Return to Previous Page

Experience Colorado History

Discover gold mines, ghost towns, dinosaurs and settlers

By Lisa Blake

From our rich gold mining past to stunning archaeological wonders to our Wild West roots, Colorado is stacked with historic sites and attractions. Here’s where to get your history buff on and peek into the incredible stories that built our great state.

Days of Dinosaurs

Visit Dinosaur National Monument, Dinosaur Ridge and Picket Wire Canyonlands to discover fossils and larger-than-life footprints. These dig sites and museums are packed with exhibits that will impress all generations.

On the border of Utah and Colorado, Dinosaur National Monument showcases visible Jurassic Period remains. In the opposite corner of the state, Picket Wire Canyonlands delivers more than 1,500 dino prints in 100 separate trackways across a quarter mile of bedrock, comprising the largest finding of its kind in North America.

Native American & Hispanic Heritage

Learn about the lives of Colorado’s Ancestral Puebloan residents at Mesa Verde National Park, home to more than 600 cliff dwellings and 4,000 known archeological sites and named among “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.”

The Trujillo Homesteads in the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area look at Hispano and Anglo approaches to Colorado ranching in the 19th century and how these settlers carved out their piece of the American frontier.

The Crow Canyon Archaeological Center offers hands-on archaeology programs and group tours of the Southwest led by archaeologists and American Indian scholars. For an amazing experience by car, travel the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway and see how American Indian, Spanish and European cultures impacted Colorado’s Four Corners Region.
Mesa Verde National Park

The Wild West Gold Rush

Relive the 1800s at preserved settlements across Colorado, including Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site in La Junta. The reconstructed 1840s adobe fur-trading post offers guided tours, demonstrations and special events.

For a taste of the strike-it-rich mining boom, stroll historic main streets in mountain towns like Leadville (visit the National Mining Hall of Fame & Museum) and Central City (take the Hidee Mine tour). Remnants of this exciting era live on in ghost towns such as St. Elmo, where old mining roads double as Jeep and ATV trails, and through Colorado mining tours.

Head to Cripple Creek and descend 1,000 feet on the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine Tour. America’s only vertical mineshaft was named for the first woman to strike gold in Colorado.

See how mining equipment worked and score some hands-on gold panning experience at Breckenridge’s Country Boy Mine. Kids love sliding down the 55-foot ore chute and seeing the burros.
St. Elmo Ghost Town

Natural Wonders

No Colorado family vacation is complete without a stop by the Royal Gorge. The bridge, park and railroad and nearby Cañon City make for a full day of family entertainment.

While you’re down that way, be sure to raft the Arkansas River for an up-close look at Browns Canyon National Monument.

Summit 14,115-foot Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, the mountain that inspired "America the Beautiful." Or sit back and ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the highest train in the U.S., and enjoy panoramic views and wildlife spotting.
Royal Gorge Bridge

Capital Treasures

If you’re in the Mile High City, take a Denver Story Trek and see the city’s historic museums, homes, parks and landmarks on a free downloadable, self-guided tour. Visit the History Colorado Center for high-tech interactive exhibits and take a weekday tour of the golden Colorado State Capitol building.

Explore more Colorado historic sites and plan your next big adventure.