Do you have a place that you consider your home away from home?  For the husband and me, it’s Leadville, Colorado.  While reading my journal to gather some details for my post about climbing 14ers, I found my entry for the 2002 trip in which we first discovered Leadville.  We visited many central Colorado towns on that vacation, and at the end we ranked them.  Funnily enough, out of seven towns, the husband ranked Leadville second-to-last, and I ranked it last!

Leadville rankings

Since then, we’ve gone out to Leadville five more times, so clearly our perception has changed.

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Sitting at an elevation of 10,200 feet, Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the US.  But like any good small town looking to cement its place in the annals of history, it has ongoing beefs with other claimants to the “highest town” honor – first Alma, and now Winter Park.  (Note: it all depends on where you measure the highest point, whether you’re a city or a town, and other minutia I’ll leave the Coloradans to fight over.)

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An old mining town, Leadville might not be as pretty as some other Colorado mountain towns (scenic views notwithstanding), but it has its own unique charm and endearing authenticity.

We are regular patrons of several shops and restaurants, including:

High Mountain Pies because – pizza!
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Though I prefer its old name – The Provin’ Grounds – City on a Hill provides us with delicious daily coffee, pastries, & breakfast burritos.  When you’re at such a high altitude you need to, uh, consume more calories??
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Melanzana makes cool mountain clothing you see everyone wearing around town.  If needed, they do free alterations while you wait.

Around town, there’s ample evidence of Leadville’s quirkiness, such as with the repurposing of skis…

Some unusual home facades…

Outrageous claims…

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Hmm… saloon then food truck, or food truck then saloon?

And oddly-placed bicycles…

In the last several years, Leadville has become a go-to place for tough sporting competitions, including a 100-mile mountain bike race, a 100-mile trail run, high-altitude, steeply-inclined marathons and half marathons, and more.  A few years ago we supported my brother as he competed in the Leadville 100 MTB race.

Where can you stay in Leadville?  No idea 😉 other than our beloved campground, Sugar Loafin’.  Just slightly outside of town, it sits in the shadow of Mount Elbert and Mount Massive, which makes just chilling at your campsite with a coffee (a.m.) or a glass of wine (p.m., I suppose) a worthwhile way to spend time.

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Given the altitude, Leadville is always cold first thing in the morning.  This time it was a relatively balmy 41 F (5 C), but we’ve seen felt worse.  Always pack layers for trips here.  By the way, that’s Mount Sherman behind me.

Here’s what I’m looking at in the picture above.

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Introducing Mount Elbert on the left, and part of Mount Massive on the right
Sugar Loafin view of Sherman (2)
Mount Sherman at sunset.  It’s not the pointy one on the right.  That’s Mount Sheridan, a 13er.  Sherman is that long fin of rock on the left between the two trees.
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Mount Elbert – believe it or not, if you know where to look, you can actually see the trail extending just above treeline.
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Mount Massive after a rainstorm
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Mount Elbert and more of the Sawatch Range
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Elbert flanked by clouds

There’s a lot to do in and around Leadville.  If it’s raining and you’re stuck in your little travel trailer, you can…

But hopefully the weather is nice.  In that case you can cycle the paved 12-mile Mineral Belt Trail, awash in fresh pine scent and beautiful alpine views.

You can take a scenic train ride.  We did this a few years ago.

Fun towns like Buena Vista, Salida, Aspen, Frisco, and Breckenridge are a relatively short (and usually scenic) drive away.  On the way to some of them you may drive over a mountain pass.  If that’s the case, the husband usually likes to cycle up.

This time, I elected to join him.  We cycled up Vail pass, first from the Copper Mountain side, and the next day from the Vail side.

Leadville’s proximity to several mountain ranges makes it an ideal base for climbing 14ers.

So whether you want to engage in athletic pursuits, sample the local offerings, or interact with the wildlife, as long as you dress in layers, Leadville and environs is the perfect place.

Until next time, Leadville…

44 thoughts

  1. I’ve been to Colorado three times and have been to your top two places on the list- Boulder and Estes Park but never Leadville. Colorado is a beautiful state and I would always be up for going back, so eventually I may go to Leadville. There’s just so much to explore, isn’t there?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My old stomping grounds – I lived in Frisco for 15 years, until it got too big and touristy for me. I still love Colorado and although Alaska is amazing, I miss thunderstorms and hummingbirds and wandering around above timberline without having to be on the lookout for grizzly bears. Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome! The hummingbirds at our Leadville campground are amazing! I’ve never seen so many congregate at a feeder (big feeder). It’s one of the many things we love about being out there. Just followed your blog – you have gorgeous pictures.


  3. I love Leadville too! I wish there were a few less mine tailings around but I think the old main street has some incredible historic buildings just waiting to be beautiful renovated, i.e. the Opera House. I love the coffee shop! Have to check out the pies. There is a brewery there now. But the views and the recreating are incredible. Not sure if you’ve ever done anything by Turquoise Lake? There are some good campgrounds over there and a pretty trail that hikes around a good chunk of the shoreline. I always think the air feels so crisp and cool in Leadville as well. Yay Leadville.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Periodic Brewing. I don’t drink beer, but the husband does so we hang out there sometimes. High Mountain Pies is actually pizza. (Delicious pizza.) We have cycled around Turquoise Lake, which is an easy bike ride away from our campground. Yay Leadville indeed!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You reminded me that one thing I want to do is ride the paved trail from the top of Vail Pass down – and then my husband will pick me up at the end. Yep, I’m all for downhill bike riding. Wearing my helmet and pumping the brakes as necessary. Maybe I’ll get around to that this summer in my copious spare time!

    Liked by 1 person

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