Backyard Travel: Colorado Ghost Towns

Katelyn Mitchell

Colorado was once known for a crazy amount of gold hidden in these very mountains. Today, the gold industry is much more modernized, so the need for actual mining towns has become obsolete. That has left Colorado with an abundance of ghost towns. While I have been to many of these abandoned towns myself, there are many I don’t even know the names of, but I have made a list of some of the coolest historical towns that are all worth a visit one day.

Independence, CO (Photo courtesy of Aspen Historical Society)



The first piece of gold found in Colorado was found in 1879 in the town now known as Independence, which sprung up around the site. At the peak of civilization, the town had 1,800 people. When mining started to take off, lumber companies arrived to expand the mine. The town is now owned by the Aspen Historical Society, who maintain the property. Tours are available from June 14 to Labor Day from 10 am to 6 pm every day.


St. Elmo

St. Elmo, CO (Photo courtesy of WAND3R3R)

In 1878, people started to settle at the base of St. Elmo and named the town after the peak. In 1880, gold and silver were found in the mountain and the population grew from there. It had a population of over 2,000 people and was known as one of the hotspots for saloons and brothels in Colorado. In 1948, it was declared a ghost town with claims of an actual ghost who supposedly still protects her property according to the residents who still live around St. Elmo. This property is just half an hour south of South Park and is open during the warm months of the year.

Winfield, CO (Photo courtesy of Colorado Past)




In 1861, the town of Winfield was made up of empty lots of unclaimed, free land. When people heard the word about the new place to make their own, the population spiked, with mining starting soon after in 1867. With multiple stores, hotels, and saloons, this town was pretty hoppin’ back in the day. Sadly, the mines ran out of gold in the early 1900’s and the town was abandoned soon after. There are no scheduled tours but you can, in fact, drive through the town when the roads are closed. The roads officially close during the winter months.

The Walsh House, Animus Forks, CO (Photo courtesy of Dolores Steele)

Animas Forks

Animus Forks is just a short drive west of Silverton, and I personally think it has one of the coolest buildings from that time that is somehow still standing. It belonged to the Walsh family, who founded the Campbird Mine, the largest mine in the town. This house alone is worth going to see, but the entire area is a pretty cool site. There is no actual road to the city, but it can be reached by any Jeep, ATV, or dirt bike. As long as the trail is in good conditions, the town is available to see.



Tomboy, CO (Photo courtesy of Todd Underwood)


Tomboy is an amazing sight. This little town sits above the timberline and was one of the most industrialized towns of its time. It had cement buildings, a dam for the river, mining and a saw mill. Most of the buildings are falling over now, but that doesn’t take away anything — in fact, it adds to the coolness. The road is very clear up to the town, but due to the high elevation, the road is only passable in the warmest months.

There are so many ghost towns in Colorado for you to discover, so get out there and go adventure!! Who knows what kind of history (or ghosts) you might stumble across.

Collegian writer and Blogs Assistant Editor Katelyn Mitchell can be reached at or on Twitter at @mitch_kate_1.