Leadville, Colorado

by R Long
April 06, 2017

Leadville, Colorado

Leadville is an old mining town in the Rocky Mountains. Its growth began as it is located in the Colorado Mineral Belt which is one of the most productive silver mining areas in the United States. Just as other areas of the Rocky Mountains are known for their gold mines, so was Leadville. However, the silver mining outpaced the gold mining. In the 1880’s the town was one of the richest and largest silver mining towns in the Rocky Mountains. Its population exploded to over 40,000. Then when the mining ran out, so did the prosperity of the town.

Leadville, Colorado

However, molybdenum was also discovered near Leadville. In the 1800’s no one really know what the ore was. Its importance became apparent during World War 1 when the United States realized that it could be used as an alloy to aid in the durability of weapons and tanks. Today it is used as an alloy to produce hard steel.

The Climax mine closed in the 1990’s but in 2012 reopened to mine molydbenun. It is owned by Freeport-McMoRan company. Although it employs hundreds of people, it does not impact the finances of the city of Leadville in the same manner that the previous gold and silver mines did.

Leadville mine
Picture by Josh

The Town

Today the town is a legendary frontier mining town. Many of the old buildings are representative of victorian architecture.

Leadville house

The summer attractions in Leadville are varied and endless. They include train rides, mine tours, bicycling, mountain climbing, golf, and sightseeing. Camping, boating, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, off-highway vehicle riding, picnicking, rock climbing, stand up paddleboarding, and whitewater rafting are more of the warm-weather activities available.

Winter activities are not forgotten. Ski Cooper is about 6 miles from Leadville. The town is located at the base of the Arkansas River and the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area which is open year round. Snowshoeing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, winter fishing, and camping can be found there.

The Arkansas River is one of the best wild brown trout habitats in Colorado. The trout fishing is unsurpassed. Leadville has a National Fish Hatchery and Turquoise Lake is nearby as well as numerous creeks.

Leadville has a race series. occurring during the summer months of course. You can enter a mountain bike race, a running race, or perhaps just sit back and watch, Leadville has it all. The scenery is unbelievable. After all, you are in the midst of the Colorado Mountains.

Be prepared that the choices for hotels are few. None of the hotels are new. They are similar to the very old hotels of the 60’s before the Holiday Inn chain was a gleam in anyone’s eyes.

The Roadway Inn located in Leadville is one of the few chains available. The hotel is at least 25 years old. The walls are paper thin and every time a door is closed the reverberation is felt in every room on that floor. However, we are here for the adventure and some memories are worth small inconveniences.

leadville opera house

The Tenessee Pass Cafe is a favorite of the locals in Leadville. It is easy to find as it is located just next to the opera house downtown. Just do not sneeze or you may miss it. The chicken pot pie is filling. The food prices are not any less expensive than any other town. Grissly Adams is a waiter there and will tell you all about the history and activities of Leadville. He informed us that in the summer they were inundated with tourists. In the winter the big ski resorts were busy but in the summer Leadville has them beat.

Leadville, Colorado, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, is worth seeing. The view is spectacular. Did I mention that the water there is excellent? It is a sleepy mining town that comes alive with all the tourists in the summer. It is worth the drive.


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