25 (More) Abandoned Buildings in Colorado You Must See Before They Are Gone

Posted: November 28, 2015 in Cemeteries and Graves

My first blog titled “25 Abandoned Buildings You Must See in Colorado Before They Are Gone” was such a hit and got so much traffic, I figured I better make a “Part II” featuring 25 more buildings you should put on your bucket list…

So, once again, in no particular order, 25 more of the best abandoned buildings in the State of Colorado! Enjoy!

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1. General Store- Weston, Colorado

Weston, Colorado still has a number of residents, but you can find this little gem sitting right along Highway 12 as you enter the east side of town. There is a dirt lot alongside the general store where you park, and there are many interesting buildings and houses in the tiny town. Be sure to see the old Weston Elementary School which lies right across the street as well- It has been turned into a private residence in recent years, but the sandstone block construction overgrown with shrubs makes for a great photo. The handful of people I saw in Weston all seemed friendly, smiling and waving, and a couple of kids on bikes looked at me like I was crazy for taking so many photos of that old abandoned store. To get there take Highway 12 (The Highway of Legends Scenic Byway) west out of Trinidad for 23 miles and you’ll drive right through the center of town. There are many other cool old towns and buildings that line Highway 12 along the way, so make a day trip of it.

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2. Abandoned Homestead(s)- Tarryall Creek, Colorado

In South Park between Jefferson and Lake George, along the banks of Tarryall Creek are a large number of abandoned homesteads, ranches, and cabins, some which are truly remarkable. It was hard for me to pick just one, because each of them deserves to be on the list. Above is just a typical example of what you’ll see along Tarryall Creek. I took my trip in the cold, dead, winter months with a backdrop of clouds and yellowed dead grasses- I’d imagine the Tarryall Valley would be even more striking in the summer months with wildflowers and lush greens. Take Highway 285 south out of Denver towards Fairplay, at the tiny town of Jefferson, turn southeast on Tarryall Road/County Road 77, you’ll enjoy 43 miles of abandoned homesteads, rock formations and wildlife by the time you reach Lake George and Highway 24 on the other end.

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3. First State Bank of Aguilar- Aguilar, Colorado

The Gianella Building in Aguilar, Colorado, more commonly known referred to as the First State Bank building in Aguilar was built in 1910, and closed only a short time later in 1927 when the coal mining empires of the region began to fade.  Also of interest in Aguilar is the sandstone Lopresto building of similar construction and age a block or tow down that street that currently houses Ringo’s Market.  Both buildings, and a number of other vacant store fronts are worth the short side-trip to the base of the Spanish Peaks where Aguilar sits if you are traveling on I-25 in the Trinidad area. Exit signs clearly mark the route to the town just north of Trinidad about 15 miles. Fair warning though- The locals have a lot of town pride, and do not like their town being called a “ghost town” or an “almost ghost town”, so choose your words wisely- I learned the hard way a couple of years ago!

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4. City Hall and Fire Department- Nevadaville, Colorado

Thousands of people flock to Central City and Black Hawk every weekend to try their luck in the casinos, or to explore the old buildings and shops of the historic district, but few go the extra mile (literally) to see Nevadaville while they are visiting. Nevadaville was once part of the “Big Three” mining towns that delivered millions in gold ore during the boom years in Gilpin County. Today, Nevadaville is a ghost town, most of it’s buildings having been torn down long ago, their boards and planks used to build homes in Denver in the early 1900’s. Along Main Street in Nevadaville a handful of old buildings remain- The Odd Fellows Lodge, the Saloon, the Bald Mountain Store, and the combination City Hall/Fire Department building. A few old houses and cabins, along with the ruins of the enormous mining operations dot the gulch in all directions around Nevadaville. A few people still have summer homes in the town, and one local told me the year-round population of Nevadaville is now up to two since he moved in! Next time you visit Central City/Black Hawk, pack a camera and take Central City Parkway from Interstate 70 (Exit 243), as you begin the drop into Central City there will be signs and a fork in the road pointing to Nevadaville, follow the paved road up the steep hill about one- half-mile, the road will turn into a good, graded dirt road, and approximately one-half-mile up the dirt road you will find yourself in Nevadaville.

