Colorado’s Wild Wild West - Top Towns for a True-Grit Experience
Colorado’s wild west roots run deep with entertaining attractions peppered across the state.
By Lisa Blake
Kids and cowboys, history buffs and lovers of local lore—follow the footsteps of gunslingers and ranchers to the Centennial State’s western lineage.
The Gold Rush boomed loudly in this historic gambling and mining mecca. Trace the mountain town’s heyday along beautifully restored Bennett Avenue and in western-tinged casinos, restaurants, shops and hotels. Immerse yourself in Colorado history at the Cripple Creek Heritage Center where hands-on and state-of-the-art exhibits span mining camp lifestyles to regional recreation
The Glenwood Springs Historical Society takes great pride in preserving Colorado’s past. Visit the society’s Frontier Museum on Colorado Avenue and then head over to the new Doc Holliday Museum on Grand Avenue. Enter the storefront of Bullock’s, which houses the museum, and snap a photo next to the scrawled note “Doc Holliday died here November 8, 1887.” Inside, peruse photos, drawings and relics that include Holliday’s pocket watch and a short film on the legend’s life.
Celebrate America’s cowboys and cowgirls at the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame & Museum. The only facility of its kind takes a deep dive into the daring lives of bull, bronc and bareback riders, barrel racers and calf ropers. Don’t miss the Wrangler National Finals Gallery where big-name cowboys’ hats, boots, chaps and other memorabilia hang with pride.
Tour Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site in southeastern Colorado for a glimpse inside the trading post dealings between trappers, traders and Native Americans. Watch the 20-minute documentary “Traders, Tribes and Travelers” and then take a self-guided tour. Meander down the 1.5-mile hiking trail along the Arkansas River where interpretive signs tell the story of the river ecosystem, the Santa Fe Trail and Bent’s Fort.
American icon and famous cowboy William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody left his mark on Lookout Mountain near Denver. Visit the Buffalo Bill Grave & Museum and learn about how the showman went from a Kansas-raised cattle herder to gold miner and Pony Express rider to Army scout and world traveler presenting his notorious Wild West shows. Exhibits include Sitting Bull’s bows and arrows, Western art and antique firearms. The nearby nature preserve is home to 40 buffalo and the country’s only city-maintained herd.
This gold boomtown and national railroad crossroads drew prospectors by the hundreds. Today, a thick layer of Western heritage thrives alongside an eclectic cultural scene. Travel back to 1882 with a ride on the steam-powered Durango-Silverton Railroad. Visit the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum (don’t miss the baggage car featured in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”) and stay at the historic and stately Strater Hotel, built in 1887. Plan your visit around one of the town’s many western-inspired events, such as Durango Heritage Days or Cowboy Poetry Gatherings.