Silverton has been called the town that is frozen in time. It is the most authentic western town in Colorado. It is a snapshot of another era, much like a western movie set. The town reflects the late 1880’s when it was in its turn of the century heyday.
A Western Town
As you stroll along the streets you will see false-front stores, restored miners cabins next to magnificent Victorian homes, the gold-domed Courthouse and of course the Grand Imperial Hotel.
How the town get its name? According to the village legend, back when Silverton was just a tent city a miner, was asked about gold in the area. The miner’s reply “we may not have much gold, but we have silver by the ton.” The handle stuck.
When the miners came to town, it was rip-wild and wide open. It was the home of 32 gambling halls, saloons and sporting houses. It was not uncommon to have fistfights, gunfights and cold-blooded murders, suicides or two, brought on by booze, opium, pimps and prostitutes, not unlike our modern big cities.
Today, the town it is quiet and peaceful, you can only imagine what it was like. Main Street is still one of the only paved streets, the rest are in true western character, dirt.
In 1893 the silver doom busted and the demand for silver declined. Mining remained the town’s main industry with just a few gold mines. The town remained dormant for a hundred years. Thats why Silverton, today, looks much like it did at the turn of the century.
The Train Parks in The Center of Town
In the 1880s the town catered to the gold and silver mines. Today it mines the tourist that train brings to town. After the trains depart, it is the time to really enjoy the true character of Silverton in a relaxed manner.
Watching The Train Pull into Town
The biggest attraction is the Train. It doesn’t matter how many times I have seen it, it remains exciting to stand and watch the train pull into town. The smoke drifting out of the stack and blowing steam sideways announce another happy invasion.
The Gun Fight
One of the town’s secrets is the Gunfighting Society. At 5:30pm, after everything has quieted down, the gunfight begins on 13th and Blair Street. It is great tourist fun. The three gunfighter’s Cliff, Sid and Gene, have been practicing their trade for many years so they put on a good show. It’s free. Thursday – Saturday and Holidays (weather permitting) Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Mining Heritage Center
Visit the Museum, County Jail and the new Mining Heritage Center. Get two museums for the price of one! The Museum contains three floors of exhibits, the jail’s original four-cell block built in 1902, ball and chain and women’s cell. The Mining Heritage Center features artifacts from the San Juan County’s fabled mines, including a unique log boardinghouse, tram towers, mining artifacts and a fabulous mineral display. Open daily 9am-5pm Memorial Day through Labor Day; 10am-3pm in October. Admission is $5.00; FREE for kids 12 and under. 970-387-5838 or www.silvertonhistoricalsociety.org
Mayflower Gold Mill Tour
Take a self-guided tour of this once operational gold mill and see how gold and silver were processed after the ore came out of the mine. Visit the Aerial Tram house, where the buckets and tram system is still in place. Open daily 10am-5pm Memorial Day through Labor Day. Admission is $8.00; $7.50 for senior citizens; FREE For kids 12 and under. Guided tours available by reservation only. 970-387-0294 or www.silvertonhistoricalsociety.org
Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour
Go underground in a real gold mine! A mine train will take you 1,500 feet into the actual mining operation for mining demonstrations. You’ll see what it was like to search for the gold vain. They demostrate the old mining equipment.
A Theatre Group
The Silverton Theatre company invites you to see a play Silverton-style. This mountain-grown theater company offers a variety of entertaining productions throughout the year. 970-387-5337 or www.atheatregroup.org
If you came to Silverton on the train, two hours is not enough time to enjoy the town. I suggest you overnight at the one the hotels. If you drove over the Million Dollar Highway from Ouray, I also suggest you sent the night.
WHERE TO STAY
The Wyman Hotel
1371 Greene Street 970-387-7845. The emphasis here is on first-class turn of the century romantic charm with the modern-day fixtures and conveniences. If there is a most perfect place for hospitality in the San Juan Mountains it is the Wyman hotel.
You can camp just about anywhere in the National Forest that is flat enough to pitch a tent. Most of the forest is wide open unless it is posted. You can primitive camp along South Mineral Creek Road (city road #7) for free or if you want to pay you can use the Forest service’s South Mineral Creek Campground and the one at Molas Lake.
Silverton has three commercial Campgrounds and RV parks. They are all just to the right as you turn off 550 and head north into town. So they is no shortage of places to park your RV.
- The Red mountain Motel and RV Park
- The Peaks of Silverton RV Resort
- Silver Summit RV Park.