Ten of Colorado’s Best Ghost Towns That You’ve Probably Never Heard Of…

Posted: December 8, 2015 in Ghost Towns, Mining Camps

When most of us think of Colorado ghost towns we think of places like St. Elmo, Independence or Ashcroft. A few may even think of places like Buckskin Joe or South Park City which are modern tourist trap creations of old west towns using historic buildings brought in from other sites.  But, did you know there are actually over 600 ghost towns that can be visited in Colorado?  That number comes as a surprise to many.

So where are Colorado’s ghost towns that you don’t hear much about? They are everywhere in the state, they just take some detective work and a tank or two of gas to locate. So let’s have a look at a handful of the great Colorado ghost towns that you may never have heard of before-

1. Russell

Russell was a tiny mining camp and supply town at the west foot of La Veta Pass. There are still a handful of houses at the picturesque site (including one that is occupied) just off of Highway 160 between Walsenburg and Fort Garland. The remains of Russell are all on private property, but can be easily viewed from a large dirt turnout at the foot of La Veta Pass.

2. Powderhorn

I came across Powderhorn by accident while traveling from Lake City to Gunnison. Powederhorn was a small ranching and farming area, and, in the 1800’s was once the #1 supplier of potatoes and other root vegetables to the hungry miners 50 miles south in the San Juan Mountains. Powderhorn had a general store, and a large number of tiny cabins for the cowboys who worked the scenic valley. The Post Office at Powderhorn still serves the needs of the ranchers in the area. There are a lot of abandoned cabins and ranch buildings at the the site today, however they are all on private land. Powderhorn lies deep in Gunnison County on Highway 149 along Cebolla Creek.

3. Fondis

Fondis still has a few residents, but its businesses and most of the people left long ago. Fondis was a ranching and farming community, and a little bit of logging was done in the surrounding area too. The old wooden general store is currently being refurbished by a charity working with veterans. Fondis is at the intersection of County Roads 69 and 98 in Elbert County, east of Castle Rock in the rolling pine dotted hills.

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4. Engleville

Engleville is situated at the base of Fishers Peak near Trinidad on the far southern end of Colorado. It was a coal mining town, and there are many abandoned homes and small cemetery at the site which is on private property, but can be seen and photographed easily from Engleville Road south of Trinidad.

5. Ute Ulay

Sometimes called “Henson” Ute Ulay is the remains of the mining camp that surrounded the Ute Ulay Mine near Lake City in the San Juans. The buildings are on private property, but some limited access listed on signs at the site allow for foot travel in to some of the buildings. A restoration effort is ongoing, and it appears that once the preservation work is finished there will be more public access to the site. Ute Ulay/Henson is along the Alpine Loop (County Road 20) just west of Lake City in Hinsdale County.

6. Hawkinsville

Hawkinsville is one of the least-known ghost towns in the State. It was founded in 1868 by a prospector named Hawkins who found gold in the tiny creek that runs through the site. A few mines were built on the hillsides around the camp, and the area was worked from the late 1860’s to around 1920. Today Hawkinsville remains relatively well preserved due to it’s remote and difficult to find location. There are still newspaper clippings from the 1890’s-1910’s pasted on the walls, beds, stoves and other furnishings inside the remaining cabins. There’s no easy or direct route to Hawkinsville, and this helps protect the site. It lies in the sandy hills east of Granite, Colorado and getting there is via a maddening maze of 4×4 trails.

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7. Berwind Canyon

Berwind Canyon, southwest of the Ludlow Memorial/Ludlow Exit on Interstate 25 north of Trinidad is littered with the remains of numerous coal mining towns from the early 1900’s. There are so many foundations and walls in Berwind Canyon it almost looks like Roman ruins. Today only a handful of ranchers remain in the canyon, in its prime, Berwind Canyon was home to over 3,000 coal miners and their families. When the coal mining industry declined, the mine owners came through with bulldozers and leveled all the buildings to avoid paying property taxes on their abandoned mines.

8. Pie Plant

Pie Plant is a great ghost town tucked into a remote corner of Taylor Park in Gunnison County on the west side of Cottonwood Pass. It was a mining town dating to the 1880’s, and it’s hidden location has allowed it to weather the past century without much damage. The town’s unique name came from the wild rhubarb that grew along the creek nearby. In latger years after the mining died down, local cowboys would use the cabins while tending their herds in Taylor Park. Pie Plant is located north of Taylor Park Reservoir on a branch of County Road 742, look for the sign pointing the way to the town site.

9. Swandyke

Swandyke sits high on a mountain side above Breckenridge, and was one of many small mining camps along the Swan River drainage. A few people know about Swandyke, and normally the only photos of the town show the one large, relatively well preserved cabin that is just off the main 4×4 trail to the town. However, there is much more to Swandyke than just that one cabin, by hiking up the steep hill behind it, the ruins of numerous other cabins appear as well all kinds of debris from the mining era- rusty cans, broken bottles, mining equipment, boot soles, etc. A second cabin called “The Paris Cabin” dating to the 1890’s which has been shored up with cables in recent years sits nestled in the trees as well. To find Swandyke take Tiger Road out of Breckenridge, then Forest Road 354 (high clearance 4×4 trail) up the north fork of the Swan River.

10. Kingston

Kingston was a mining town at the far north end of the Pine Creek Mining District in Gilpin County about 10 miles northwest of Black Hawk, above the ghost town of Apex. Kingston dates to the 1890’s and once had  a large stamp mill and numerous cabins. An arsonist destroyed the mill building a few years ago, and time has taken a heavy toll on the cabins that once covered the hillsides around the mines.  There are a lot of log foundations, a rock foundation or two, and the charred remains of the mill at the site today. Getting there is by taking Elk Park Road west out of Apex towards Mammoth Gulch, then taking the left branch of the 4×4 trail to Kingston Hill. The ruins of Kingston are buried in the trees and on the hillsides in every direction.

 

 

Comments
  1. Carol Andersen says:

    My mother was born in 1906 in Castle Rock. When she was about 10 the family moved to Berwind Canyon at the request of CF&I to start a school system for the children of miners. It was just after the Ludlow massacre and just after the miners who had led it were hanged in Castle Rock, so it was a difficult time there. Nonetheless, she and her sister made many friends among the children of the miners, mostly Italians and Mexicans. Her father, Clinton Arthur Bent, did indeed establish a school system with very high standards.

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