Touring the Byway
56 miles | 6 Days/ 5 Nights | Gateway City: Crested Butte, Colorado
Your journey begins in the beautiful mountain town of Crested Butte, where you can explore for a day before heading out on Day Two for Gunnison and Salida, where you can explore Browns Canyon National Monument stretched between Salida and Buena Vista. Spend a delightful evening at a hot springs resort, where before or after your day, take a side trip off the Byway to Elmo, to the Chalk Creek Mining District.
View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!
More than 70 million years ago, the earth lifted to create Browns Canyon, where elevations range from 7,300 feet to 10,000 feet, delivering stunning views of the Arkansas Valley and the Sawatch Mountain Range. Stretched along the roadside between Salida and Buena Vista, the star of the monument is the Arkansas River where raft, kayak, bike, horseback ride, hike, nature watch, take photographs and stargaze, plus engage in world-class wild trout fishing.
The Chalk Creek Mining District sits at the end of the road from Nathrop where St. Elmo along with Iron City, Romley, Hancock, and Alpine made up the district. Discovered in 1870, the Mary Murphy Mine became the biggest producer of silver and gold in the area, is part of the Chalk Creek Canyon Exploration Route. The first cabin was built in Alpine in 1877, it grew to 500 people in three years, with two hotels, a dance hall, 23 saloons, a newspaper and stores. Iron City was a smelter town where gold and silver laden ore was carted from the mines to be processed and extracted. When the railroad was extended to St. Elmo, the newspaper, bank and other businesses moved to town, in what is now one of the best-preserved historic mining towns in the state that once had 2000 residents. From the 1870s on St. Elmo was the trade and transportation center for Chalk Creek’s silver mining boom. The restored schoolhouse in St. Elmo is open for touring.
Your journey on the Leadville Colorado and Southern Railroad delivers an excursion punctuated with humorous narratives about Leadville’s colorful past. On the 2 and ½ hour adventure, you’ll learn more about Molly Brown and Horace, Augusta and Baby Doe Tabor, the Guggenheims and Doc Holiday, while passing spectacular views of Freemont Pass, Mount Massive and Mount Elbert. Should you choose, you can meet the engineer and take a tour of the caboose and engine.
Horace Tabor purchased what would turn out to be one of the richest silver mines in all of Colorado in 1879, enabling he and his mistress-turned-wife “Baby Doe” to live in high style. Even though when Tabor served as a Senator, they flaunted their wealth in Washington, DC, their high-flying lifestyle was not to last. Tabor died in 1899 leaving his family nearly penniless and for nearly 36 years following his death, Elizabeth struggled to profit from the Matchless Mine. She leased the property for iron, zinc, manganese, and silver ore mining operations, though it never produced what it had during the boom days. Elizabeth became a recluse, preferring to spend her time in the small cabin on the Matchless property. Sadly, her body was discovered frozen in the cabin in March of 1935, at age 81.
The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum commemorates the men and women who pioneered the discovery, development, and processing of our nation’s underground natural resources. Known as the Smithsonian of the Rockies and the Premier Showcase of American Mining, the mission of the museum is to “tell the story of mining, its people, and its impact on the American public, and society’s sustainability.” Over 25,000 square feet of interactive and informative exhibits sharing the narrative of mining and its relationship to our everyday lives.
Take the historic walking tour of this very historic city (pdf included with the detailed itinerary) that takes you past nearly all of the key historic attractions in downtown Leadville.
Completely intertwined in downtown Crested Butte, the Crested Butte Creative District encompasses the Center for the Arts, 16 artist-owned studios and galleries, three co-op galleries, 10 performance venues and a year-round schedule of creative events. It is a community identity that sets Crested Butte apart from other mountain towns.