Leadville is Lake County, Colorado's only incorporated municipality and is the highest city in the United States, sitting at an elevation of 10,152 feet within the beautiful Rocky Mountains near renowned peaks Mount Massive and Mount Elbert.
© Sean Xu/stock.adobe.com
Mount Elbert is the Rocky Mountains' highest summit, reaching 14,440 feet into the sky above the Sawatch Range near Leadville, Colorado. The mountain, which is located within the San Isabel National Forest, is the second-highest peak in the contiguous United States after California's Mount Whitney, named in honor of Territory of Colorado Governor Samuel Hitt Elbert, an influential figure in the state's formation during the late 19th century. The stunning snow-capped peak was first ascended in 1874 by Henry W. Stuckle and remains a popular climbing site today, categorized as a Class 1 to 2 route. Hikers can choose from three routes to ascend the mountain, including the moderate-difficulty 4.6-mile North Elbert Trail, the easier 5.5-mile South Elbert Trail, and the Class 2 Black Cloud Trail, which is only advised for expert hikers.
Cooper is one of Colorado's most charming ski resort areas, located near the city of Leadville near Summit County and the tourist-heavy Vail ski resort. The ski resort's origins date back to 1942, when the site was selected as a training area for the United States Army's 10th Mountain Division. Following the end of World War II, the site was opened to the public as a skiing area and has evolved into a complete ski resort today, overseen under the authority of the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. Visitors can ski in the shadows of some of the Rockies' highest peaks, including stunning Mounts Elbert and Massive. Skiing equipment is offered at the Snowflakes Retail Shop, along with a variety of winter wear and souvenirs. Dining options at the resort include the Cooper Cafeteria, Katie O'Rourke's Irish Pub, and the Ridgeview Cafe. Resort visitors can also ride snowcats to the resort's top for intimate mountaintop yurt dinners, available on Saturdays throughout the winter season.
232 CR 29 (POB 896), Leadville, CO 80461, Phone: 800-707-61140
Twin Lakes is a quaint census-designated place located in the shadows of Mount Elbert, designated as a National Register of Historic Places-listed district since 1974. The community derives its name from its location adjacent to the two largest glacial lakes in Colorado, accessible via the Top of the Rockies Scenic and Historic Byway. It was originally established in the 19th century as a mining transportation hub for nearby Leadville and Aspen and has become a popular recreational area today, offering opportunities for boating, fishing, hiking, and snowmobiling throughout the year. Visitors can stay at charming bed and breakfasts in Twin Lakes Village or explore historic sites along the Colorado Trail in Interlaken connected to 19th-century mining magnate James Dexter. Nearby, the Cooper ski resort offers skiing opportunities and dining experiences, while downtown Leadville is home to historic hotels, theaters, saloons, and museums.
809 Harrison Avenue, P.O. Box 861, Leadville, CO 80461, Phone: 888-532-3845
4.The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum
© The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum
The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum is one of Leadville's premiere museums, often referred to as the "Smithsonian of the Rockies" for its extensive collection of artifacts related to the American mining industry in the 19th century. The federally-chartered nonprofit museum, which is open to the public seven days a week during the summer months and Tuesdays through Sundays during the winter months, is home to more than 25,000 square feet of interactive exhibits detailing the history of pioneer mining throughout the Rocky Mountain region and its impact on everyday American life. More than 19,500 catalogued artifacts are held within the museum's collection, including mining artifacts, uniforms, and tools and collections of archival photography and documents. Four levels of exhibits detail mining practices, technologies, and discoveries, including the history of Colorado's gold and silver rushes.
P.O. Box 981, 120 W. 9th St, Leadville, CO 80461, Phone: 719-486-1229
5.The Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad
© The Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad
The Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad is an historic passenger railroad line embarking on leisure excursions from Leadville, travelling north from the city along the scenic Arkansas River Valley. 2.5-hour excursions travel along the former Denver, South Park, and Pacific and Colorado and Southern Railroad lines toward the Continental Divide, passing through beautiful areas of the San Isabel National Forest and offering unparalleled views of the Fremont Pass, Mount Elbert, and Mount Massive. Travelers can tour the train's caboose and engine and hear historical anecdotes about the region's railroading history and notable figures such as Molly Brown, Baby Doe Tabor, and the Guggenheims. Special excursions offered throughout the year include Devil's Tail BBQ trains, Wildflower Special trains, and package excursions offering opportunities for ziplining and whitewater rafting.
