A former gold and silver mining town, this mountain settlement has well-preserved Victorian architecture and celebrates its boom days with an annual festival.
Few places in Colorado can boast of as colorful a history as the high-altitude town of Leadville, often touted as “The Two Mile High City.” Discover late 19th-century architecture in the historic district, view the old mines and venture beyond the town borders to discover abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation, from skiing to biking and hiking.
The town was first settled in the 1860s when gold was discovered nearby. Though the gold reserves soon ran dry, it wasn’t the end for Leadville, as silver deposits were soon discovered here.
Ask locals to tell you the story of the famous American prospector Horace Austin Warner Tabor, or “Haw” Tabor as he would come to be known. He made his fortune investing in silver mining. Though famous for being the so-called “Silver King of Leadville,” Tabor also earned notoriety for leaving his first wife and marrying a much younger woman, a story that inspired Douglas Moore’s opera The Ballad of Baby Doe. Find out more about local mining history at the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum.
Stroll around Leadville’s streets, 70 square blocks of which are designated a national historic landmark district. Look for landmark buildings from the Victorian era including the Delaware Hotel and the Tabor Opera House, which was built by the famous mining magnate “Haw” Tabor and offers tours as well as shows. For an even more evocative taste of the Old West, time your visit to coincide with the annual Leadville Boom Days, a festival featuring gunslinging, burro races and mining skills competitions as well as food and craft booths.
Leadville also offers plenty of adventurous activities. Ride the Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad or drive along the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway to enjoy spectacular vistas of the Rocky Mountains. For more active pursuits, try hiking around or boating on the glacial waters of Twin Lakes or in winter, skiing at Cooper ski resort.
Find Leadville near the base of two of Colorado’s tallest peaks: Mount Elbert and Mount Massive. While the town itself is walkable, a car is recommended to reach nearby attractions.