Leadville’s Best Kept Secrets

Leadville’s Best Kept Secrets

Leadville, CO as seen from Colorado Mountain College Leadville in the summer.

Leadville is a small Colorado mountain town, located 100 miles west of Denver, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Founded in the late 1800’s at the start of the Colorado Silver Boom, Leadville was one of the state’s original mining settlements. Though much has changed over the past 140 years, the sense of adventure and spirit of the wild west remains intact. Leadville sits at an elevation of 10,200′ and remains one of Colorado’s best kept secrets. Some might say locals like to keep it that way.

Leadville is a wonderful town with a colorful history, ample access to wilderness, good food/ drink and plentiful story-telling. Colorado Mountain College has made Leadville its home for the past 50 years, and our students, staff and faculty have enjoyed getting to know the quirks of the area. Over the past few years, we’ve compiled a list of Leadville’s best kept secrets, and it’s time to share them with the world!

Location, Location, Location

Leadville is centrally located in the heart of the Colorado Rockies at 10,200 feet elevation. Colorado’s highest mountain peaks, Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive, tower above the town, making for a postcard view from every angle. The town is just 2 hours from Denver, and within an hour to some of Colorado’s most well known (and heavily populated) resort towns like Vail and Breckenridge. It is also less than an hour from 7 world renowned ski mountains, including Copper Mountain, Ski Cooper, Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Vail, and Beaver Creek.

The famous Leadville sign: We Love Leadville, Great Living at 10,200'

Life is good at 10,200′

Elevation is everything. The air is thin in the 2-mile-high city, and the spirit of adventure is thick. Life is a little bit different up here; simple, beautiful and wild. We recommend preparing for your time at elevation by increasing your water intake and rest, while cutting back on things that aggravate dehydration – like caffeine and alcohol.

Leadville's Best Kept Secrets: Sushine and snow make for a winter recreation paradise.
Learning to skate ski on the trails at Colorado Mountain College Leadville.

Snow + Sunshine

Leadville averages 310 days of sunshine each year and average annual snowfall is 200+ inches. There is typically snow on the ground from October until May, but with endless sunny days, Leadville is far from an arctic tundra. That said, you’ll want to pack for every season, all year  – even in summer months, temps tend to peak around the mid 70s and drop into the 40’s at night. You just never know when it is going to snow in the high country!

Mountain Playground

Recreation is the name of the game in Leadville. Just as miners used to flock to the area in search of silver and gold, outdoor enthusiasts from around the world have trekked to Leadville to enjoy year round recreation. In summer months, locals and visitors take to the trails to enjoy world renowned trail running, mountain biking, hiking, fly fishing, camping and four-wheeling. Once the snow starts to fly, Leadville comes alive with cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, sledding, and snowmobiling.

The historic Tabor Opera House in Leadville, CO

Historic Leadville

All authentic “wild west” frontier towns have history, stories —and scandals— just begging to be told. Leadville in the late 1800’s was a destination for many, including the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, Doc Holliday, Buffalo Bill and even Teddy Roosevelt. Some miners, like Horace Tabor, found wealth on the frontier, opening businesses and constructing buildings like the Tabor Opera House, that still stand today. At the turn of the 19th century, ghost towns and settlements scattered the surrounding area. Today, you can still visit many of these historic structures, imagining what life was like in Leadville’s rowdy mining camps. Visit one of Leadville’s eight museums, take in a walking tour or belly up to the Silver Dollar Saloon for tall tales and dramatic stories.

Affordable & Authentic

Leadville is one of the last affordable mountain towns in Colorado. While nearby resort towns experience shortages of affordable housing, Leadville maintains to be an accessible place for all budgets. Rent is relatively cheap (especially compared to nearby resort towns!), lift tickets at Ski Cooper are reasonable ($54 for a full day adult!), tuition at Colorado Mountain College is one of the lowest in the state, and the trails are always free. The town is humble, the mountains are breathtaking, and the people are kind.

Nicknames: Pb’ville, Leadvegas, The Cloud City

Pb’ville, Leadvegas, Sledvegas, and “The Cloud City” are just a handful of popular nicknames for Leadville. Pb is the chemical symbol for lead, and we can only speculate that “Leadvegas” refers to the spirit of the wild west, while “sledvegas” points to our passionate snowmobile community. At this altitude, our heads are quite literally in the clouds, or maybe it has something to do with those bumper stickers we’re always seeing “Leadville: We’re here, because we’re not all there”… Either way, we love a good nickname, and we sure do love Leadville, quirks and all!


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