St. Elmo a Best-Preserved Ghost Town

St. Elmo the Ghost Town

Twenty miles southwest of Buena Vista, in the heart of the Sawatch Range, lies St. Elmo, one of Colorado’s best-preserved ghost towns. This town was originally named Forest City when first settled in 1878 and then made into an official town in 1880 when the draw of gold and silver brought miners to the area. The town reached it’s peak in 1881 after the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad connected St. Elmo to Pitkin, Colorado, through the Alpine Tunnel.  

Alpine Tunnel History

The Alpine Tunnel was the first tunnel constructed in North America to cross the Continental Divide and was the highest tunnel in 1882. It was also the most expensive tunnel constructed then, with a distance of more than two miles and a challenging high elevation of 11,523 feet. A series of accidents caused the tunnel to be closed less than 30 years after opening. Today, the tunnel is sealed, and the remaining trackbed serves as a trail for hikers and bicyclists.

Mining Hayday of St. Elmo

There were 150 patented mine claims within the area, a telegraph office, a general store, a town hall, 5 hotels, saloons, dancing halls, a newspaper office, and a schoolhouse. Eventually, the mines started shutting down, and most of St. Elmo’s residents left on the last train out of town before the railroad was abandoned in 1922.

St. Elmo Attractions

Besides the beautifully preserved buildings, St. Elmo’s old mining roads attract the off-road crowd, who enjoy the challenge and beauty of exploring the area via jeep and ATVs.
  • ATV Off-road touring
  • Hiking and bicycle touring
  • Fishing at Chalk Creek. Several fish species include Brook Trout, Cutthroat Trout, and Rainbow trout.
  • Camping at local commercial campgrounds and the National Forest Campgrounds.

Other Nearby Attractions

  • Mount Princeton Hot Springs is 12 miles to the east or on your way to St.Elmo.
  • Agnes Vallie Waterfall is 7 miles east of St. Elmo and a nice 1-mile loop day hike.
  • Learn more about Colorado Ghost Towns.

by Kathleen Fitzsimmons

Sponsored Content

Scroll to top