Ghost Towns of Western Colorado

Ghost Towns of Western Colorado are rich in natural wonders and scenic beauty but it is also rich in history. Scattered throughout the mountains you will see the remains of old gold and silver mines and plenty of ghost towns.

These trails were originally narrow wagon roads used to supply the mines, from the Towns of Telluride, Ouray, Silverton and Lake City. Today these trails make a great sightseeing adventure.

The backcountry usually becomes available in mid July with most of the snow melted or removes by the county road departments.

If you are hunting ghost town you will be surprised to learn that many of them are accessible by two wheel drive passenger cars. But others do require four wheel drive vehicles.

Animas forks near Silverton


The Camp bird mine is less that five miles from Ouray and it an easy drive. Take the Canyon Creek road south of town. The mine was one of the richest mines in the area producing over 26 million dollars of gold ore. Thomas Walsh developed the mine finally selling it and moving to NYC where he purchased the famous Hope diamond for his daughter.

Don’t drive pass the mine, a four wheel drive is a required from here. The road run along a cliff that was blasted out the rock wall at one point there is a huge overhanging rock above the road. From here to Yankee Boy Basin is 4.2 miles but the road become steep and rough. There is no camping or fishing along this route only ghost town mines and millions of wildflowers.

Red mountain town site can be view to the left of hiwy 50 as you made the big switchback after the Idarado Mine. You can see the remains of the town on the far mountainside.

At the top of Red Mountain Pass you can park your car on the right and cross the highway and walk back to the old mining road leading the town. And walk slowly you are at 11,018 feet. As you walk to the town imagine at one time this was home of 10’000 people and 100 businesses and it even had it own newspaper.

Red Mountain Townsite 1880s

Between the Red Mountain Pass and Ouray is Ironton Town site. Today there is only three building still standing. Although this town never became a big as Red Mountain, it did have over 800 people.

Joker Tunnel and the Boarding House is 1.5 miles from Ironton. As you drive over Red Mountain Pass you will see what is left of the old boarding house. It is too your left.

I drove this road every month for 19 years and have been sadly watching this old house and the surrounding mine buildings deteriorate. I glad to see it is now getting some tender loving care from the preservation society.

Animas Forks is my favorite old town. It sets at the bottom of valley there three canyons meet at 11,180 feet. It is one of the best preserved ghost towns in Western Colorado. I have sat out many summer rain and hail showers in the shelter of these abandon buildings. The winters here were brutal. Avalanches blocked the trails and often destroyed the homes. The population never got above thousand people. At one time Tom Walsh owned the big house with bay windows before he moved to camp bird and discovers gold in the silver tailings.

Ghost Town Areas Accessible By Four-Wheel Drive Only

Tomboy Mine

This mine was established in 1880 at an elevation of 11,500 feet in a glacial cirque known as Savage Basin. In 1897, the mine was sold to the Rothchilds of London for two-million dollars. The Tomboy Mine had a peak population of 900 hardy souls but closed in 1927 when the ore ran out, however, not before producing millions of dollars in gold. In the early twentieth century, the area would inspire Harriet Fish Backus to write her memoir “Tomboy Bride”. This mine is located one mile from the Smuggler up the Imogene Pass road. Be sure you’re an experienced four-wheeler before attempting to visit this ghost town or you may take a local tour to the site. Imogene is the second highest pass in Colorado and is rated a 4/5 out of 5 as far as difficulty and danger.

Governor Basin

This is an extremely high-altitude basin that was the location of the Virginius and Mountain Top Mines. Both mines are situated above 12,000 feet. The boarding house of the Mountain Top Mine is still standing today.

Capitol City

George T. Lee who envisioned that his city would be named the new capitol of Colorado, instead of Denver, founded Capitol City in 1876. He even built a brick mansion in preparation for what he hoped would be his eventual appointment as Governor. The post office was established in 1877 but then discontinued in 1920. In 1885 the population was only 120.

Tabasco Mine and Mill

This site is near the crest of Cinnamon Pass. It was established in 1902 and was owned by the Tabasco Sauce Company. Some of the profits from the mine went to developing Tabasco Hot Sauce.

Carson City

Carson is one of Colorado’s most inaccessible camps, situated at 12,000 feet atop the Continental Divide. The site is located four-miles off the Alpine Loop and approximately 15 miles from Animas Forks. If you have the means and the time to reach this site, you will be rewarded with spectacular views and an array of historical structures that give you an excellent idea of what a true mining camp may have looked like. It was established in 1882 and its peak years were through the 1890s and into the 1900s. The winter months and difficulty with transportation into this particular area was to blame for its eventual ruin.

Revenue Tunnel & Virginius Mine

This operation was established in 1876 and shipped $27,000,000 worth of gold and silver between 1876 and the late 1940s.

Atlas Mill

Located just beyond the Revenue Mill and Tunnel are the remains of the Atlas Mill. It produced silver and gold from the Atlas Mine from the 1890s until the 1920s.

Town of Guston

This town was established in the mid 1880s to serve three very large and rich mines, the Guston-Robinson, the Yankee Girl, and the Genesee-Vanderbilt. The peak population was 1,000. Guston had the only church in the area for many years. An old miner donated a mine whistle and the shrieking sound called the surrounding population to church services.