In fact, early gold discoveries were relatively meager, but to Americans on the East Coast eyeing the frontier, each report added impetus to head west. Soon, the Colorado gold rush was on, with covered wagons crossing the Great Plains to cries of “Pikes Peak or Bust!”
Many of these fortune seekers turned around once they saw what they were up against in Colorado — expansive prairie followed by high mountains and the rugged wilderness of the Rocky Mountains. Although the first “bonanza” of gold may have been little more than an exaggeration, prospectors hit paying lodes in 1859.
Today, visitors can follow the Colorado Gold Trail, a scenic tour of gold rush towns and gold and silver mines that flourished in the boom of the late 1850s. Towns on the trail include Boulder, Black Hawk, Central City, Idaho Springs, Breckenridge, Fairplay, Alma, Como and Leadville.
Of note is how these cities survived after the rush, avoiding the fate of so many towns that disappeared once the boom passed. Each now has its own character, legends and bragging rights, making them perfect destinations for a historic good time.
Colorado Mine Tours
Check out these popular mine tours for a look below the surface into Colorado history: see how the mining equipment worked, spot gold and silver veins, do some of your own gold panning and learn about Colorado mining characters.
Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine TourMollie Kathleen Mine
Named after the first woman to strike gold in Colorado, this 1,000-foot-deep tunnel in Cripple Creek is America’s only vertical mineshaft. Veins of gold still course through the walls, and at the end of every tour, visitors are given their own gold nugget.
Hidee Gold Mine Tour
Not many attractions pay you in gold to participate, but here’s one that does. Visitors are invited to chip away at a gold vein and keep what they find, giving them a hands-on understanding of the grueling work undertaken by the hard-rock miners who toiled underground in Central City.
Country Boy Mine Tour
Get your picture taken with a burro, slide down a 55-foot-long ore chute, pan for glittering gold and tour a 100-plus-year-old mineshaft cut 1,000 feet into the earth below Breckenridge. A tour of the mine also involves interactive demonstrations portraying various aspects of miners’ lives.
Lebanon Silver Mine Tour
An option mine tour offered to riders of the Georgetown Loop Railroad that runs between Georgetown and Silver Plume, this mine takes you 500 feet below in a tunnel bored in the 1870s to see veins of silver and other mining treasures. (Learn about more historic trains in Colorado.)
Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Part of the Denver museum’s first floor has been transformed into a replica mineshaft. Precious stones glitter from its walls and stalactites hang heavy from ceilings in an immersive learning experience.
More Colorado Mine Tours
Colorado Mining Museums
See our Colorado mine-tours listings.