326 E. 7th Street, PO Box 916, Leadville, CO 80461, Phone: 719-486-3936
6.Top of the Rockies Ziplines
Top of the Rockies Ziplines offer a unique opportunity to explore the Rocky Mountains from a unique high open-air vantage point, offering a variety of excursions and tour packages throughout the year. The company, which opened to the public in 2012, offers the only zipline route in the world to travel over an operating train route, with combination zipline and scenic railroad excursion packages offered in conjunction with the Leadville, Colorado, and Southern Railroad throughout the summer months. Participants can get a bird's eye view of the rushing Arkansas River while soaring through the Continental Divide at altitudes of up to 11,200 feet, with state-of-the-art safety features utilized to ensure a safe and comfortable ziplining experience for all patrons. Excursions offered include exclusive backcountry access to abandoned mining areas, along with tours to view the region's beautiful wildflowers and autumn leaves. During the winter months, combination snowcat-zipline tours offer unparalleled views of Mounts Massive and Elbert. Lunch is provided for participants on all excursions, with complimentary beverages such as hot chocolate available seasonally.
6492 Highway 91, Leadville, CO 80461, Phone: 970-668-5323
7.The Mineral Belt Trail
The Mineral Belt Trail is one of Colorado's highest-elevation paved pathways, spanning 11.6 miles throughout Lake County and the Leadville region. The trail, which was proposed in 1994 and dedicated in 2000, traverses conifer forest, wildflower meadow, aspen grove, and open sage vista terrains, offering unparalleled views of the nearby Mosquito and Sawatch Ranges. It has been acclaimed as one of the state's top 10 mountain trails by the Denver Post and is a nominee for National Recreational Trail status. Six miles of the trail explore historic mining sites within the Leadville Mining District, incorporate portions of the region's three former railway lines. Joggers, cyclists, inline skaters, and longboarders can utilize the ADA-accessible trail during the summer months, while Nordic skiiers, snowshoers, and winter bikers can enjoy winter recreation opportunities.
PO Box 666, Leadville, CO 80461
8.Hopemore Mine Tour
© James Hannibal/stock.adobe.com
Hopemore Mine Tour is one of the last remaining historic underground mine tours in Colorado, owned and operated by former mine worker Bob Calder. The company offers daily tours deep into one of Leadville's historic gold and silver mine facilities, traveling more than 600 feet under the ground in a preserved mining shaft cage. Tours last approximately one hour and detail the history of mining in the Leadville region, with demonstrations of historic mining tools offered. Reservations by phone are required for all tours, with tours restricted to six participants at one time due to the size of the mining shaft. Children under the age of 10 are not allowed on tours. Visitors should note that temperatures within the mine remain chilly year-round and should dress appropriately, though loaner jackets are available.
2921 County Road 1, Leadville, CO 80461, Phone: 719-486-0301
© Temple Israel
Temple Israel is an historic frontier synagogue in Leadville, originally constructed by architect George E. King as a worship facility for the region's Jewish population in 1884. The synagogue was operated for regular services until 1908, attracting regional merchants and pioneers, including David May, founder of the department store chain May. Following use as a dormitory for mine workers throughout the early 20th century, the synagogue was purchased by the Temple Israel Foundation in 1992 and restored to its original condition. Today, it is open to the public as a museum celebrating Leadville's Jewish pioneer history, showcasing a collection of approximately 300 historic artifacts dating back to the mid-19th century. Occasional Jewish services are held at the synagogue as well, which also oversees the nearby Leadville Historic Cemetery.
208 West 8th Street, Leadville, CO 80461, Phone: 303-709-7050
10.The Mayflower Gulch Trail
The Mayflower Gulch Trail is a popular year-round backcountry trail located near Leadville along the western end of the Ten Mile Range. The two-mile trail meanders under the shadow of the 13,951-foot peak Fletcher Mountain, increasing in elevation throughout its route from 10,990 to 12,000 feet in elevation along a former Boston Mining Company route. The first mile of the route showcases beautiful wetland wildflowers throughout a spacious meadow before passing the remains of a former mining cabin and ore loading chute near Gold Hill. At the summit of Gold Hill, hikers can catch glimpses of the nearby Clinton Creek watershed and Kokomo mining settlement. In all, the hike takes approximately two hours to complete.
