Ghost Towns & Mining Camps of Colorado

During the late 19th century, gold fever roared through Colorado like wildfire, and mining camps and towns were literally born overnight. Seeking their fortunes, thousands of men arrived in the Centennial State in search of glittery minerals. Settlements grew up on rocky hillsides, in grassy meadows, and along creeks and rivers — where ever gold or silver was thought to be found.

Central City, Colorado, 1865

Central City, Colorado, 1865

Many towns, such as  Central City, Leadville, and Cripple Creek were so successful they grew into large cities, some of which were larger than Denver at the time. This mining boom brought national recognition to Colorado as one of the most lucrative places to be in the late 1800s.

Colorado has more than 600 ghost towns, most of which were mining towns, which are the most popular among visitors. There at least that many more that were established that have no remains to provide evidence that they ever existed.

Most of these towns completely died when the ore played out and the mines closed. Many were ruined with the devaluation of silver in 1893. Some settlements were dedicated purely to milling or smeltering the ore. These also died when the mines played out. A few; however, never really died, as they turned their focus to other economic ventures, were located on major roads and took advantage of tourist opportunities. These include towns like Leadville, Breckenridge, and Idaho Springs.

Just three Colorado “ghost towns” still have active mining activities — Victor, Lake City, and Gold Hill. Also included here are Colorado Forts. Most of these were established during the Indian Wars of the Old West and were abandoned when there was no longer a need. There are several which continue to display remains or reconstructions. Others have turned into entire towns.

Gilman, Colorado Company Town by Kathy Weiser-Alexander

Gilman, Colorado Company Town by Kathy Weiser-Alexander

Many of these old settlements, even though they may still have people living in them, are referred to as ghost towns by most historians and authors. Why? Though many believe that a ghost town is a totally abandoned town, modern books and literature define them as any historical town or site that leaves evidence of a town’s previous glory. One of several dictionary definitions of a “ghost town” is “a shadowy semblance of its former self.”

Mining was not always the cause of towns becoming “ghosts.” Some are farming towns, especially on the eastern plains of Colorado, where some towns have been deserted due to rural depopulation; other towns died when stage stops were abandoned; settlements that were established to support railroad lines that no longer exist or no longer stop are gone or dwindled; a few were built as resort towns that just didn’t work; and a couple were buried under water when reservoirs were created.

Of those that continue to survive, in any manner, they offer interesting peeks into history, a view of the Wild West, tales of legendary people and more.

Take nothing but photos – leave nothing

 but footprints – break nothing but

 silence – kill nothing but time.

Explorer’s Code


Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway, Colorado

Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway, Colorado

Alpine Loop National Backcountry Byway, Colorado

Animas Forks – Favorite on the Alpine Loop

Mineral Point

Capitol City

Henson and the Ute-Ulay Mines

Lake City

Lakeshore & the Golden Fleece Mine

Carson – Atop the Continental Divide 


Burrows Park

American Basin

Silverton Road to the Alpine Loop

Nevadaville, Colorado

Nevadaville, Colorado, Kathy Weiser

The Alpine Tunnel – An Engineering Marvel

Boggsville – On the Santa Fe Trail

Buckskin Joe – Gone But Not Forgotten

Forts of Colorado

Cripple Creek – World’s Greatest Gold Camp

Central City – From Boom To Bust

Eureka and the Sunnyside Mine

Entering the interpretive area at Vicksburg Museum. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander, 2018.

Ghosts of Clear Creek Canyon (Beaver City, Vicksburg, Rockdale, Winfield)

Guffey, Colorado – Quirky Mining Town

Colorado Ghost Towns Photo Gallery

Gilman – A Company Town

Hardscrabble, Colorado

Hastings & the Worst Mining Accident

Leadville – Cloud City USA

Ludlow and the Colorado Coalfield War

Red Mountain Mining District

Chattanooga – Silent Today

Red Mountain Town – Queen of the District

Guston and the Yankee Girl Mine

Ironton – Supplying the Mining District

Silverton – High in the San Juans

Silverton Road to the Alpine Loop

Stark Home and Store, St. Elmo, Colorado

Stark Home and Store, St. Elmo, Colorado

St Elmo – A Haunted Ghost Town

Victor – The City of Mines

More Ghost Town Information:

What is a Ghost Town?

Ghost Town Code of Ethics

Stay Out of That Old Mine!

Ghost Towns Across America Facebook Page

A “ghost town” is “a shadowy semblance of  its former self.

— One dictionary definition

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated September 2018.

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