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5. Jailhouse- Berwind Canyon, Colorado

The old concrete jailhouse in Berwind Canyon is about the only structure left in the area that is still intact- Nearly all of the other company houses and buildings that lined Berwind Canyon during the coal mining days were leveled by bulldozers in the 1950’s, so the mine owners didn’t have to pay property taxes on the vacant buildings. Foundations, pillars, walls of buildings, coke ovens, even staircases that lead to nowhere cover the sides of Berwind Canyon and give the impression that you are standing among ancient Roman ruins. Today, the canyon is silent in stark contrast to the heyday of the area when over 3,000 people called the canyon home. Berwind Canyon is located southwest of the ghost town and memorial at Ludlow. From Interstate 25 take the Ludlow Exit, drive south past the remains of Ludlow, and keep your eye out for the narrow turnoff on the west side of the road that runs through a one-lane tunnel underneath the railroad tracks. Turn here and go under the tracks this is County Road 40.2 and it will lead you into the “Roman Ruins” of Berwind Canyon.

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6. Smelter Office or Workshop- Stringtown, Colorado

Stringtown is just south and west of Leadville (hard to determine where Leadville ends and Stringtown begins) along Highway 24. You’ll know you’ve reached Stringtown when you see the massive mounds of black slag, the byproduct of the smelting process where precious metals were separated from the worthless host rock they were found in. Stringtown and it’s smelters were an important industrial suburb of Leadville in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Today Stringtown is a cluster of occupied and vacant trailer houses, an abandoned steakhouse/saloon, and a smattering of old buildings dating to the boom era in various states of decay. This old smelter office or workshop sits just off of Highway 24 in the heart of Stringtown. Many other abandoned buildings and forlorn pieces of mining and smelting equipment can be seen all around the town as well.

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7. Brown’s Dance Hall- Ramah, Colorado

Ramah, Colorado is one of the most interesting places in the state in my opinion. Ramah is the picture perfect “ghost town”, but it is not a ghost town. Many people still call Ramah home, and I see why. It is fantastic little town set deep among gigantic trees, with several blocks of houses, an old business district complete with false-fronted shops, and a public park with a WWI era canon sitting in it.  Old cars sit abandoned throughout the town, most from the 1950’s or earlier, the vast majority of the storefronts are vacant, and I’d say about half of the homes are empty. There is something interesting on every street in town, and the town itself is colorful- the houses and businesses, even the abandoned ones are bright are welcoming. You truly feel as though you’ve traveled back in time to the early-1960’s when exploring the town. At any minute you’d expect to see Sherriff Taylor and Deputy Fife roll around the corner in their black and white squad car. Brown’s Dance Hall pictured above is just an example of the neat character and charm that you will experience in Ramah. To get there Take Interstate 25 south to Colorado Springs, then take the Highway 24 Exit east. Ramah is about 45 miles east of Colorado Springs on Highway 24, several other interesting old towns are along the way as well.

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8. Methodist Church- Keota, Colorado

This weathered old church with it’s bell tower missing, having fallen off many years ago sits on the north end of the small, great plains ghost town of Keota in northeastern Colorado. Keota is a true ghost town, with no residents, although many of the properties are still privately owned and marked as such. Chances are when visiting Keota you’ll be the only person there, as was the case when I first visited the town a couple of years ago. The houses and buildings at Keota are in varying degrees of deterioration, one old house, when I visited, was leaning so far to one side it was almost flat to the ground. Keota is a long drive from pretty much anywhere, and there are several routes to get you there from Denver- You can take Interstate 76 to Fort Morgan, then Highway 52 north to New Raymer, then, Highway 14 west out of New Raymer to County Road 390. From 390 you travel northwest until you see the abandoned Keota water tower, and then if you manage to get lost from there it’s your fault. The other route would be taking Interstate 25 north to Highway 14 at Ft. Collins, take the Highway 14/Timnath exit east and travel across the prairie until you reach County Road 390 which takes you north to Keota.