CO-91, Frisco, CO 80443
11.Top of the Rockies National Scenic Byway
© Sean Board/stock.adobe.com
Top of the Rockies National Scenic Byway is a designated National Scenic Byway route in Colorado that travels between Aspen and Copper Mountain, encompassing portions of State Highways 82 and 91 and United States Route 24. The 75-mile byway, which maintains elevations of at least 9,000 feet throughout most of its route, crosses the Tennessee and Fremont Passes of the Rocky Mountains, passing landmarks such as Mounts Massive and Elbert, two of the highest peaks in the United States. Visitors can explore mining-related attractions in Leadville's historic downtown or access the San Isabel, Pike, and White River National Forests for a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities throughout the year. Other attractions on the Byway include the Camp Hale Memorial, the Valley of the Ghosts, and Mount Massive Golf Course, the highest-elevation course in the nation. In all, full drives of the Byway take approximately two hours to complete.
12.Leadville National Fish Hatchery
© Leadville National Fish Hatchery
Leadville National Fish Hatchery is the United States' second-oldest federally-managed fish hatchery, originally established in 1889 by an executive order from President Benjamin Harrison. The hatchery, which sits at the base of the immense peak Mount Massive at an elevation of more than 10,000 feet, occupies over 3,000 acres near the city of Leadville, used to supply native cutthroat trout to lakes and reservoirs throughout the Rocky Mountain region. A visitor center at the hatchery offers group tours of the facility and provides up-close glimpses of its daily fish production operations, attracting more than 36,000 annual visitors. Visitors can also picnic on the hatchery's groups or embark on several trailheads that traverse through the nearby Mount Massive Wilderness Area, offering opportunities for wildlife watching, photography, and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing throughout the winter months. Annual special events hosted by the hatchery include a 5K Fish Hatchery race and an elementary school fishing education program.
2846 Highway 300, Leadville, CO 80461, Phone: 719-486-0189
13.The Healy House Museum and Dexter Cabin
© The Healy House Museum and Dexter Cabin
The Healy House Museum and Dexter Cabin preserves several 19th-century facilities connected to Leadville's gold and silver mining history, open to the public daily between May and October as a living history museum. The museum preserves the 1878 Greek Revival-style Healy House, which was originally constructed as a home for August and Emma Meyer and served as a major social hub for the Leadville region throughout the late 19th century. Next door, the 1879 log cabin of prominent mining investor James V. Dexter, one of the state's first millionaires, is also preserved. Landscaped gardens around the Healy House have been restored in honor of Emma Meyer, showcasing native plants, formal Victorian urns and statues, and a beautiful gazebo. Visitors can embark on guided tours of both homes throughout the morning and afternoon hours, with group tours available throughout the year with advance reservation.
912 Harrison Avenue, Leadville, CO, 80461, Phone: 719-486-0487
Mosquito Pass is one of Colorado's highest mountain passes, reaching elevations of more than 13,000 feet along the divide between the South Platte and Arkansas Rivers. The pass, which gained national notoriety after its repeated crossings by Methodist Father John Lewis Dyer in the 1860s, can only be accessed on foot or with appropriately hardy vehicles during the summer months, including four-wheel-drive automobiles and offroad motorcycles. Its two-way road requires significant maneuverability skills and is not recommended for novice or nervous drivers. Spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains are offered from the pass, along with views of nearby Lake and Park Counties. Visitors can embark on the pass at either Leadville or Fairplay, though all drivers should note that there are no amenities along the route, including outhouses or gas stations.
15.The Tabor Opera House
© The Tabor Opera House
The Tabor Opera House is a gorgeous three-story historic opera house in Leadville, originally constructed in 1879 by mining magnate Horace Austin Warner Tabor. At the time of its construction, the lavish opera house was one of the costliest structures constructed in Colorado history, completed in a record 100 days from its groundbreaking. Since 2016, the opera house has been overseen by the nonprofit Tabor Opera House Preservation Foundation, which is currently in the process of raising funds for its complete restoration. Broadway, opera, and ballet performances are showcased at the theater throughout its season, along with concerts in a wide variety of American and world music genres. Other cultural events hosted at the theater throughout the year include comedy performances, spoken word presentations, and dance festivals. Visitors can tour the opera house as part of guided tours Tuesdays through Fridays during the afternoon hours, exploring its performance hall, second-floor museum, and third-floor ballroom.
308 Harrison Avenue, Leadville, CO 80461, Phone: 719-486-8409
16.Western Hardware Antique Mall
© Dario Lo Presti/stock.adobe.com
Western Hardware Antique Mall is a 10,000-square-foot antique dealer mall in Leadville, housed within the historic Western Hardware Company building in Leadville's downtown, originally opened for business in 1881. The hardware store, which operated until 1985, was briefly maintained as a museum throughout the 1990s before its conversion into an impressive antique mall in 1995. Nearly all original design and decor elements remain from the store's heyday, including a 1,000-drawer hardware wall,a marble directory, and vintage walnut and maple flooring. Visitors can peruse goods from more than 70 antique dealers selling a wide variety of items, ranging from mining memorabilia and antique toys to reproduction hardware and gifts and collectibles.
