Well over a century ago, the rush for gold brought prospectors by the thousands to Colorado. Fast forward a few years and Colorado travel was more about ski resorts, hot springs and mother nature than gold mining, but reader be assured: this state has never completely gotten over its gold fever (Denver Nuggets, anyone?). In fact, you can still stake a claim, placer or lode, in parts of Colorado, and set up for business with an affordable gold panning kit. But assuming you’re visiting for the purposes of R&R, not working a claim, you’ll find that there are a number of places to explore the history, and inner workings, of Colorado’s mining heyday without giving yourself over to mining madness completely.
For a look at what just might lie beneath those famous Colorado mountains, the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum in Golden, Colorado is a good place to start. For more in a similar vein, try smaller local museums, like the Mining Museum in Nederland, the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum in Leadville or the Creede Underground Mine Museum. Frankly, though, it’s hard to be overly impressed by museum exhibits when you can take a tour of the real deal. Which is why, thus equipped with the basics on nuggets and the mother lode, you will do well to let your Colorado travel steer you in the direction of several (some still operational) mines open to visitors.
For example, in Cripple Creek (near Colorado Springs), you can take an hour-long tour deep down into the Mollie Kathleen Mine for a good look at the evolution of mining - and they’ll even let you take home a souvenir piece of gold ore. Sure it won’t pay for your vacation but it’s a start. Nearby, the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Company offers tours as well, but this one is still operational, so for a glimpse of modern mining techniques, you’re in business. When it’s open in season, you can also enjoy a tour of the Country Boy Mine in Breckenridge or the Phoenix Gold Mine in Idaho Springs and pan for gold when you’re done. Who knows, you just might be ready to jump a claim before the trip is out.