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9. Barn and Outhouse- Granite, Colorado

Granite dates to the 1860’s and was an early mining and supply town in the Arkansas River Valley between Leadville and Buena Vista. The town still survives today, with a handful of year round residents and some summer cabins. Granite retains much of it’s old time character, and has plenty of weathered cabins, and old schoolhouse high on the hill, and some false-fronted stores that haven’t rang up a sale in decades. In recent years tourism has brought some life to Granite bringing in fisherman and rafters coming to enjoy the Arkansas River that runs through town. This old barn with it’s stone foundation and outhouse sit on the west side of Highway 24, the rest of the town of Granite sits on the east side of the highway. Getting there is easy, just take Highway 24 south out of LEadville towards Buena Vista, you will pass through Granite about 17 miles south of Leadville.

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10. General Store (?)- San Acacio, Colorado

I’ve only just begun to explore the San Luis Valley and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite parts of the state. (I can have more than one right?)  The stunning contrast of the flat grasslands of the valley itself, and the snow capped spires of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that surround it are truly breathtaking. Numerous small towns line the valley floor, and I’ve never met friendlier people than those in the San Luis Valley- Every passing vehicle on the road greets you with a smile and a wave- Not the horn and obscenities like those of us in or close to the metro area are accustomed to. The locals I’ve met in gas stations and stores in the San Luis are just down to earth, friendly people, proud of their valley and it’s heritage, and always willing to share a story or lend a helping hand. San Acacio is one of the tiny towns in the San Luis Valley, and this wonderful old store (or what I’m assuming was a store) sits just off the side of County Road 142. From Denver take Interstate 25 south to Walsenburg, Highway 160 west from Walsenburg, up over La Veta Pass, to Ft. Garland, from Ft. Garland take Highway 159 south to San Luis (the oldest town in Colorado dating to 1852) and from San Luis head west on County Road 142 to San Acacio.  From Denver is around 250 miles.

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11. Hotel- Last Chance, Colorado

There’s not much left to see at Last Chance, Colorado- Most of what was left being lost to a prairie fire a few years back. Luckily, this awesome old Hotel building survived. There are a couple of other buildings at the site as well including an abandoned Dairy King and a home. Last Chance is located on the desolate eastern plains in Washington County. There’s not much to see in the town, and even less on the road out there. Take I-70 east, then Highway 36 east, keep driving east, and when you think there’s no more east left in Colorado it’s another hour east of there on Highway 36…it’s actually only 80 miles from Denver, but it seems like a lot more!

 

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12. The Big Five Mine Office- Camp Frances, Colorado

I stumbled onto the Big Five Mine Office by accident a few years ago. I was searching for, and thought I had found the post office building at the Puzzler town site in Boulder County. I was wrong, consider I had read my map wrong and wasn’t at Puzzler. So this old red building with white trimmed windows buried in an aspen grove I had stumbled upon was a mystery to me for a few weeks. Once I flipped my maps around and determined the origin of my error, I learned that this building was the last structure at the Camp Frances site. Camp Frances was a busy mining camp in the Ward District in the 1890’s.  The old mine office is a really interesting building if you can find it- And, to add to the mystery of Camp Frances, I’m not sure if it is on public or private property. I reached the building by taking Highway 119 (Peak-to-Peak Highway) north out of Nederland. Just south of Ward take Gold Hill Road east, then at the first major fork in the road, turn left (north) on to Sawmill Road. Sawmill Road drops off fairly steeply and when you screech to halt in a cloud of dust at the bottom, turn left, then immediately turn left again onto the road that sits right next to Sawmill Road (confused yet?) Travel west up this gulch back towards Highway 119. You’ll start to see evidence of a massive EPA reclamation project, then you’ll come to a newer home on the left hand side of the road. A large pack of snarling and barking dogs will charge out from under the porch of the house and circle your vehicle for 7 to 10 minutes as you try to figure out how to continue up the hill without running any of them over. Once the dogs get tired of barking at you and you are safely out of their territory, the road will get a bit steeper and as you pull the incline you’ll see the mine office and a tall rock wall (the remains of the blasting powder bunker) on the slope to your left. You can pull right up to the mine office and explore it…But, like I mentioned, it is very unclear whether or not the site is on public, private or EPA controlled land.  If anyone knows the answer, please contact me.

