15 Best Things to Do in Leadville, CO

Leadville, CO
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Leadville, Colorado's Statutory City, is the seat of Lake County.

It has an elevation of 10,152 feet (3,094 meters), making it Colorado's highest city.

It also happens to be the highest incorporated city in the United States.

It is said that Leadville is only two miles from heaven, according to some locals.

Mining has deeply shaped the history and economic growth of Leadville.

In the 1980s, Climax, a neighboring molybdenum mine, was the economic backbone of the community.

While the city is attempting to reduce its reliance on mining, its highs and lows have historically mirrored the mining industry.

Apart from its extensive mining history, the city also offers other things that caught prominent individuals' attention.

Meanwhile, the city's dynamic character was shaped by permanent residents like Horace Tabor and Molly Brown, who left legacies in their wake.

So what activities can you enjoy doing in this city?

Here are the 15 best things to do in Leadville, CO:

Cycle Along the Mineral Belt Trail

The paved Mineral Belt Trail in Leadville is an 11.6-mile path that is part of the Mineral Belt Regional Park.

If you love biking, skateboarding, and longboarding, or just want to casually hike, this place is for you.

It has an average grade of 3%, making it suitable for all ages and abilities, as well as wheelchair users.

Mineral Belt Trail
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If you don't want to trek nearly 12 miles at an altitude of 10,200 feet, there are several simple access spots where you can see only a portion of the path.

It offers a plethora of views that let you take in the city, its mining history, and the surrounding natural beauty.

The ruins of this once-bustling mining complex are now surrounded by aspen and fir woods, wildflower meadows, and sage parkland.

In the winter, this trail transforms into Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and winter biking destinations.

Reach the Peak of Mount Elbert

View of Mount Elbert
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Mount Elbert rises 14,440 feet above sea level, the highest in Rocky Mountains.

The mountain, located in the San Isabel National Forest, ranks second in the country’s highest points, next to Mount Whitney in California.

It was named after Governor Samuel Hitt Elbert, the icon behind the establishment of the state in the late nineteenth century.

Twin Peaks at Mount Elbert
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Henry W. Stuckle was the first to climb the magnificent snow-capped mountain in 1874.

It is still a renowned climbing destination today.

Rent a Snowmobile From White Mountain Snowmobile Tours

White Mountain Snowmobile Tours is the state's highest-ranking snowmobile tour provider.

It has been guiding tourists between 11,000 and 12,000 feet for over 25 years.

RMK and Grand Touring snowmobiles are available for rent from White Mountain Tours.

Helmets are provided and are required for all riders.

Dress warmly and bring warm gloves, sunglasses, or goggles for eye protection, as they do not provide these items.

To ensure that you will have a positive riding experience, expert guides will accompany you.

These guides are seasoned mountaineers with decades of experience under their belts, as well as impressive credentials in wilderness safety.

Explore the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum

Outside view of National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum
Craig Talbert, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The National Mining Hall of Fame honors the people who worked in the mining industry in the past.

Sometimes referred to as the "Smithsonian of the Rockies," the museum has a 75,000-square-foot space and features rooms upon rooms of vibrant displays.

It has a vast collection of items linked to the United States' mining sector in the nineteenth century.

The museum's collection includes about 19,500 cataloged objects, including mining relics, uniforms, and tools.

It also has archive photography and document collections.

Exhibits on four floors include information on mining techniques, technologies, and discoveries, such as the history of the Colorado gold and silver rushes.

The museum is open seven days a week in the summer and Tuesdays through Sundays in the winter.

Hop Into the Matchless Mine Tour

Matchless Mine site in Leadville
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Leadville's Matchless Mine was where infamous silver king Horace Tabor got it wealthy, and his mistress-turned-wife died destitute and without company in 1935.

After being purchased by Horace Austin Warner Tabor in the late 19th century, the historic 1879 Matchless Mine had become one of Colorado's most profitable silver mines in the next few decades.

The mine is now on the National Register of Historic Places because it created more than $7.5 million in income during its time of operation.

