Exploring Colorado’s Ghost Towns: Unforgettable Day Trips from Denver

Colorado is home to over 1,500 ghost towns, remnants of the state’s historic mining boom in the late 19th century. Exploring these ghost towns has become a popular day trip option for Denver residents and visitors alike. These abandoned towns offer a glimpse into Colorado’s past, showcasing the lives of miners and their families who once inhabited these rugged landscapes.

One captivating aspect of visiting ghost towns is the sense of mystery and intrigue that surrounds these deserted settlements. From the dilapidated buildings to the stories of the people who once lived there, each ghost town has its own unique history waiting to be uncovered. Walking through these towns, visitors can imagine what life was like during the mining heyday and reflect on the passage of time.

For those seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, exploring Colorado’s ghost towns offers a peaceful retreat into the quiet solitude of the mountains. It provides a chance to disconnect from the modern world and immerse oneself in the natural beauty and rich history of the state. In a society fueled by constant connectivity, taking a day trip to a ghost town can be a refreshing change of pace.

Despite their desolate appearance, ghost towns play a vital role in preserving Colorado’s heritage and history. They serve as a reminder of the state’s mining past and the challenges faced by early settlers in the rugged terrain of the Rocky Mountains. By visiting these ghost towns, travelers can gain a deeper appreciation for Colorado’s rich cultural heritage and the resilience of those who once called these wild lands home.

What are some unique day trips to take from Denver?

When it comes to exploring the beautiful state of Colorado, Denver serves as an excellent hub for accessing a variety of unique day trip destinations. From natural wonders to quirky attractions, there is no shortage of intriguing places to discover just a short drive away from the Mile High City. These unusual day trips offer a chance to break away from the routine and immerse oneself in new experiences.

One such uncommon day trip from Denver is a visit to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Located about 4 hours south of Denver, this unique destination boasts the tallest sand dunes in North America, with peaks reaching heights of up to 750 feet. Visitors can hike, sandboard, sled, or simply marvel at the surreal landscape that seems more at home in a desert than in the mountains.

For those interested in history and architecture, a day trip to the ghost town of St. Elmo is a must. Nestled in the mountains about 2.5 hours west of Denver, St. Elmo is a remarkably preserved 19th-century mining town that offers a glimpse into Colorado’s past. Visitors can roam the deserted streets, explore the old buildings, and even catch a glimpse of the resident ghosts that are said to haunt the town.

If you’re looking for a truly offbeat experience, consider a day trip to Casa Bonita in nearby Lakewood. This kitschy restaurant and entertainment venue is known for its over-the-top Mexican-themed decor, cliff divers, and flamenco dancers. While the food may not be the main attraction, the unique atmosphere and entertainment make for a memorable outing just a short drive from Denver.

In conclusion, Denver serves as the perfect launchpad for exploring a variety of unusual and intriguing day trip destinations. Whether you’re seeking natural wonders, historical sites, or quirky attractions, there is something for everyone within a few hours’ drive of the Mile High City. So pack your bags, hit the road, and embark on a one-of-a-kind adventure that promises to leave you with lasting memories.

Unusual Day Trips from Denver: Exploring Colorado’s Ghost Towns

Denver, Colorado is a bustling city known for its outdoor activities, craft breweries, and vibrant arts scene. However, just a short drive from the city lie some of the state’s most fascinating historical sites – its ghost towns. These abandoned mining towns offer visitors a glimpse into Colorado’s colorful past and provide a unique opportunity to explore the remnants of the Old West.

Central City

Located just 35 miles west of Denver, Central City is a well-preserved mining town that was once known as the “richest square mile on Earth.” Visitors can wander the historic streets, visit the Teller House Hotel, and try their luck at one of the town’s casinos. Central City also hosts various events throughout the year, including gold panning competitions and ghost tours.

St. Elmo

Tucked away in the Sawatch Range, St. Elmo is one of Colorado’s best-preserved ghost towns. Visitors can explore the town’s well-preserved buildings, including a general store, hotel, and schoolhouse. St. Elmo is also a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with numerous hiking and off-roading trails in the surrounding area.


Located near Aspen, Independence is a ghost town that was once a bustling mining camp. Visitors can explore the town’s historic buildings, including the restored Independence Gold Mill. The town is also a popular starting point for hiking in the nearby Hunter-Frying Pan Wilderness.

  • Plan your day trip: Make sure to check road conditions and weather before heading out to these remote locations.
  • Bring supplies: Since many ghost towns are in remote areas, it’s essential to bring water, snacks, and any other necessary supplies.
  • Respect the history: Remember that these ghost towns are historical sites, so be sure to leave everything as you found it and respect any posted signs.

What are some popular ghost towns near Denver worth exploring?

Some popular ghost towns near Denver worth exploring include Central City, St. Elmo, and Gilman.

Are these ghost towns safe to visit?

While most ghost towns are generally safe to visit, it’s important to be cautious and aware of any potential hazards such as unstable buildings or wildlife.

What should I bring on a day trip to explore a ghost town?

Some essential items to bring on a day trip to explore a ghost town include water, snacks, sunscreen, sturdy footwear, and a camera to capture the unique sights.

Can I bring my pet to explore the ghost towns near Denver?

It’s best to check the specific rules and regulations of the ghost town you plan to visit, as some may not allow pets for various reasons.

What is the best time of year to explore ghost towns near Denver?

The best time of year to explore ghost towns near Denver is typically during the spring or fall when the weather is mild and the foliage is at its peak. Summer can be hot, and winter can bring snow and icy conditions.


In conclusion, Denver offers a plethora of unique and unconventional day trip options for those looking to explore beyond the traditional tourist attractions. From visiting the quirky town of Nederland to marveling at the stunning rock formations at Garden of the Gods, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Additionally, the opportunity to witness a UFO watchtower or take a dip in a natural hot spring provides a memorable and out-of-the-ordinary experience for adventurous travelers.

Overall, these unusual day trips from Denver showcase the diverse and eclectic offerings within a short driving distance from the Mile High City. Whether you’re interested in art, nature, history, or the supernatural, there is undoubtedly a day trip destination that will pique your curiosity and provide a memorable experience. So, next time you’re in Denver, consider venturing off the beaten path and embarking on one of these unique day trips to discover a side of Colorado that is sure to leave a lasting impression.