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13. Any of the Abandoned Houses- Ironton, Colorado

There is nothing disappointing about Ironton, between Ouray and Silverton in the San Juan Mountains. If you haven’t been there it is a bit difficult to find at first. but it is well worth the effort. There are a number abandoned homes and stores at the site, which sits buried among pine and aspen trees along the road to Red Mountain Pass. Many of the structures are stable enough to enter with a light step. In September of 2013 I determined my best bet for avoiding the floods ravaging the front range would be to go hide out in the San Juans for a few days, it was on this trip that I first found Ironton. I was on my way to Silverton and pulled off the side of the road and hiked a half-mile or so up an old dirt road to the town. While snapping photos inside one of the old houses, a Texan tourist appeared out of nowhere and said “Hello!”, causing me to drop me camera, jump eight feet in the air and scream, giving me a mild heart attack. Ironton can be found by taking “The Million Dollar Highway” (Highway 550) south out of Montrose and through Ouray. As you climb Red Mountain Pass, there will be a large rusty red tailings pile from the mining activity on your left hand side, here there is a parking lot and some trailheads. A rough 4×4 road skirts the edge of Highway 550 south for 3/4 mile or so, and at the end of this 4×4 trail buried deep in the trees is Ironton. You can’t see Ironton from Highway 550 even though it is right off the side of the main road. A lot of people miss it, but if you can find it there are around 10 buildings left at the site.

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14. Lake Gulch Schoolhouse- Lake Gulch, Colorado

Lake Gulch, like Nevadaville, is just a mile so beyond Central City, and very few people have ever heard of it. This old red brick schoolhouse, now faded to pink, is the only period structure still somewhat standing at the site. There are some newer concrete mine buildings close by though. A few mining ruins, some old wooden fence, a few rock foundations and a stone wall or two are all that remains other than the school. Lake Gulch was a mining camp to the south of Central City, east of Russell Gulch.  Getting there today is via Spring Street in Central City to Virginia Canyon Road, at the the top of the hill there is a fork, the right fork of Virgina Canyon Road is marked and leads to Idaho Springs, the left fork is Lake Gulch Road which runs past the KOA campground and some apartments. At the turnoff to the apartments, the pavement ends. Continue on down into Lake Gulch on the dirt road, the ruins of the schoolhouse are about a mile down on the right hand side, on private property. If you’re lucky like I was you’ll catch a rainbow leading to the ruins.

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15. The Genoa Wonder Tower- Genoa, Colorado

I do not know if the the Genoa Wonder Tower is “abandoned” but it has been permanently closed to the public in recent years by it’s current owner, and now, sadly,  sits in a forlorn state. This unusual tower is located on the west end of the town of Genoa, about 100 miles east of Denver on Interstate 70. The tower was a tourist trap built in the 1920’s called the “World Wonder Tower” or “The Genoa Wonder Tower.” It is claimed that if you climb to the observation deck of the tower you can see six states, whether that is true or not is speculation, but it was widely touted in advertising for the tower. Inside the lower level of the tower was a museum of oddities and a gift shop. The upper walls of the museum were lined with case upon case of arrowheads and other Native American artifacts found by area farmers. Several old cars and vintage trailers sit sunk in the mud around the tower and add to it’s appeal.  Getting there is by taking Interstate 70 east 102 miles from Denver.

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16. Bunk House- Buckskin Gulch, Colorado

I don’t know any of the history behind this old bunk house in Buckskin Gulch a few miles northwest of Alma. I’m even speculating that it was a bunk house, but it fits the mold of several other I’ve seen. There was a great deal of mining done in Buckskin Gulch dating all the way back to the 1700’s when a few Spanish explorers stopped and mined some gold silver in the area with the “help” of Ute Indian slaves who later rebelled and disposed of their Spanish masters. The area has been extensively worked ever since, and this building probably dates to the late 1890’s based on it’s construction. Judging by the debris inside, it’s a popular place to drink canned beer. You can find the bunk house by taking Highway 9 either south out of Breckenridge to Alma, or north out of Fairplay to Alma. Once you’re in Alma look for the tiny sign marked “Buckskin Gulch/Kite Lake” that points west through the houses just north of Al-Mart (or ask any of the locals) follow the dirt road up Buckskin Gulch about 5 miles and the bunk house will be on your right hand side. Be sure to stop in Al-Mart while you’re there- It’s a great little convenience store that has everything you could ever need, and the staff is friendly too.