Explore the mine to learn more about its operations and its owners' famous and sad love story, which was immortalized in the opera The Ballad of Baby Doe.

It has a self-guided tour, but you may hop into its hour-long guided surface tours to learn more from the area’s history experts.

Immerse Yourself With Nature at Molly Brown Campground

Molly Brown Campground, named after the Titanic's "unsinkable" Molly Brown, is located on the eastern bank of Turquoise Lake in a shady lodgepole pine forest 9,900 feet above sea level.

Boating, fishing, and hiking are all available at the campsite.

Meanwhile, if you want to locate Molly Brown’s Leadville residence, you can find it about five miles east of the campsite.

When Brown’s husband passed away, she amassed money due to his mining success and established a reputation as a philanthropist, socialite, and activist.

Throughout the campsite, potable water, vault toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings with grates are provided.

The host site also sells firewood.

The Turquoise Lake Nature Trail connects this campsite to Silver Dollar and loops around the beach.

Pick up your trail guide prior to departure to learn about the path's vegetation and animals.

Ride Aboard the Train Along the Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad

Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad
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From the end of May to the beginning of October, you may ride the Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad.

Your eyes will feast on the splendid San Isabel National Forest and the stunning views of the Arkansas River Valley.

The conductor entertains passengers with tales of Leadville's past, such as the historical personalities connected to Leadville like Unsinkable Molly Brown and Baby Doe Tabor, ghost stories, and railroad history.

A View in Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad
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Do note that the train does not serve meals, so it pays to bring some snacks along the trip.

You will also have the chance to meet the engineer and view the caboose and engine.

At certain times a year, it also offers special trips, such as Wildflower Special trains and package trips, featuring ziplining and whitewater rafting.

Check Out the Legendary Silver Dollar Saloon

If you're a fan of the wild west's history, the Silver Dollar Saloon, one of the state’s oldest saloons, should be on your list of places to see while in Leadville.

The bar, which dates all the way back to the 1800s, has its original tile flooring and diamond dust mirror embedded in the original oak back bar.

This establishment provided a private space for saloon customers to drink and bet.

Additionally, it benefited clients by keeping the structure protected from the severe Colorado winters and wind.

On its walls, you will find photographs and relics from the past.

The pub has photographs of residents, architectural drawings, and even a noose used for hangings centuries ago.

The Silver Dollar is also a must-stop if you’re interested in paranormal phenomena.

According to the other stories circulating, the establishment is haunted, with resident ghosts frequently visiting bar patrons.

Ski at Cooper

Skiing in Cooper, Colorado
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Summit County and the popular Vail ski resort are both close together, making Cooper one of Colorado's most attractive ski resorts.

The 10th Mountain Division of the United States Army first used the region as a training ground in 1942, and that's when the ski resort got its start.

Originally developed as a military ski area during World War II, today's ski resort is run by the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service and is a full-service destination for winter sports enthusiasts.

Some of the Rockies' tallest peaks, such as Mounts Elbert and Massive, can be seen from the slopes, making for spectacular scenery.

The Snowflakes Retail Shop sells ski equipment, as well as winter clothing and mementos.

The Cooper Cafeteria, Katie O'Rourke's Irish Pub, and the Ridgeview Cafe are just some of the resort's dining options.

On Saturdays throughout the winter, guests may take snowcats to the resort's summit for an exclusive mountaintop yurt supper.

Test Your Guts at the Top of the Rockies Ziplines

The Rockies' crest Ziplines provide an unparalleled opportunity to experience being in a unique high-altitude vantage point.

Here, you will take the world's first zipline route that crosses an active train track.

Participants may have a view of the flowing Arkansas River, and at the same time, cross the Continental Divide.

Its strict safety measures ensure that all clients have a safe and pleasurable ziplining experience.

It has a range of tour packages available throughout the year, including unique backcountry access to abandoned mining sites.

All tours include a complimentary lunch and seasonal drinks, like hot chocolates.

Fish at Twin Lakes Reservoir

Mountains and hills around Twin Lakes Reservoir
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Are you a fishing enthusiast?

