EXPLORE

CHAFFEE COUNTY GHOST TOWNS

ALPINE, CO

ABOUT: The city of Alpine was not in existence very long. The first cabin was built in 1877 and by 1880 there was a population of five hundred. As a supply point for other towns further along Chalk Creek, the city had two hotels, a dance hall, twenty-three saloons, a newspaper and other businesses. By this time, the railroad was extended to St. Elmo and the newspaper, the banks and most businesses packed up and moved to St. Elmo taking most of the population with them. Modern day Alpine is a haven for summer home owners.

DIRECTIONS: East of St. Elmo, follow same directions as to St. Elmo

CLEORA, CO

ABOUT: A small pioneer cemetery is the only reminder of this once busy place, an important station on the Barlow and Sanderson stagecoach line and a full day’s trip from Cañon City. The town, named for the hotel owner’s daughter, was incorporated in 1879 with every expectation that the Santa Fe railroad would locate its station here. Instead, the Denver & Rio Grande won legal rights to the route, and in 1880 located a new town two miles upstream, South Arkansas (later renamed Salida). Cleora was eclipsed within months as people moved to Salida, some taking their dwellings and storefronts with them.

DIRECTIONS: US Hwy 50; two miles east of Salida

HANCOCK, CO

ABOUT: Hancock was founded to house the workers who built the railroad’s 1771-foot-long Alpine Tunnel, elevation 11,523 feet. Its population peak was in the late 1870’s while the tunnel was being built. The community had a population of 200 people, five stores and plenty of saloons. The tunnel was completed in 1881, and the train ran through Hancock carrying miners, passengers and supplies to Gunnison. It is said Mark Twain took the ride one time just for the experience. The tunnel was plagued by problems and finally closed in 1910. Mining diminished and the trains stopped running in the 1920’s. Visitors can enjoy a 3-mile hike to the east portal. There are interpretive signs along the way that tell the story of the historic tunnel but in Hancock only one building remains.

IRON CITY, CO

ABOUT: Iron City was a smelter town just east of St. Elmo. Gold and silver laden ore were carted in from nearby mines, the ore was processed and the precious metals extracted. The historic Forest Service-owned Brown Cabin may be seen on West side of the road. It has a second floor added with Queen Ann detailing. If you take the road through the campground you will come to a well-marked cemetery. This road was the wagon road to St. Elmo and is now a 4-wheel drive down to Alpine.

DIRECTIONS: Follow same directions as to St. Elmo

SHAVANO, CO

ABOUT: Originally named Clifton, the town was founded in 1879 at an elevation of 11,000 feet on Monarch Mountain. It was a silver mining town and for a short time produced enough silver ore to sustain a three-story mill. The town was soon renamed Shavano who was second in command to Chief Ouray. A little more than three years after the town’s beginning, Shavano folded and its log cabins and stores were abandoned. Today, there are a few structures left standing.

DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 50 at Mayville, turn right onto CR 240; travel 3 miles to the Angel of Shavano campground; after this point the road is extremely rough and rocky and high clearance vehicles are advised; the town site is located 4.5 miles west of the campground.

ST. ELMO, CO

ABOUT: One of the best-preserved historic mining towns in Colorado, St. Elmo, was established in the 1870s because of the discovery of silver in the mountains surrounding Chalk Creek. At its height, the town had 2,000 residents. First called Forest City, this thriving mining community was served by the Denver South Park & Pacific Railroad from 1883 until 1899 when the Colorado and Southern took over. The name St. Elmo came from a popular novel of the time. All of the buildings are privately owned. The St. Elmo schoolhouse has been recently restored and is open for viewing during the summer months.

DIRECTIONS: Take US Hwy 24 to Nathrop; Go west on CR 162 (Mt Princeton) and follow for 19 miles to St. Elmo

TURRET, CO

ABOUT: For more than 40 years until the post office closed in 1939, this was the center of activity in the Arkansas Hills mining district east of Salida. The Gold Bug mine caused the first rush, but by 1916 the area was producing mostly copper, iron and marble, which was hauled out by mules-drawn wagons. Visitors are welcome to travel to Turret by way of a series of winding roads. Transportation over twisted, rough roads, even today, is worth the challenge for those who want to see what has become of the old town that once had stores, hotels, telephone service and three newspapers. High clearance vehicles are recommended and visitors are asked to respect private property.

DIRECTIONS: From Salida, take Ute Trail Road (CR 175) to CR185 then CR 184 to Turret; about 10 miles NE of Salida

VICKSBURG, CO

ABOUT: Vicksburg boomed until 1885 and then mining activities moved elsewhere. Seven original log cabins remain within the town site. Vicksburg was founded after prospectors from Leadville camped out in Clear Creek Canyon and their burros wandered down to the creek. The next day the prospectors found their animals and also found gold visible in the creek bottom. Several “boomtowns” sprang up along the creek including Vicksburg, Winfield and Rockdale. A great little museum is located in Vicksburg and is open on the weekends.

DIRECTIONS: Take CR 390 just south of Granite; roughly 5 miles to Vicksburg and 7 to Winfield

WINFIELD, CO

ABOUT: Winfield, initially called Florence and then Lucknow, was platted in 1881 and its population peaked at about 1,500 in 1890. The post office existed from 1881 to 1912. The last ore was hauled out by stage in 1918. Only four buildings remain at the site. The old cemetery is located approximately 1/4 mile north of the town. Twenty-six people are buried there. Many of the remaining cabins are privately owned. Please be respectful!

DIRECTIONS: Take CR 390 just south of Granite; roughly 5 miles to Vicksburg and 7 to Winfield