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17. Any of the Miner’s Cabins- Turret, Colorado

Turret was a mining town 12 miles from Salida in the Arkansas River Valley in the late 1800’s. It sat abandoned, forgotten and unmolested for much of the 20th Century. Then, in recent years, people once again “discovered” Turret and it’s beautiful setting, and now the old and forgotten is being rapidly replaced by the new. Modern summer cabins are being built at Turret, and the reminders of “old” Turret are vanishing quickly. A number of the original cabins still remain at the site, including one that has been restored which was the original Post Office, but the majority are falling apart and it won’t be long until they vanish. Turret recently made news headlines when a crazy man who lived there blew himself up making homemade bombs…But that episode shouldn’t deter anyone from visiting the site. Getting to Turret can be a chore, but having an old-fashioned paper and ink Colorado atlas will prove beneficial. From Salida you can get there by taking 3rd Street to County Road 175. Take County Road 175 to County Road to County Road 184 which will take you to Turret. Sounds easy enough, but the road zigs and zags and disappears in the sand, and there are random, unmarked forks, blind hills and corners, and suicidal deer and rabbits hellbent on running you off the road the entire length.

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18. Chlorination Mill- Wall Street, Colorado

When most people hear “Wall Street” they think of stockbrokers, buzzers and bells, not a quaint and sleepy Colorado ghost town bypassed by the modern era. Wall Street was named in the late 1800’s for the east coast capitalists who funded and owned the mines in the area. At the time, an elaborate new system of extracting gold from host rock using chlorine was developed. The investors and miners of Wall Street built what was to be the first chlorination mill in the state. How exactly it worked, I have no idea, but the remains of the mill at Wall Street are very impressive to this day. A towering stone foundation that was apparently used to store ore for the mill rises above the tiny town of Wall Street in Boulder County. As massive and imposing as the foundation is, it is also very well camouflaged and blends into the mountainside- It took me two visits to Wall Street before I noticed it even existed, now, it is the first thing that strikes my eye when I visit the town. There are several other old buildings at Wall Street including the Assayer’s Office, which, in summer months is open to the public and serves as a mining museum. To get there take Canyon Avenue west out of downtown Boulder, then up into Boulder Canyon, turn right on to  Four Mile Canyon Road and take this to Salina. At the south edge of Salina, there will be a dirt road heading west, this is the road to Wall Street, follow this dirt road up a couple of miles and first you’ll see the Assayer’s Office, and directly behind it is the foundation of the chlorination mill.

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19. Store Front, Nunn, Colorado

There’s just something about old false-fronted stores that I love. They’re simple, common, and really not very awe-inspiring in their standard form, but the style speaks of the past, and a simpler time when businesses were small, “Mom and Pop” operations, not mega-conglomerate super retailers like we know today. This tiny building in Nunn is the simple store front of yesterday. What makes this store front even more appealing (at least to me) is the neat row of power lines in the background that line up perfectly with the roof tops of you get just the right angle with your camera.  Nunn is pretty quiet these days, but still has a few folks hanging around. Judging by the street corners, lots and backyards, every single Studebaker in the United States apparently went to Nunn, Colorado to die! So if you’re looking for parts for your ’57 Golden Hawk I’d suggest checking Nunn. The water tower in town reads “Watch Nunn Grow.”  Nunn is north and east of Ft. Collins on Highway 85 just before you hit Wyoming.

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20. Church- Farisita, Colorado

I don’t know any of the history behind this abandoned stucco church at Farisita. I’ve read that it was a Methodist Church, but that seems strange to me since Farasita was a Spanish/Mexican settlement, and there is a Catholic cemetery directly across the street. Farisita was first known as “Fuerte Talpa” or “Talpa” and the Spanish built an adobe fort there around 1820, to protect the northernmost frontier of the Spanish Empire in the New World from incursions by the expanding United States. The soldiers at the distant outpost of Talpa were incessantly harassed by Ute Indians, and, one particularly vicious attack, coupled with the Mexican revolution of 1821, led to Fuerte Talpa being abandoned. After 1821 and Mexican independence from Spain, Mexican settlers returned to the area and Farisita sprang up at roughly the same location of Talpa on the Huerfano River.  Today Farisita is nothing more than this abandoned church, an empty store front, one occupied house, and the cemetery. Getting there is via Highway 69 west out of Walsenburg.

