Colorado Ghost Towns

Colorado ghost towns are equally as famous as the ones found in Arizona, and the majority of them have similar histories. As with the other Four Corners states (New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona), there are operators who offer vacation packages to explore many of these. Some are day excursions, while others are night trips when the atmosphere is spookier, and still others last several days.

Some ghost towns, like Jerome (home of the famously haunted Grand Hotel) and Tombstone (site of Boot Hill and the Shootout at the O.K. Corral) in Arizona, were able to revive themselves as viable tourist destinations after most of the gold, silver, and copper mines began to play out. But many of these single-industry settlements were unable to survive the economic blow. They became the abandoned ghost towns of Colorado and other Southwestern states. You can see them in horror films and you can visit many in person. They are filled with derelict buildings of crumbling brick and grey weathered boards and can be found throughout the state.

Perhaps the most famous of the abandoned Colorado ghost towns is St. Elmo. It certainly is one of the most picturesque. It was founded in 1878 and began to prosper when gold and silver were found in the area in 1880. It was largely due to the Stark family that town survived in such good condition, and it is said to be haunted by the spirit of Annabelle Stark. The town declined when the mines played out, and by the early 1930s, the only residents were Annabelle and her brother Tony, who lived in their ramshackle home that was once the cleanest and best-run hotel in town: the Home Comfort Hotel. They were eccentric, to say the least, often not bathing for months on end. They were eventually sent to a mental institution, but rescued by a friend. Tony died shortly afterward, and Annabelle lingered on in a nursing home until 1960. It is said that Annabel haunts the hotel, and some say they have seen her in the window of the house. The good Samaritan friend inherited the Stark properties, and today the store is open in the summer for the many tourists who come to see the town. The town also has a few (mostly seasonal) residents. The picturesque town is on the National Register of Historic Places and is being restored to some extent. It’s located about 20 miles south of Buena Vista and about 100 miles southwest of Denver.

There are less accessible Colorado ghost towns high in the mountains. These provide wonderful hiking possibilities and fabulous wild scenery. Carson City is one of these, sitting 12,000 feet atop the Continental Divide. It is located about 20 miles to the east of Telluride, and a four-wheel-drive is recommended. Many of the buildings of this small settlement that was essentially a mining camp are still standing.

One of the Colorado ghost towns that revived itself as a tourist destination is Cripple Creek, which was a gold mining camp founded shortly after gold was discovered here in 1890. The gold strike was the third largest in US history, and the town prospered. The town is located about 45 miles southwest of Colorado Springs not far from the base of Pikes Peak. Its Historic District of late nineteenth-century buildings is a National Historic Landmark. It boasts some fine historic museums, a narrow gauge railway, and even a few casinos. There are some good hotels, a couple motels, several charming bed and breakfast inns, and campgrounds. Accommodations can also be found at the casinos. The Hotel St. Nicholas began life in 1898 and is perched on a hill overlooking the town. The similarities between this grand old establishment and the Grand Hotel in Jerome Arizona don’t end there, as the St. Nicholas is said to be haunted. In fact, many Cripple Creek buildings are said to be have ghosts, and the town is known as one of the most haunted towns in the Southwest.

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