Your journey will begin in Estes Park, a majestic mountain town with watchable wildlife and scenic beauty. Plan to arrive early enough to take the Trolley tour and marvel at the view from the aerial tramway, before checking into the Hotel Stanley, the inspiration for Steven King’s “The Shining.” Maybe you’ll have your own paranormal experience to tell!
On Day Two, you’ll be heading to Allenspark, a charming town where vintage log cabins date back to the turn of the century. Begin to learn about hard rock mining in Nederland, a mill site for silver and tungsten ore. Take in the Caribou ghost town before settling in for the night at The Goldminer Hotel. On Day Three, you’ll discover remains of ghost towns and the preserved Victorian architecture on the way to Central City and. Blackhawk, which takes its historic preservation very seriously. From there, it’s a short drive to Golden, with its remarkable historic districts and eight historic neighborhoods. If there’s time stroll on the self-guided walking tour that takes you on cobblestone streets to territorial capital buildings, wild west saloons, and high style residential areas.
In 1877, the citizens of Central City decided they needed a grand opera house befitting the town’s reputation as “the richest square mile on earth.” Unfortunately, the glory years were short lived when the mines played out the next year. Reopening after the 1932 restoration had legendary actress Lillian Gish as the headliner. New plush seating from 1999 carries on the 1932 tradition of carving the names of notable performers on the back of the seats, where names like Horace Tabor, Buffalo Bill, Beverly Sills and Lillian Gish appear.
The Central City Opera House complex also includes the Teller House, once the most elegant hotel between Chicago and San Francisco that is now used for opera related activities, the Williams Stables, the Teller House livery transformed into an intimate ninety-seat venue used for rehearsals and performances of short works, the Lanny and Sharon Martin Foundry Rehearsal Hall, and two dozen historic miners’ cottages that hold cast and crew during the summer festival.
Get ready for a birds-eye view without hiking up mountains. The Estes Park Aerial Tram whisks you above the treetops to the summit of Prospect Mountain. One of few European-style cable cars operating in America, instead of using towers to support the wires, the tram travels across a free span of wires strung between top and bottom stations. Spend your time at the top marveling at the stunning views and get photographs of the gorgeous panoramas.
From a steam shovel used to dig the Panama Canal and old wooden water pipes to the “crusher’ from a local mill, Nederland Mining Museum illustrates engineering marvels as well as the processes of extracting precious metals from deep in the mountains. Learn about the lives of the miners of yesteryear in both indoor and outdoor displays that include trams, ore carts, engines, historic photographs and rare mining claim maps.
Dating from 1917, the Boettcher Mansion began as Lorraine Lodge, the former summer home and secluded mountain top retreat of Charles Boettcher. The structure looks down over Denver from a large plate glass window to take advantage of the commanding view. Separated from his wife, at age 66 and having made a fortune from selling hardware, manufacturing Portland cement, processing sugar beets and raising cattle, it was time for some rest and relaxation which Boettcher enjoyed for the next 30 years. The family rooms include a cathedral-beamed living room flanked by a dining room and sitting porch, a downstairs master bedroom suite and upstairs bedrooms. with a shared bath and sleeping porch. The Gazebo offered shelter for picnics and hunting and the Well House provided water to the rocky site.
A tour of Hidee Gold Mine will let you get the feel of an actual mine, descending a 135-foot shaft that goes more than 700 feet into the mountain. The tour includes a chance to try hard rock mining using hammers and chisels. If luck is in the air and a chunk of gold appears in the rock, you’re allowed to keep it.
On your way to Golden, drive the Clear Creek Canyon Drive through one of the narrowest, steepest and most dramatic canyons in Colorado. You might see rafters, kayakers, fishermen, and even panning for gold. If hiking is in order, stop at the Mayhem Gulch Trailhead, 12 miles west of Golden, and hike on the Peaks to Plains Trail. Southwest of Central City, look for signs for the Virginia Canyon Road, known to locals as the “Oh My God Road.” Legend has it that it got its name from stagecoach passengers looking down at the sheer drop offs and moan, “Oh My God!” Go slow, pause on the narrow turns, and follow the signs for Idaho Springs, another old gold mining town before arriving on Golden on US Route 6.
No one should visit Golden without touring the Coors Brewery, the largest single-site brewery in the world which still stands where Adolph Coors set up shop in 1873. A 30-minute tour takes you through the brewing process, malting and packaging. At the end you can enjoy sampling the great beer.
After dinner, stroll along The Riverwalk following the Big Thompson and Fall Rivers as they wind through the heart of downtown Estes Park. Wander past babbling brooks and beautiful sights, statues, bridges, fountains and more all along the way.
Established a year before Allenspark was founded, Eagle’s Plume Historic Trading Post is home to the Charles Eagle Plume Collection of Native American Art with over 1,000 historic and prehistoric pieces of art from several indigenous tribes across the United States and Canada. The trading post also features contemporary arts and crafts created by Native Americans, ranging from jewelry and textiles to basketry, ceramics, beadwork, and sculpture.
This little 1922 log church in the middle of town is a striking architectural centerpiece. Each of the delightful stained glass windows illustrates a different Colorado wildflower.