431 Harrison Ave, Leadville, CO 80461, Phone: 719-486-2213
17.The Matchless Mine Tour
The Matchless Mine Tour explores the historic 1879 Matchless Mine, maintained as one of the wealthiest silver mines in Colorado throughout the late 19th century following its purchase by Horace Austin Warner Tabor. The mine, which was operated by Tabor and his wife Elizabeth "Baby Doe" Tabor, is estimated to have produced more than $7.5 million in wealth throughout its operation and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places today. Visitors can tour the mine to learn more about its operations and about the famed and tragic love story of its owners, which has been immortalized in the opera The Ballad of Baby Doe. Self-guided tours are offered daily during the mine's operating season, with hour long guided surface tours available at several times throughout the afternoon.
P.O. Box 981, 120 W. 9th St, Leadville, CO 80461, Phone: 719-486-1229
18.The Hagerman Tunnel
The Hagerman Tunnel showcases the remains of a 2,161-foot railroad tunnel that was originally constructed in 1887 to allow the Colorado Midland Railroad to cross the Rocky Mountains' Continental Divide and connect the cities of Leadville, Glenwood Springs, and Aspen. The tunnel, which sits at an altitude of more than 11,500 feet, was named in honor of railroad official John James Hagerman and was operated until 1893, when it was replaced by the Busk-Ivanhoe Tunnel. At the time of the tunnel's construction, it was one of the highest-elevation railroad tunnels ever constructed. Though the tunnel cannot be entered today due to water draining and partial collapse, adventurous visitors can view the tunnel's remains at railroad bed FR257, accessible via County Road 104. Flashlights are recommended for explorers.
White River National Forest, Sopris District, 620 Main Street, Carbondale, CO 81623, Phone: 970-963-2266
19.The Leadville Heritage Museum and Gallery
© The Leadville Heritage Museum and Gallery
The Leadville Heritage Museum and Gallery is one of Leadville's premiere historic museums, owned and operated by the nonprofit Lake County Civic Center Association. The museum, which is open daily to the public between May and October during the morning and afternoon hours, is housed within the city's historic 1904 library building, which was originally funded by Andrew Carnegie. Since 1971, the Association has maintained the facility as a public museum and heritage center, showcasing collections of artifacts from Leadville's 19th and 20th century civic history. Artifacts on display include a scale replica of the 1896 Leadville Ice Palace, along with uniforms and memorabilia connected to the region's famed 10th Mountain Division.
102 E 9th St, Leadville, CO 80461, Phone: 719-486-1878
20.Lake County Public Library
© Lake County Public Library
Lake County Public Library is North America's highest-elevation public library, located at more than 10,000 feet above sea level within Leadville's historic downtown district. The library, which dates back to the late 19th century, was originally funded by the Andrew Carnegie Foundation and was incorporated as a county library in 1947. Since 1971, it has been housed at a site at 12th Street and Harrison Avenue, offering more than 700 square feet of library space and a public meeting room. Collections include the Colorado Mountain History Collection, which documents the mining history and genealogy of the famed Colorado boomtown. Public computer stations are also available for use, with special event programming offered throughout the year, including children's programming and an annual spring used book sale.
1115 Harrison Ave, Leadville, Colorado 80461, Phone: 719-486-0569
21.Alpine Adventures Dogsledding
Alpine Adventures Dogsledding offers unique opportunities to experience one of Colorado's most popular outdoor winter recreational activities as part of family-friendly guided tours. The Leadville company offers tours throughout the region's top resort areas, including Vail, Breckenridge, and Copper Mountain. All sled dogs have been rescued or taken in as retired professional race dogs, with dog adoption and care donation programs available to support company operations. A variety of tours operate throughout the winter season, taking up to six participants on six-mile tours overseen by experienced guides. Kennel tours are also offered, showcasing daily dogsledding operations and giving participants a chance to meet and greet with sled dogs.
PO Box 1825, Leadville, CO 80461, Phone: 719-486-9899
© Ionescu Bogdan/stock.adobe.com
Hagerman Pass is one of the Rocky Mountains' highest-elevation mountain passes, crossing Colorado's Continental Divide at an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet. The pass, which embarks near Leadville and crosses the Sawatch Range, was named in honor of Colorado Midland Railroad builder James J. Hagerman, formerly housing the noted Hagerman and Busk-Ivanhoe railway tunnels. Today, visitors can traverse the pass on foot or with adequately hardy vehicles during the summer months, including four-wheel-drive vehicles, offroad motorcycles, and ATVs. The pass is open to travelers between late May and the arrival of the season's first heavy snowfall, usually sometime during mid-autumn. Stunning views of the Rocky Mountains are offered, along with views of the nearby Arkansas and Colorado River basins.
