Leadville is surrounded by some of the best scenery in Colorado including Mount Elbert and Mount Massive, the largest mountains in the state. Those, along with several beautiful lakes, make Leadville an excellent hub for outdoor recreation. Hiking, biking, camping, and skiing are all popular.
Downtown is a national historic district, full of Old West structures, Victorian houses, and sites from Leadville’s mining past. Dining and accommodations are easy to find in this low-budget Lake County town. Just far enough from Denver, Leadville provides the peace and quiet you need, when you need it.
The town’s central location in the Rockies makes it an outdoor playground. Anything high mountain is game here, including fishing, climbing, and off-highway driving. Leadville’s nicknames include “The Two-Mile-High City” and “Cloud City”, as it is located at an elevation of 10,152 feet.
Though Leadville is exceptionally high, the town is quite small, with a population of just about 2,731 people according to the 2020 census. But in previous times, it was one of the biggest mining camps in the region.
Placer gold was discovered in Oro City in 1860, about a mile away from Leadville. When the news spread, the town’s population grew to about 5,000. However, people started moving back to Oro because of its proximity to the gold mines.
Leadville continued to become an intimate town for the miners who stayed. The town was officially founded in 1877 during the beginning of the Colorado Silver Boom. They then built a post office in early 1878 and it became a successful telegraph office.
Entertainment also became a central point in the Leadville culture. In 1878, Ben Wood opened the first legitimate theater, Wood’s Opera House, in Leadville. With the opening of the 1,000-seat opera, the town’s traditions transformed from the ruckus of saloons and bar fights to classy men suiting up for plays and performances.
Horace Tabor, the town’s first mayor and someone who struck it rich in the mining business, opened the Tabor Opera House a year later in 1879. At the time, it was the most expensive building in Colorado, with materials imported from afar. Over the decade, colorful characters continued to rule the talk of the town including Margaret “Molly” Brown, Poker Alice Ivers, and Mart Duggan.
The small town had a significant impact on Colorado’s mining economy as they were amassing about $15 million annually for their local mining production. According to one historian, Leadville had radically transformed from a “struggling Centennial State” into a “veritable autocrat” during the colonial period.
Historic District – Downtown Leadville is home to one of the West’s most impressive historic districts, listed in 1961 to the National Register of Historic Places. Harrison Avenue is home to several blocks of dining and shopping so it’s easy to stay entertained strolling the streets of Leadville. Stop by Melanzana for some Made in Leadville apparel that is highly sought after in the outdoor community.
Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad – Take a train ride from late May to early October aboard the Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad. You’ll ride high along the continental divide with spectacular views of surrounding mountains and the San Isabel National Forest.
Mount Elbert and Mount Massive – The largest and second largest mountains in Colorado both lie just outside town, ready to be explored. Take US-24 east three miles out of town to CO-300. Follow signs toward Emerald Lake and Mount Elbert, Colorado’s biggest peak. It sits beside Mount Massive.
Turquoise Lake – This big, beautiful, blue lake sits less than 5 miles west of Leadville’s historic district. It is wonderful for year-round recreation, including fantastic fishing and boating in the summer. There are over 300 campsites surrounding the lake, so it’s one of the best places to camp close to town.
Read about the top things to do in Leadville.
- Twin Lakes is less than a 30-minute drive south. There are several national forest campgrounds, as well as dispersed car camping permitted on certain dirt roads. Take US-24 East out of town for 14 miles and take right onto CO-82 toward Independence Pass. There are several dirt roads on this road that permit camping. Look for established campsites.
- Read about the camping near Leadville and Twin Lakes.
- Bring your fishing rod because the headwaters of the Arkansas River are nearby and offer great brown trout fishing.
- Twin Lakes is popular year-round for fishing, with ice fishing in the winter.
- Turquoise Lake is easy to access from downtown. Take County Road 4 and follow signs to the lake.
- Crystal Lake is just south of down on East US-24.
- The Mineral Belt Trail runs all around and even through town. It’s a great option for an easy hike or bike ride. It totals just under 12 miles with minimal elevation gain.
- Turquoise Lake sits to the west of town and has two longer trails to choose from. The difficult one will loop you around the entire lake, while the easier one is an out-and-back trek.
Delaware Hotel – Historic 3-star accommodation with Victorian-style room decor and complimentary breakfast.
Freight – Private cabin rentals complete with kitchenettes and free beer as a welcome gift. There is Wi-Fi on the property.
Inn the Clouds Hostel & Inn – If you’re looking for more affordable accommodation or just like the idea of bunking up with new people, Inn the Clouds is a great option. They have colorfully decorated bunk rooms, private rooms, and a community kitchen for everyone to utilize.
Read about the best hotels in Leadville.
Quincy’s Tavern – Features only one item on the menu: steak served with baked potato and house salad.
Silver Dollar Saloon – Built in 1883 and is still the local favorite place to grab a drink in town.
High Mountain Pies – A warm, laid-back spot to grab a delicious pizza. They have other sandwiches, salads, and calzones as well.
Mar – Leadville Ski Joring – Annual two-day winter sports event that involves a cowboy, horse, skier, and obstacles on Harrison Ave.
Jul – Fourth of July in Leadville – Start the day with a 5k run, followed by a classic parade and finally a firework show at night!
Aug – Leadville Boom Days – Three days celebration of Leadville’s Old West heritage, held in early August.
Aug – Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race – Colorado’s Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race is the second oldest of the major 100-mile bike races in North America. Well-known on an international level, bikers must qualify or win a lottery slot to enter this race.
Activities near Leadville
Cross Country Skiing:
- Tennessee Pass Nordic Center (10mi)
- Arkansas River
- Buffalo Peaks Wilderness Area
- Clear Creek Reservoir (19mi)
- Clinton Gulch Dam Reservoir (16mi)
- Holy Cross Wilderness Area
- Homestake Reservoir (30mi)
- Ivanhoe Lake (4×4 required seasonal)
- Mount Belford (26mi)
- Mount Elbert
- Mount Massive
- Mount Massive Wilderness Area
- Mount Sherman (8mi)
- San Isabel National Forest
- Sawatch Mountain Range
- Turquoise Lake (5mi)
- Twin Lakes Reservoir (21mi)
- White River National Forest
- Camp Hale (15mi)
- Fremont Pass (12mi)
- Hagerman Pass 4×4 (15mi)
- Independence Pass (38mi)
- Mosquito Pass 4×4
- Shrine Pass (31mi)
- Tennessee Pass (7mi)
- Top of the Rockies Byway (<1mi)
- Weston Pass 4×4 (18mi)
- Beaver Creek Ski Resort (39mi)
- Copper Mountain Ski Resort (23mi)
- Ski Cooper (10mi)
- Ski Cooper Chicago Ridge Snowcat Skiing (10mi)
- Vail Ski Resort (36mi)
- Avon (36mi)
- Breckenridge (39mi)
- Buena Vista (34mi)
- Copper Mountain (23mi)
- Dillon (35mi)
- Frisco (29mi)
- Granite (17mi)
- Hartsel (55mi)
- Keystone (43mi)
- Minturn (30mi)
- Red Cliff (22mi)
- Silverthorne (33mi)
- Twin Lakes (21mi)
- Vail (37mi)