Nestled high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Cripple Creek is a historic and charming town that offers a wealth of activities and experiences for visitors of all ages. Known for its rich mining history, beautiful landscapes, and vibrant community, Cripple Creek has something for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature enthusiast, or a fan of small-town charm, here are some of the top things to do in Cripple Creek, Colorado.
1. Visit the Cripple Creek Heritage Center
Start your journey by immersing yourself in Cripple Creek’s fascinating history at the Cripple Creek Heritage Center. This free, interactive museum offers a glimpse into the town’s gold mining days, featuring hands-on exhibits, multimedia displays, and knowledgeable staff to guide you through the past. You’ll learn about the town’s transformation from a mining hub to a thriving tourism destination.
2. Explore the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine
Take a journey underground and experience the life of a miner at the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine. Guided tours will lead you 1,000 feet into a real gold mine, offering an authentic perspective on the hardships and triumphs of those who sought their fortunes underground. The Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine is a unique and educational adventure that provides a close-up look at the mining history that shaped Cripple Creek.
3. Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad
Step back in time with a scenic ride on the Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad. This historic railroad takes you on a 45-minute journey through the breathtaking landscapes of the region, showcasing panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, wildflowers, and wildlife. The knowledgeable narrators onboard share stories about the area’s mining history, making this an enriching and visually stunning experience.
4. Gamble in the Casinos
Cripple Creek is home to a handful of charming casinos where you can try your luck. If you’re feeling adventurous, spend an evening in one of these establishments, which offer a wide range of slot machines, card games, and entertainment. It’s not just about gambling, though; many casinos host live shows and have delightful restaurants where you can enjoy a great meal.
5. Take a Stroll Through the Historic District
The historic district of Cripple Creek is a step back in time. Wander through the town’s well-preserved streets, admiring the Victorian-era architecture and unique shops. You can explore antique stores, art galleries, and local boutiques, making it a fantastic place to find a one-of-a-kind souvenir or enjoy some window shopping.
6. Hike and Explore the Outdoors
For those who love the great outdoors, Cripple Creek offers an abundance of hiking trails and outdoor recreational opportunities. The surrounding mountains provide excellent terrain for hiking, mountain biking, and wildlife viewing. The nearby Mueller State Park is a paradise for nature lovers, with camping, fishing, and picnicking areas.
7. Attend a Show at the Butte Theater
The Butte Theater is a historic venue where you can catch a variety of live performances, including melodramas, musicals, and other entertaining acts. It’s a great way to spend an evening and experience the town’s rich cultural scene.
8. Satisfy Your Taste Buds
Cripple Creek boasts a selection of delightful eateries and pubs that cater to a variety of tastes. Enjoy a meal with a view, savoring local dishes and craft beers. Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty burger, a gourmet dinner, or some warm comfort food, you’ll find it in this town.
9. Visit the Outlaws & Lawmen Jail Museum
Delve into the Wild West history of Cripple Creek by visiting the Outlaws & Lawmen Jail Museum. This intriguing museum provides a glimpse into the town’s notorious past, showcasing the lives of some of the West’s most infamous outlaws and lawmen. Explore the cells and learn about the stories of the notorious characters who once called this jail home.
10. Attend the Cripple Creek Ice Festival
If you happen to visit during the winter months, don’t miss the annual Cripple Creek Ice Festival. Marvel at the spectacular ice sculptures crafted by talented artists from around the world. This family-friendly event also features ice-carving competitions, live music, and various activities that celebrate the beauty of winter in the Rockies.
11. Take a Scenic Drive on the Gold Belt Tour
Embark on a scenic drive along the Gold Belt Tour, a designated National Scenic Byway that winds through the historic mining communities of Cripple Creek, Victor, and Florissant. Enjoy the breathtaking vistas of the surrounding mountains, valleys, and rock formations. Along the way, you can stop at various points of interest, including ghost towns, historic mines, and scenic overlooks.
12. Try Your Hand at Gold Panning
Experience the thrill of the gold rush era by trying your hand at gold panning. Several businesses in Cripple Creek offer gold panning experiences where you can learn the art of panning for gold flakes and nuggets in a controlled and educational environment. It’s a fun activity for both children and adults, allowing you to connect with the town’s rich mining heritage.
13. Attend the Donkey Derby Days Festival
Join in the excitement at the annual Donkey Derby Days Festival, a lively celebration that pays homage to the town’s resident donkey herd and its mining heritage. Enjoy live music, parades, donkey races, and various other festivities that showcase the unique culture and spirit of Cripple Creek.
14. Explore the Cripple Creek District Museum
Dive deeper into Cripple Creek’s history by visiting the Cripple Creek District Museum, which features a comprehensive collection of artifacts, photographs, and exhibits detailing the town’s mining legacy. Gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and triumphs faced by the early pioneers and miners who shaped the town into what it is today.
15. Enjoy Outdoor Adventures in the Winter
If you’re visiting during the winter, embrace the snowy wonderland by engaging in activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. The pristine landscapes surrounding Cripple Creek offer the perfect setting for enjoying the winter season in the Rockies, providing an unforgettable outdoor adventure for winter enthusiasts.
Cripple Creek, Colorado, is a gem hidden in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Its rich history, stunning natural surroundings, and welcoming community make it an ideal destination for anyone seeking a mix of adventure, relaxation, and education. With so many things to do and explore, you’re bound to create cherished memories that will last a lifetime. So, pack your bags and set off to discover the hidden treasures of Cripple Creek.