While we were visiting Denver, we decided to take a trip to Georgetown. On our way back we decided to stop for a quick visit to Idaho Springs. Denver is a good base to stay and explore all the surrounding cities.
Tucked away in beautiful Clear Creek county, Georgetown is a historic silver mining town offering tons of Colorado charm.
Packed with history, Georgetown was once called the “Silver Queen of the Rockies.” Silver was discovered here instead of gold during Pikes Peak Gold rush. The area is so unique and spectacular that it was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1966.
Located only 45 minutes from Denver, this town is the perfect place for a day trip or for visitors to make a pit stop on their way through the mountains. During the weekends, it is quite busy on the road so it’s best to go on the week days. Check the weather before going as well.
Several movies were shot in Georgetown. The 1998 film titled “Phantoms” starring Ben Affleck and Peter O’Toole. Several of the buildings in Georgetown were featured such as the Post Office and the Hotel de Paris. In 1978, Clint Eastwood starred in the movie “Every Which Way But Loose” and also “The Christmas Gift” was also filmed here in 1986 and starred John Denver.
Top Things to do in Georgetown
Historic Georgetown Loop Railroad
Built in the late 1870s, the railroad was once an engineering marvel and the source of Georgetown’s growth during Colorado’s silver boom. They offer train rides, mine tours and dinner rides. You will need to book it online few days in advance. We didn’t get to ride the train this time since I was trying to book the day of and was sold out.
The railroad is an hour and 15 minute journey through Georgetown’s backyard. The train departs from both Silver Plume and Devil’s Gate in Georgetown and there are a variety of special events throughout the year, including Santa’s North Pole Adventure and Santa’s Lighted Forest rides during the holiday season.
Hamill House Museum
This restored Victorian home in the heart of the town’s historic district will give you a taste of how silver miner, William Arthur Hamill, lived during the silver mining days. This museum was closed during our visit since it was after 3pm. It’s open Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 3pm. Adult admission is US$5 (as of April 2020). It was originally built in 1867 as a small house and was later expanded into a large estate. Many of the rooms contain original furniture and wallpaper.
Georgetown Firefighting Museum
The Georgetown Firefighting Museum is housed inside the Historic Alpine Hose #2. Built in 1874 with the tower being added in 1884, it was an integral part of the history of Georgetown and the most visible building in the town. The oldest signature on the wall dates to 1885 with the most recent being 1980. For almost a century Georgetown volunteer firefighter’s signed the wall as a way to leave a lasting legacy for future generations.
Exhibits include memorabilia, hose carts, a hand pulled hook and ladder wagon and the tower with hose drying racks and a fire alarm system utilizing a telegraph device to activate the bell.
Hotel de Paris Museum
The Hotel De Paris Museum started its history in the mid-1800s as a bakery and was transformed into the Hotel de Paris in 1875. More than 5,000 artifacts remain in the 19th century Norman -style inn.
This museum is open daily between Memorial Day and the end of September and by reservation only the rest of the year. Adult admission is US$10 per person (as of August 2020).
Idaho Springs is Colorado’s first mining town and where the gold rush started in Colorado. It used to be a booming mining town, now it is filled with new businesses, cafes and restaurants. Founded in 1859 during the early days of the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush, Idaho Springs has a plethora of things to do in this historical mining town.
Besides restaurants, there are breweries, mine tours, scenic drives, hot springs, museums & historical sites and outdoor activities.
Argo Gold Mine & Mill is a national historic site. Year round tours are led by experienced guides and cover the mine, the tunnel and the mill. There is a live demonstration of crushing, milling and rock drilling. Also you can see what a working mill looked like and try your had 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.
Don’t miss out walking on downtown Idaho Springs. The downtown area has been declared a National Historic District. Devoted to preserving and increasing awareness and appreciation of the history and culture of Idaho Springs, the Historical Society of Idaho Springs maintains a variety of museums and historic locations and sponsors a variety of programs and events.
Indian Hot Springs
Carved out of Colorado’s Santa Fe Mountain, the cave extends into a series of narrow tunnels. One of these tunnels is used for private mud bathing by adventurous women who want to explore the recesses of the caves. At the back of the women’s cave is an alcove that connects with the men’s cave, but this passageway is used only for maintenance, and the baths are segregated by gender for privacy.
Thermal, mineral baths run up to 112 degrees, perfect cure for cold, achy muscles after a long day of rafting or hiking. Indian Hot Springs offers a number of hot spring options. They have a large closed-in pool surrounded by tropical terrain, cave baths for adults, private baths and hot tubs outside. Prices vary depending on age and pool, ranging from $18-24. They also offer lodging and massages.
The Mount Evans Scenic Byway is the highest paved road in North America. You can drive up or hike the 14264-foot summit.
This 28-mile stretch of road starts in Idaho Springs and ends in Bergen Park. During your ascent you will gain over 7,000 feet. Notice the wild flowers, mountain goats, elks and bighorn sheep. Admission is between $5-10 to park at one of the parking lots along the road.
Charlie Taylor Water Wheel at Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls is situated behind the Charlie Taylor Waterwheel. I had noticed it as we drove on the highway.
The Water wheel was built in the 1890’s by gold miner Charlie Taylor. Charlie was quite a local character and I learned that he attributed his longevity to the fact that he never bathed or kissed women.
The water wheel was moved from its original site (a 19th century gold mining “stamp mill”) to its present location in 1948. It was restored in 1988.
The path to the water wheel and falls are easily reached by a well-maintained pathway underneath the highway. You can sit on the bench and listen to the water fall. To access the path, first park at the parking lot of Town Hall. The first hour was free.
Echo Lake Trail
For an easy, but beautiful hike, head to Echo Lake trail. Go early to get perfect photos of Mount Evans reflected in the water. This 1.3 miles hike offers stunning views of Mt. Evans as you walk a loop around Echo Lake. This is a great trail to take the family on and to have a picnic.
Both Georgetown and Idaho Springs are worth a visit. I find that Georgetown has the charming Victorian Buildings and Idaho Springs has a lot more varieties of restaurants.