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21. School House- Tyrone, Colorado

The architecture of this old school house at Tyrone makes it stand apart from the rest, and it’s location, standing alone on the wind swept, sandy prairie east of Trinidad make it one of the most picturesque buildings in the state.  Tyrone is another of the tiny dust bowl towns that line Highway 350 between Trinidad and La Junta. There’s not much left of Tyrone other than this school, the ruins of the general store and a couple of abandoned farm houses nearby.

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22. The Odd Fellow’s Hall- Como, Colorado

This unique structure as known as the “Odd Fellow’s Hall” in Como, Colorado. It is a very unusual building in the sense that it has an octagonal, second story cupola with windows on all sides which is something you don’t see very often…actually, I don’t remember ever seeing another building like this. The building is privately owned and was recently for sale.  Como is easy to reach by taking Highway 285 south out of Denver towards Fairplay. Como will be along way at the east foot of Boreas Pass just past the town of Jefferson. Como has an eclectic mix of empty and occupied homes and store fronts, and a fantastic old railroad depot with a sprawling two-story white and green hotel next to it. Just a warning though- Como is always cold and windy no matter what time of year you visit.

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23. General Store- San Luis, Colorado

San Luis is Colorado’s oldest continuously occupied town being founded in 1852. It is a beautiful town in a scenic location surrounded mountains, ranch land and creeks. There are a number of interesting buildings in San Luis, most are still occupied, but this old general store sits vacant about one block off of the main street through town. Be sure to look up on the bluffs overlooking town to catch a glimpse of the mission style Catholic church built in 1886- It is one of the finest examples of Spanish Colonial style architecture in the state. To get to San Luis take Interstate 25 south to Walsenburg, head west out of Walsenburg on Highway 160, go over La Veta Pass to Fort Garland, head south out of Fort Garland on Highway 159 to San Luis.

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24. The Vindicator Mill- Goldfield, Colorado

The Vindicator is a towering mill building near Goldfield and Victor, Colorado. During the peak years of the gold boom in the Cripple Creek region, the Vindicator was just one of many of the giant mining companies that smothered the hillsides. Today the Vindicator sits in ruins, looming over mine workings, dilapidated buildings and rusty mining equipment throughout the valley below. A foot path has been made in recent years that runs down through the maze of mine workings at the Vindicator site and if you are into rusty industrial equipment this is place is right up your alley. Getting to the Vindicator is by taking Highway 24 west out of Colorado Springs and following the signs to Cripple Creek off of  Highway 67. From Cripple Creek take Highway 67 south to Victor (about 5 miles) spend some time enjoying the vintage painted advertising all over the old buildings in Victor, then take County Road 81 north about one mile and the tiny town of Goldfield will be on your right, across from Goldfield you will see numerous old mine buildings, a couple of trail heads and towards the top of the hill the Vindicator looking down over everything.

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25. The Rock Creek Stagecoach Depot-  Routt County, Colorado

I came across the Rock Creek Stage Depot while on a fishing trip a few years ago. I’d noticed once before many years ago as a kid while on a fishing trip with my dad, but it just looked like an abandoned homestead off in the distance and I never thought much more of it until I returned to the area recently. I stopped to check it out this time, and was surprised to see it was actually an old stagecoach depot dating to the 1880’s on the route between Kremmling and Yampa. In recent years the Routt County Historical Society has done some preservation work to the building, and mounted a plaque with the depot’s history at the site.  To find the Rock Creek Stage Depot take Highway 9 north out of Silverthorne to Kremmling, from Kremmling take Highway 40 north  past Wolford Mountain Reservoir to the intersection with Highway 134. Travel west on Highway 134 roughly 18 miles, where there will be a turnout and a dirt road heading south marked “Rock Creek”, follow this dirt road south a mile or two and the stage depot will come into view.

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Comments
  1. Douglas E says:

    We recently purchased the Little Daisy claim, and the upper part of Camp Francis is on our property. We have yet to explore the whole area, A lot of the land in the area of California Gulch, where you drove, is owned by Boulder County, but the claims are such a hodgepodge that it’s hard to find the boundaries of public and private lands. If the mine office is where I think it is, it appears to be on private land – the Boulder County Assessor website is pretty good at figuring out these things. Great website – discovered while searching for Camp Francis/Frances. Will no doubt return.

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