The glory hasn’t totally faded from the Colorado towns that once thrived in their mining heydays. Long removed from their busts, they boom again with tourists in the summer.
Cripple Creek is one of the state’s former gold rush towns now basking in a different glow, that of unrestricted gambling. Modest to more lavish casinos line the main street. The museum is a big draw, storing mementos of the days when prospectors made this a town of 10,000. Take the drive to the other side of Battle Mountain and take a further step back in time: Without gaming advertisements, Victor appears even more frozen in time. Old mining shafts can be seen in the hillsides as you roam the ghostly town.
Head west to Fairplay, home to Burro Days, the 70-year tradition in which ultra runners pair with donkeys in a nod to those burro-packing gold-seekers of the past. Neighboring Alma stands higher than any incorporated town at 10,578 feet, with stately mountains overlooking residents who dwell in cabins like the residents before them.
Take U.S. 285 to Buena Vista and a road leading to the ghost town of St. Elmo, where log structures sit dusty and abandoned – the widely visited remnants of the former mining camp.
Leadville might be the most famous boom-bust town across Colorado, with its reputation as the almost-state capital and its National Mining Hall of Fame. From Horace Tabor to Doc Holliday to Oscar Wilde, the town’s history is as colorful as its Victorian buildings.
Keep the clock turning back with a stop in Georgetown. The town wears history on its sleeve, giving tours at its five museums, which include the Hamill House, the former Gothic Revival-style home of a silver mining magnate.
In Idaho Springs, walk where the prospectors did. Tour the Phoenix Gold Mine, the vein discovered in 1871 near the town with a sign today welcoming you to “where the gold rush began!”
Finish like you started: in a place where history lives and gambling rules. In Central City and Black Hawk, the casinos are impossible to miss. Like Leadville, Central City had capital-like status as “the richest square mile on Earth.”