dioramas. Take a walk through the Hard Rock Mine Exhibit, a realistic replica of a mine tunnel, blacksmith shop, assay office and more. The museum also offers amazing displays of minerals and crystals from the Smithsonian Institute and private collections, as well as impressive gold specimens from each of the 17 states that had important gold discoveries. The Hall of Fame honors those men and women who have made significant contributions to mining both in the past and in the present. Outside of the museum is a marvelous 9 foot tall marble sculpture depicting two miners called “Mining the Pulse of Civilization.” The marble for the sculpture was donated by the Yule Marble Quarry in Marble, Colo.

The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum.
© Debi Boucher.

According to the Lake County Visitor Center, Leadville is host to more museums per capita than any other city. You will not want to miss the Healy House & Dexter Cabin, The Heritage Museum and Gallery, the Historic Tabor Opera House, and the Tabor Home. And don’t pass up the two-and-a-half hour Scenic Train Trip aboard the Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad that takes you another 1,000 feet above the valley floor!

There are plenty of restaurants and antique shops to browse in downtown Leadville. Famous for its outstanding breakfasts, owner Dave Wright tells me the Golden Burro has been open since 1938 without ever closing its doors. A live webcam inside the restaurant is a big hit with locals and tourists alike. Housed in the ‘Quincy Block’ built in 1879, Quincy’s is a must for an $8.95 6 oz. filet dinner Sunday thru Thursday, or an 8 oz. prime rib for $10.95 served on Friday and Saturday nights. Larger cuts are available also, and Nancy says their one item menu is a huge summer success each year.

If a nature fix is what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place. Just 20 minutes outside of Leadville are the magnificently picturesque Twin Lakes, Colorado’s largest glacial lakes. Get there early in the morning to photograph the snow capped reflection of our two tallest peaks, Mount Elbert and Mount Massive. They are a breath taking sight in the still, clear blue calm of an early morning. The honey colored sunset is worth the wait here, too! This area too, is rich in history. The village of Twin Lakes became a thriving tourist destination in the early 1880s, and Interlaken, a hotel on the south shore of the smaller lake, was a famous resort catering to the wealthy of the day. Endless opportunities abound for outdoor recreation in the Twin Lakes area. Fishing, camping and boating are the obvious choices, but countless miles of hiking trails and mountain climbing are there to enjoy as well. Named in honor of the men who trained at Camp Hale during World War II, the 10th Mountain Huts manages a system of 29 back country huts connected by 350 miles of routes for skiing, mountain biking, and hiking with safe and comfortable shelters along the way.

A favorite for anglers, Turquoise Lake is located just a short distance from town and offers a choice of eight campgrounds with 300 campsites and two boat ramps. At the end of the day, roast your mackinaw, rainbow, or brook trout over the campfire and lean back and relax under the star canopied sky. The facilities are closed over the winter, but many come for the season’s ice fishing. Stunning views of Mount Massive and the Holy Cross Wilderness surround this lovely lake, wrapping it in pristine and peaceful serenity.

The picturesque view of Twin Lakes.
© Debi Boucher.

They say golf balls travel 10 percent farther at 10,200 feet. Find out if it’s true at the Mt. Massive Golf Course. Leadville sits just below the Arkansas River headwaters – try your luck at gold panning, or perhaps a guided fly fishing trip with Colorado Fly Fishing Guides. White water rafting, kayaking, mountain climbing and skiing are other popular activities available in the area. If you visit in August, be sure to schedule your trip around Leadville’s Boom Days. Honored by the U.S. Congress as a Local Legacy Event, town folk dress in costumes of the day, mining competitions separate the men from the boys, and don’t be surprised if a gunfight breaks out or a showdown suddenly erupts in the center of town!

Debi Boucher is a freelance writer and photographer based in Colorado Springs.

Copyrighted Material - May NOT be reproduced in whole or in part without express written permission from the author.

All rights reserved.

Comments (11)

Myrl Jeffcoat
Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Realtor - Retired

Debi - What a wonderfully written and photographed article for AAA's Encompass Magazine.  I'm glad you still have time to occassionally post your special material here on ActiveRain.  I also hope you are having a wonderful summer!

Jul 26, 2011 02:03 PM
Fred Carver Personal Real Estate Corporation
RE/MAX Camosun Victoria BC Real Estate - Victoria, BC
Accredited Real Estate Consultant

Hi Cuz...Wow that's a lot of History and writing on your part...Well Done!

Jul 26, 2011 03:41 PM
Sidney Kutchuk - Realty Works Temecula Kutchuk - Realty Works Temecula
Realty Works Temecula - Temecula, CA
Realty Works Temecula

Debi:  Such a great story, by such a talented writer! :)

Jul 26, 2011 03:48 PM
Todd Clark - Retired
eXp Realty LLC - Tigard, OR
Principle Broker Oregon

Been missing you here in the rain and your wonderful photography inspiration.

Jul 26, 2011 05:46 PM
William Johnson
Retired - La Jolla, CA
Retired Real Estate Professional
Hi Debi, I wasn't going to log on tonight but when I saw your post, I knew I might miss getting a comment in to say hello and I am so delighted all is going well for you. The article is excellent and wonderfully entertaining. I went to Virgina City and just loved the experience and should do a post with all the photos. Myrl does so many of these Old Towns posts and they are always so entertaining. So happy that you are doing well and congratulations as this post was just wonderful.!
Jul 26, 2011 07:05 PM
Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner
Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395 - Mission Viejo, CA
Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395

Lovely...but miss the larger pictures...you are so talented and love seeing the big pix.

Jul 27, 2011 06:33 AM
Bruce Walter
Keller Williams Realty Lafayette/West Lafayette, Indiana - West Lafayette, IN

Debi, this is a magnificant compendium of information for Leadville.  I wish I had this information the last time we hurried through town.  I would have stopped for sure.  Those two lakes look fantastic and I'm all for a golf ball traveling 10% farther!  I REALLY enjoyed reading about Leadville!

Aug 06, 2011 05:18 AM
Gail MacMillan
Titusville, FL

Glad Tammy Lankford's reach out produced such unintended results or I might have missed your AAA article.  I'm so proud of you and what your efforts produce.  You give 1000% to everything you touch, and I'm really very happy to consider us friends.  Like Karen I also love your BIG pictures...........does AAA have certain requirements that limit photo size?

Aug 17, 2011 01:19 PM
Debi Boucher
Real Estate Showcase Photography - Woodland Park, CO
"Realtor Showcase" - Real Estate Photography/Virtual Tours

Thanks for all the support my friends! I know I'm not participating like I used too - but I will try to do better with the BIG images, LOL  These were posted to AAA Colorado's online version, thus the small photos - I do have some print (cover!) articles and photos coming up - I'll share when it happens. In the meantime, I'll post something with BIG images here in just a bit :)

Aug 17, 2011 02:20 PM
Debi Boucher
Real Estate Showcase Photography - Woodland Park, CO
"Realtor Showcase" - Real Estate Photography/Virtual Tours

BTW Gail - What did Tammy post?

Aug 17, 2011 02:21 PM
Doyle Davison
Hawaiian Beaches Hawaii - 714-968-6767 - Huntington Beach, CA
30 years as your Concierge services listing broker

I love leadville. such an amazing little community

Jan 13, 2015 04:12 AM