Visiting Colorado’s Ghost Towns

Colorado is blessed with one of the highest number of ghost towns in the US, although most states have a few sites like these. But unlike many other states, it wasn’t just the vagaries of the Western Gold Rush that created these ghost towns. Both natural forces and economic shifts can cause a boomtown filled with people and hotels to become a empty monument in only a few generations. In Colorado, thousands of gold and silver mining camps were founded, swelled with people, and then faded as the ore deposits ran out.

Now, only the remnants of these towns are left and some are ripe for a tourist to visit. Some are accessible only by off-road vehicles and are only for the hardiest of travelers. Others are more easily accessible to anyone and make a great day trip as a complement to visiting better known destinations. Many of these ghost towns are on or near main roads, and are actually experiencing a bit of rebirth from the tourist trade.


Conversely, there are hundreds of others that are devoid of people and filled with unoccupied buildings that better convey the true sense of abandonment that comes to mind when you think of ghost towns. If you’re a true gold rush history buff, you won’t want to miss these extinct boomtowns.

One great boomtown to check out is the town of Animas Forks, located deep in the San Juan Mountains, which is only accessible in the summer and only by a good four wheel drive vehicle. You’re in the high country here, make no mistake about it. You can get there by going through Silverton or taking the harder path over either Engineer Pass or Cinnamon Pass. Getting there is a bit of a challenge, but the sights are definitely worth the effort.

In addition, check out the gold town called Ohio City which was formed in the 1860s and abandoned as the gold began to run out. However, Ohio City is unique in that it had a bit of a second life when silver was discovered there in 1879. But that, too, played out and the town was abandoned again. The gold mine was again reopened just before 1900, but by 1915, the mine was closed and the town was again left to the ghosts.

As you might expect, it was marble – not gold – that brought the people to the town of Marble, Colorado. Strictly speaking, this is still an occupied town, although many of the 19th century buildings are still standing and ready to be visited.

Next up, the short life of Independence, Colorado has left us with a great ghost town to visit. Just be warned – the summers are short and the winters are long and cold – the same factors that doomed this mining town in the first place. Still, it makes a wonderful place to visit if you’ll be in Colorado in the summer.

Finally, another victim of the harsh Colorado winters was the ghost town of Carson. The town lies almost right on the Continental Divide. At an elevation of almost 12,000 feet, the miners were subjected to some brutal conditions, but today, there are several empty buildings that are only accessible by 4X4. But despite the challenge involved, this town is – like most of the Colorado ghost towns – well worth the trip for true history buffs.