Touring the Byway
171 miles | 5 Days/ 5 Nights | Gateway City: Aspen, Colorado
Your journey begins in Aspen, one of the most delightful historic towns in Colorado. After exploring the great heritage of Aspen’s founder at the Wheeler/Stallard Museum and other locations you can stay in the hotel he built. On Day Two, you’ll start the day discovering more about ranching in the area, the other side of Colorado, before heading to Twin Lakes and Leadville, featuring absolutely premier mining heritage in a preserved Victorian historic town.
View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!
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.
The founder of Aspen and builder of the Hotel Jerome, Jerome Wheeler was a silver magnate who made a fortune in mining in the area. Learn his story at the Wheeler/Stallard Museum of the Aspen Historical Society, housed in the 1888 Queen Anne Victorian home he built to entice his wife, who hated mining camps, to move to Aspen. Even though she never moved, and he never lived in the house, the first floor of the home is furnished as it would have been in the late 1800s. The second floor holds an exhibit featuring the work of Herbert Bayer, who designed the Bauhaus inspired campus of the Aspen Institute, influenced other local architects and created a huge body of creative work. The Victorian West End Walking Tour offered by the museum delivers little-known facts about the homes and the people who lived in them.
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.
Enjoy a scenic gondola ride up Vail Mountain for a birds eye view of the spectacular mountain scenery.
The town of Ashcroft located 11 miles south of Aspen was bigger and more productive than Aspen until the shallow ore deposits ran out, Today, only the “resident ghosts” are on hand to answer questions. Founded in 1879, Independence is located 16 miles east of Aspen, near Independence Pass. “Resident ghosts” are also on hand here. You can still take a tour of the Smuggler Mine, which produced a record-breaking nugget of silver weighing almost a ton. Guides illustrate first-hand how difficult mining was in the late 19th century.
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.
Most affiliate “Doc” (John Henry) Holliday with the O.K. Corral further south, yet after the famous gunfight, he moved to Leadville. Even though he was a dentist, he was also a notorious gambler and gunfighter, frequenting the Silver Dollar Saloon; gambling, dealing cards, tending bar, and playing the piano that is still in the saloon. “Molly” (Margaret) Brown, known as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”, also moved to Leadville. At age 18 she married a mining engineer 12 years her senior and became a regular at the saloon. Oscar Wilde he regularly visited the saloon when he performed here. When you step into the saloon, the first thing you encounter is a windbreak which prevented wives from seeing their husbands drinking inside. The original walk up only bar is flanked by a white oak bar, swinging doors, the mahogany front bar, and 3/4 inch diamond dust mirrors.
August Meyer built this house for his bride in 1878, to allow her to be the hub of social lie in Leadville. For years it was a sought-after boarding house where boarders played croquet and Nellie Healy entertained in the parlor. Today, the home has been beautifully restored with lavish Victorian furnishings that were collected by these Leadville pioneers. Look out onto the formal garden with Victorian urns, statuary, garden benches, and gazebo and stroll through the many native plants. A surprisingly plush 1879 log cabin on the property was built by Leadville banker James Dexter as a hunting lodge. By the time he built the cabin, Dexter was one of Colorado’s first millionaires. Besides being an avid hunter, Dexter collected coins, gems, etchings, and paintings. The cabin, although small, quickly became known as the “stiffest and most exclusive private poker club” in Leadville.
The 90-minute Aspen’s Past to Present tour traces the town’s transformation to a world-famous resort, with a guide who has been doing tours in Aspen for more than a decade. This is a casual walk through the historic downtown, but one on which you can learn the story of this intriguing town, As second 90 minute tour, “Off the Beaten Path” takes you through Aspen’s historic west end neighborhood and along the river.
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.