Leadville’s claim to fame is for its location: as the highest incorporated city in the U.S., the town sits at 10,152 feet above sea level. It’s also one of Colorado’s oldest, first settled in 1859 during the “Pikes Peak or Bust” gold rush. Such was its wealth and importance, it nearly beat out Denver to become the state capital.
The collapse of mining led to some hard times, but Leadville has reinvented itself for tourism. The town itself is stunningly beautiful with its rustic charm set against the backdrop of Colorado’s two highest peaks, Mounts Elbert and Massive. Both are extremely popular among mountaineers, and summer finds droves of climbers passing through town. Others come to visit Turquoise Lake, with its boat ramps, ample camping, and plenty of trails. Turquoise Reservoir also offers great ice-fishing in winter. Timberline Lake is a short one mile hike with big rewards for anglers and hikers alike. Anglers will also find excellent fishing in the Gold Medal trout waters of the Arkansas River south of town. If you have high clearance and don’t mind heights, you can drive the Hagerman Pass Road deep into the mountains to Aspen.
Don’t feel like driving to hike? The Mineral Belt Trail makes an 11.6-mile loop around town and through the old mining district. In winter, it’s great for cross-country skiing and winter recreation. There’s a reason the 10th Mountain Division trained here in World War II. Skiers can retrace their tracks at Ski Cooper, a small family-oriented area 10 miles north of town. Drive a little farther to the former site of Camp Hale, where the unit lived while training for war. Backcountry skiers can visit one of the many winter huts of the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association or the Leadville Backcountry Yurts. Skiers looking for a powder fix without all the uphill work can book a seat on the Chicago Ridge snowcat, which operates out of Ski Cooper.