Adventure at Altitude in Leadville, Colorado

Sep 5, 2017

by Claire Noble

From Doc Holliday to the Unsinkable Molly Brown the town of Leadville attracted a colorful cast of characters over the years, which gave rise to a common saying in Leadville's early days, "Everyone comes to Leadville." Not wanting to be left out, I headed down Highway 24 from Minturn early on a Monday morning to see what the hoopla was all about.

If Denver is the Mile High City that means Leadville is the Two Mile High City. At 10,152 ft. Leadville is America's highest incorporated city. The first miners to the area referred to it as the "city in the clouds." At that elevation you would not expect to be looking up at anything but you do--the view from Leadville takes in Colorado's highest peaks, Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert.

Gold initially lured people to Leadville in the hopes of striking it rich. A few did, but most did not. When the gold ran out miners switched to silver. When the silver ran out many people moved on. Leadville remains a mining town to this day. The Climax Mine extracts molybdenum. However, Leadville's population, once more than 30,000, is now less than 3,000.

Leadville is perhaps better known these days as home of two of the country's most formidable endurance races--the legendary Leadville 100 Trail Run and Mountain Bike Race held each year in early August.

Time travelers from the 19th century would easily recognize many of Leadville's earliest landmarks such as the Silver Dollar Saloon, Tabor Opera House, and Annunciation Church--because they are all still standing and still in operation nearly 140 years since they were built.

I brought my cruiser bike to get around Leadville and easily crisscrossed the town. I thought I saw a lot. In addition to the landmarks I mentioned above, I also visited the Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, the Temple Israel Museum, and the original train station. I even got a chance to talk with Steven Ayers the engineer for Leadville Colorado and Southern Railroad. The train is a family business that Steven married into. His wife Kirsten joked that he, "married me for my train".

But there was so much I did not get to in my short trip to Leadville. Next time I have to visit the Hope Mine, the Heritage Museum, and the National Fish Hatchery. If you have a suggestion you would like to share please do!

The best thing about Leadville is that it is authentic. It is the real deal. So stop by, have a drink as the Silver Dollar and sidle up to a bar that Doc Holliday once tossed back more than a few whiskeys.

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