23.Turquoise Lake Recreation Area
Turquoise Lake Recreation Area is a popular year-round outdoor recreational area located just to the west of the city of Leadville, named in honor of the region's former semi-precious turquoise mines throughout the late 19th century. The recreation area spans more than 1,800 acres and is anchored around its namesake reservoir, which was dammed in the late 19th century. Visitors can enjoy fantastic boating, windsurfing, canoeing, and kayaking conditions throughout the summer months or fish for rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout on the lake's waters. Hiking and biking trails are offered near Sugarloaf Dam, including a 15-mile biking loop that climbs more than 1,300 feet in elevation. Overnight camping opportunities are offered at the May Queen Campground, while access to the nearby Holy Cross Wilderness Area is offered via the Timberline Lake trailhead.
2840 Kachina Drive, Pueblo, CO 81008, Phone: 719-553-1400
Mount Massive is the Rocky Mountains' second-highest peak, reaching heights of 14,428 feet above the Sawatch Range. The mountain, which is the third-highest peak in the contiguous United States after nearby Mount Elbert and California's Mount Whitney, is located approximately 10 miles southwest of the city of Leadville within the San Isabel National Forest and the Mount Massive Wilderness Area. It is named in honor of its unique elongated shape, which showcases five separate summit areas and is home to more land space above the 14,000-foot mark than any other mountain within the contiguous United States. Hikers can access the peak's eastern face and summit from a Class 2 hiking route, which totals 13.6 miles roundtrip and gains more than 4,500 feet of elevation. Beautiful glacial lakes and lodgepole pine forests are showcased within the mountain's surrounding region.
25.The Colorado Midland Centennial Trail
© Lars Johansson/stock.adobe.com
The Colorado Midland Centennial Trail is a seven-mile roundtrip hiking route within the White River National Forest, embarking from a 10,940-foot elevation trailhead near the city of Leadville. The easy-to-moderate-difficulty trail follows along several sections of the former Colorado Midland Railroad bed, gaining more than 550 feet of elevation throughout its route. Interpretive signage along the trail offers historical information about the history of the Colorado Midland Railroad line before ending at the remains of the 11,528-foot-elevation Hagerman Tunnel, the world's highest railroad tunnel at the time of its 1887 construction. Along the way, visitors can also view beautiful mountain meadows and lakes, along with the remains of the former railroad worker settlement known as Douglass City.
25 Best Things to Do in Leadville, Colorado
- Mount Elbert, Photo: Sean Xu/stock.adobe.com
- Cooper, Photo: Cooper
- Twin Lakes, Photo: SNEHIT/stock.adobe.com
- The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, Photo: The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum
- The Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad, Photo: The Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad
- Top of the Rockies Ziplines, Photo: bert/stock.adobe.com
- The Mineral Belt Trail, Photo: just...b/stock.adobe.com
- Hopemore Mine Tour, Photo: James Hannibal/stock.adobe.com
- Temple Israel, Photo: Temple Israel
- The Mayflower Gulch Trail, Photo: Rosemary/stock.adobe.com
- Top of the Rockies National Scenic Byway, Photo: Sean Board/stock.adobe.com
- Leadville National Fish Hatchery, Photo: Leadville National Fish Hatchery
- The Healy House Museum and Dexter Cabin, Photo: The Healy House Museum and Dexter Cabin
- Mosquito Pass, Photo: Shelley/stock.adobe.com
- The Tabor Opera House, Photo: The Tabor Opera House
- Western Hardware Antique Mall, Photo: Dario Lo Presti/stock.adobe.com
- The Matchless Mine Tour, Photo: teesixb/stock.adobe.com
- The Hagerman Tunnel, Photo: determined/stock.adobe.com
- The Leadville Heritage Museum and Gallery, Photo: The Leadville Heritage Museum and Gallery
- Lake County Public Library, Photo: Lake County Public Library
- Alpine Adventures Dogsledding, Photo: scabrn/stock.adobe.com
- Hagerman Pass, Photo: Ionescu Bogdan/stock.adobe.com
- Turquoise Lake Recreation Area, Photo: SNEHIT/stock.adobe.com
- Mount Massive, Photo: Shelley/stock.adobe.com
- The Colorado Midland Centennial Trail, Photo: Lars Johansson/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Shelley/stock.adobe.com