- 75 miles (120 km)
- 2.5 hours to drive or a couple of days to visit the Byway
With altitudes rarely falling below 9,000 feet, this Byway is worthy of its name. Travelers cross the 10,424-foot Tennessee Pass en route to the booming mining town of Leadville, the highest incorporated community in the US. This historic town is the ideal resting place for mining buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Relive Leadville's flagrant history by visiting the abandoned mines where Tabor, Guggenheim, and May made their millions. Venture into the desolate Valley of the Ghosts, where fire ravaged three thriving Victorian towns. More physically adventurous travelers can choose from four-wheeling, mountain biking, horseback riding, or hiking on Colorado's highest mountains, Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive, both reachng over 14,400 feet. The national forests surrounding Leadville is a mecca for other outdoor activities such as snowmobiling, snowshoeing, fishing, golf, and more!
Leadville's history is spiced with stories of real people who made, and lost, fortunes. Andrew Carnegie, Susan B. Anthony, Doc Holliday, and the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown are just a few of the characters who crowd its past. With 70 acres of Landmark District brimming with Victorian charm and architecture, it's no wonder Leadville is one of the ten Prettiest Painted Places in America. Admire Colorado's heritage at the National Mining Hall of Fame, or brave the nearby ghost towns of Lake County.
As you explore this 75-mile route of towering peaks and broad valleys, keep your eyes peeled. Sharp eyes might spot robust wildlife, like the agile Big Horn Sheep, among the rocks. Slashes of gold, red, blue, and white wildflowers adorn the snowy mountainside each spring. Nestled at the foot of Mt. Elbert, the Twin Lakes area bursts with picture-perfect views of soaring peaks and lavish foliage around the state's largest glaciated lake. Unique natural beauty and rich history are showcased perfectly in this living landscape.
Points of Interest Along The Way
Annunciation Church (CO)
The towering spire of the Annunciation Church stands as a landmark and beacon in Leadville. Fr. Henry Robinson's initiative began the construction of this grand church in 1879, and the first mass was held on January 1, 1880. The church and rectory cost $40,000. The bell was added in 1885 and weighs 3,026 pounds. Many events have taken place in this church, including the marriage and funeral of two of Leadville's well-known individuals. The "Unsinkable Molly Brown" was married here on September 1, 1886, and Baby Doe Tabor's funeral was held at this church in 1935.
Located in downtown Leadville on the southwest corner of Poplar and East 7th.
Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest (CO)
The forests encompass 1.5 million acres and extends north to the Wyoming border, south of I-70 to Mount Evans, and west across the Continental divide to the Williams Fork area.
Camp Hale Memorial (CO)
Camp Hale was the training site for the 10th Mountain Division during WWII. This division trained at the Camp Hale site, taking advantage of the ski slopes and high elevation. This training prepared the troops for action in the Apennine Mountains of Italy. Construction of Camp Hale was finished in 1942, and by 1944 the troops were sent to Europe. By mid 1943, Camp Hale was home to 14,000 troops. The valley was laid out in grid system, and there were many barracks, as well as stables, a vet clinic, hospital, and field house. The troops trained on the slopes and rocky ridges of the area, often under harsh winter conditions. After the war, many of the men of the 10th Mountain Division established ski resorts and helped develop the recreational ski industry that many people enjoy today. A memorial to those who lost their lives during combat is at the entrance of Ski Copper, just a few miles south of this site.
Located on Interstate Highway 24, near Milepost 160.
Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CO)
The entire Continental Divide National Scenic Trail corridor is approximately 3,100 miles (4,988 kilometers) long, extending from the Canadian border in Montana to the border of Mexico in New Mexico.
You can access the trail north of Leadville near the Tennessee Pass.
Nestled in the Ten Mile and Gore Wilderness Ranges at the west end of Summit County, Copper Mountain Resort is a year-round vacation paradise. From the AAA Four Diamond-rated accommodations to the multi-million dollar Copper Mountain Racquet and Athletic Club, Copper Mountain's village caters to vacationers who enjoy the resort lifestyle where all shops, lodging, restaurants, activities and conference facilities are within an easy walk of each other.
Just west of the intersection of I-70 and CO-91.
Both the Healy House and Dexter Cabin give visitors a glimpse into the lavish Victorian wealth that was made in Leadville during the silver mining boom era. While Dexter Cabin looks like any other mining cabin, the inside is fit for its wealthy builder and resident, James Dexter. Dexter entertained guests in the elegant parlor, and running water in his own bathtub further attests to his status.
The Healy House was a boarding house owned by Daniel Healy, and schoolteachers and railroad workers generally boarded at this home. Visitors can peek into the bedrooms of these boarders and see what types of lives they led. The dining room features china in the cabinet and a table large enough to feed the boarders.
Located in Leadville on the southeast corner of Harrison and Tenth.
Heritage Museum (CO)
The Heritage Museum is housed in the old Carnegie Library, which opened its doors in 1904. Andrew Carnegie donated the money to build the library and Leadville provided the site and maintained the new building. The library served the people of Leadville until 1971 when it was turned into a museum focusing on local history.
The story of Leadville is told within these walls through memorabilia, Victorian furniture, and items showing what it waslike for the boomtown of Leadville. There are mining dioramas that illustrate important aspects of Leadville's history. There is a large model replica of the Palace of Ice, which was built in Leadville in 1896. There are photographs and memorabilia from the 10th Mountain Division that trained at nearby Camp Hale. Also located within the museum is a gallery of fine art.
Located in Leadville on the northeast corner of Harrison and 9th.
Kokomo was once a thriving community, providing men to work in the nearby Climax Mine. Today, the valley only shows signs of mine tailings -- evidence of the valley's most important industry. At its height, Kokomo was the commercial hub of a 10-mile mining district. Although it may be hard to envision by looking at the desolate valley today, at one time there were 12 hotels, 5 general stores, 20 saloons, 4 dance halls, several brothels, 1 newspaper, and many other businesses. Fire destroyed the town in 1881, and despite efforts to restore the area, it never happened.
Leadville has a rich history in mining, especially for silver,and is now a charming Victorian town with plenty of history and character. Harrison Avenue is lined with old buildings of historical significance, including the Tabor Opera House, City Hall, Silver Dollar Saloon, Pastime Bar, the American National Bank Building, and the Delaware Inn, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Heritage Museum documents the history of the area, while the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum illustrates the importance of mining in this area and around the world. Visitors may tour both the Healy House and Dexter Museum,which show living conditions of some people who lived in Leadville.
There are many recreational activities that visitors can enjoy in both the summer and winter, including biking, rafting, horsebackriding, camping, fishing, hiking, and skiing. There are numerous activities and events held all year long in Leadville. Fall brings bright colors to the area, and the snow covered buildings andlights twinkle on Harrison Ave.
Leadville City Hall (CO)
The Leadville City Hall building was used as the Post Office from 1905 to 1973. Today, the building is used as the city hall, and displays showing items of local history are located in the lobby, including a Leadville popcorn wagon. One story about the building involves the postmaster. It is said that he would spy out of the small attic windows at his employees when they delivered mail around Leadville.
Located in downtown Leadville on the northeast corner of West 8th and Harrison.