Nowhere in Colorado is the state's mining history more obvious than in Idaho Springs. Gold was first discovered in Colorado here in 1859. Several mine tours give visitors insight into local mining history.
Downtown Idaho Springs
Many locals consider Idaho Springs the perfect stop off when I-70 traffic backs up. and you might recognize the Charlie Taylor Waterwheel, which you can see right from the highway on the east-bound side. A walk around town shows the numerous buildings that have been preserved — though most now have different uses than what they were originally. There are plenty of quality restaurants in Idaho Springs, including the popular Tommyknocker Brewery and Beau Jo's Colorado Style Pizza. After your meal, stroll the affordable souvenir shops to pick up gifts for the folks back home (and some locally made candies for yourself).
In town is the Argo Gold Mine and Mill, where you can see what a working mill looked like and try your hand at gold panning. And not far from town is the Phoenix Gold Mine, a working mine, where you can learn about modern and historical mining techniques and do a little gold panning yourself.
After a long day of playing tourist, enjoy the hot mineral waters of the springs for which the town is named. You can stay at the Indian Springs Resort lodge or just visit the geothermal springs and caves for a fitting end to your day. If you're in search of something cooler, head to the Frozen Fire Ice Rink, where you can lace up and glide around no matter the season.
Stop into the Heritage Museum and Visitor Center to get more ideas for exploring the area and peek at the free exhibits on the towns colorful mining roots.
Adjacent to Idaho Springs, due west of Denver, is Mount Evans, one of the state's 58 fourteeners. The road to the peak is a 14-mile ascent on the highest paved road in North America, rising to 14,200 feet above sea level. Keep on the lookout, as mountain goats often graze alongside the highway (and yellow-bellied marmots sometimes lay down in the middle of it!). The summit sits atop the Mount Evans scenic and historic byway. Plan ahead if you want to reach the top: The byway is closed in winter and sometimes requires a reservation during busy months.