In Twin Lakes Reservoir in Colorado, you can catch different species of trout.

Twin Lakes Reservoir is a massive, stunning combination of alpine lakes.

Mount Elbert looms in the background of this linked pair of lakes in the hamlet of Twin Lakes, Colorado.

While fishing, your eyes will enjoy the nature of the surrounding San Isabel National Forest.

Twin Lakes Reservoir is sufficiently vast that you may easily locate a private nook or a huge expanse of water to reach by boat.

Campgrounds surround these magnificent lakes, and there are also lots of rooms available at nearby cottages and hotels.

Local rules are quite tight about the size and number of Lake Trout you are permitted to capture and keep, so be sure to familiarize yourself with them before fishing.

Buy Hiking Outfits From Melanzana

In the heart of downtown Leadville, a free-spirited outdoor apparel company has been doing things a little differently for over two decades.

Melanzana is a small, passionate local brand that designs, sews, and sells everything they make on-site.

If you're going on an exciting trip outside, you'd be wise to complete your ensemble with a Melanzana ensemble.

Melanzana, a small business with just over twenty workers, focuses on creating outfits suitable for harsh conditions.

They design, cut, and sew functionally simple clothes for various weather situations, which sets them apart from other brands.

While shopping, you can observe the sewing machines and bolts of fabric in the rear of the building.

Many people who have been here noted that they love seeing the folks that make their items.

Watch Local Concerts at Tabor Opera House

Outside  Tabor Opera House
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Take a piece of history with you and spend an evening soaking in the atmosphere of the Tabor Opera House while watching one of its outstanding performances.

It is a historic entertainment facility that hosted legendary performers, such as Harry Houdini and Oscar Wilde.

It is home to a diverse range of performing arts, from opera and drama to live musical performances.

Tabor presents opera, ballet, Broadway, and regional performances.

Additionally, they are developing interactive tours, cultural activities, flamenco dance, comedic acts, and musical performances.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Spot Bighorn Sheep at Buffalo Peaks

View of the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness
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The Buffalo Peaks Wilderness is the sanctuary of Colorado's biggest population of bighorn sheep, but that is not all this area has to offer.

The region is also home to elks, beavers, bears, various birds, and a plethora of other animals.

The Buffalo Summits Wilderness is located between the San Isabel and Pike National Forests and is immediately identifiable by the rounded form of its peaks.

The 41,282-acre wilderness was named after the East and West Buffalo Peaks, two heavily eroded volcanoes.

The Buffalo Peaks Wilderness is perhaps most well-known for its forest habitat and unusual fauna.

The Buffalo Peaks Wilderness Loop is a popular hiking path in the wilderness.

It is an excellent alternative for hikers and campers since it provides isolated areas that those seeking a vacation from city life would appreciate.

The circle passes through a variety of landscapes, including forests, meadows, and streams.

The loop has been classified as an intermediate trek by hikers, making it ideal for both experienced and beginning hikers.

Conquer the Treacherous Mosquito Pass

View of a Lake in Mosquito Pass
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If you are a daredevil when it comes to adventure, drive at your own risk to Mosquito Pass.

One of Colorado's most challenging mountain passes, Mosquito Pass, is located at the state's southwestern corner.

CO Road 12 takes you to Mosquito Pass, which is a rugged and narrow dirt road.

There are numerous stream crossings and sections of difficult terrain among the steep cliffs with stunning views.

You can only conquer the unpaved road known as "The Highway of Frozen Death," which is notoriously hazardous.

Ruins of mine near Mosquito Pass
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Only 4WD vehicles equipped with high clearance can get across the pass.

Mosquito Pass should not be attempted by 2WD vehicles, and all vehicles should have sufficient supplies, such as a spare tire, oil, and gas.

Most importantly, you must be an experienced driver to do this.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for a unique, less-heavily traveled destination, Leadville is the place to be.

Its unique, exciting attractions, breathtaking mountain views, and a taste of the Old West are surely worth its weight in gold.