Elbert County, Colorado: Outdoor Activities and Culture


From hiking and biking to festivals and museums, Elbert County, Colorado, has something for everyone.


  • Elbert County features beautiful mountain landscapes, old mining towns, family-friendly attractions, and endless outdoor activities.
  • Must-see sights include Paint Mines Interpretive Park, historic downtown Elizabeth, and quaint mountain communities.
  • The county provides easy access to Pike National Forest, offering hiking, fishing, camping, and scenic drives.
  • Annual events like Elizabeth Celtic Festival, Cherry Creek Arts Festival, and Elizabeth Chalk Art Festival celebrate local culture.

Nestled in the northeastern region of Colorado, Elbert County forms a central part of the Colorado Piedmont area, positioned east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The county shares its borders with key neighboring counties such as Douglas County to the west, Arapahoe County to the northwest, Lincoln County to the east, and El Paso County to the south.

Elbert County, Colorado, pays homage to the distinguished legacy of Samuel Hitt Elbert, an eminent American politician who notably held the position of Governor of the Territory of Colorado from 1873 to 1874. The county itself stands as a testament to his contributions, being named in his honor.

Scenic Landscapes and Mountain Towns

Elbert County’s natural highlights include dramatic red rock formations, rolling grasslands, peaceful lakes and reservoirs, and pine-covered slopes. The changing elevation across the county means you’ll encounter everything from high mountain peaks to open prairies.

Several small communities are set amid this gorgeous landscape. Elizabeth, the Elbert County seat, features Victorian-era buildings lining its historic downtown. Nearby, Kiowa offers visitors antiques, shops, restaurants, and cozy lodges. The towns of Elbert and Simla started as railroad stops and retain their old-fashioned charm today.

Just outside the towns lie vast open spaces perfect for outdoor adventures. A network of trails winds through meadows carpeted in wildflowers during warmer months. Herds of elk and deer roam across the grasslands and forest clearings. The sound of coyotes echoes on quiet nights while hawks circle lazily overhead during the day.

Exploring the Outdoors

The natural beauty of Elbert County makes it a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Over one-third of the county falls within Pike National Forest, offering seemingly endless opportunities for recreation.

Numerous hiking and biking trails cater to all ability levels. Anglers can cast for trout in cold mountain streams and alpine lakes. Rock climbing, horseback riding, camping, and wildlife viewing round out the possibilities. Several scenic byways thread through the county, leading to mesmerizing lookouts and intimate hideaways.

In fall, the aspen trees erupt into a sea of shimmering gold. Winter transforms the landscape into a frosted wonderland perfect for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. When spring arrives, wildflowers carpet the meadows and mountainsides with vibrant colors.

Family Fun and Seasonal Festivals

Families will love the hands-on exhibits at Paint Mines Interpretive Park, where kids can explore the park’s iconic rock formations. In Elizabeth, young and old alike will enjoy climbing aboard historic train cars at the Elizabeth Station Museum. Mini-golf, bumper boats, go-karts, and an arcade offer classic family fun at Arapahoe Park and Recreation.

Elbert County delivers seasonal events. The Elizabeth Celtic Festival in July features Highland games, Irish dancing, and bonny Scottish tunes. Art lovers flock to the town in August for the nationally acclaimed Cherry Creek Arts Festival. In October, Elizabeth hosts a magical Chalk Art Festival with 3D chalk drawings covering downtown sidewalks and streets.

As the holiday season approaches, communities like Kiowa and Elbert get into the spirit with parades, concerts, and cozy open-air markets. The county truly comes alive on summer and fall weekends with small-town charm and community pride on full display.

Where to Stay and Dine

Accommodations in Elbert County range from luxury guest ranches to budget-friendly motels. In between are dozens of comfortable cabins, cottages, lodges, and bed and breakfast inns. Most lodging places provide easy access to the outdoors while offering onsite amenities like Wi-Fi, fireplaces, and fully equipped kitchens.

Dining options reflect Elbert County’s ranching heritage with steakhouses and saloons dishing up slow-smoked meats and regional specialties. Family-run cafes in Elizabeth, Kiowa, and Elbert serve hearty comfort food alongside homemade pies and cookies. Farm-to-table restaurants source ingredients from local producers to create fresh seasonal cuisine.

Travel Tips and Resources

Elbert County is easily accessible via car, with both Denver and Colorado Springs a little over an hour’s drive away. Visitors flying into Denver can rent a car or use the convenient Bustang bus service to reach destinations within the county.

While snow is common in the winter months, Elbert County sees more sunny days than precipitation overall. Be sure to pack layers so you can adjust to the variable mountain weather. Stop by one of the area’s visitor centers to pick up maps, brochures, and expert insider tips before exploring.

With inviting small towns, fantastic outdoor recreation, fascinating history, and plenty of seasonal events, Elbert County promises an unforgettable Colorado adventure. Its endless variety and natural beauty guarantee you’ll want to return again and again.


What are the top things to do in Elbert County?

Some top attractions and activities in Elbert County include hiking through Paint Mines Interpretive Park, exploring historic downtown Elizabeth, fishing and boating at Cherry Creek State Park, touring the Elizabeth Station Railroad Museum, and attending seasonal festivals.

Where should I stay when visiting Elbert County?

Great lodging options include cozy cabins in Kiowa and Elbert, bed and breakfast inns in Elizabeth, guest ranches with riding stables and petting zoos, as well as motels and hotels near Cherry Creek State Park and Paint Mines Interpretive Park.

What is there to do with kids?

Families enjoy mini-golf activities in Elizabeth and Kiowa, hands-on geological exhibits at Paint Mines Park, train cars and a model railroad at Elizabeth Station Museum, events at local libraries, and seasonal attractions like corn mazes and holiday light displays.

What is the best way to get around Elbert County?

Visitors can drive between attractions in Elbert County using well-maintained state highways and scenic back roads. Public transportation like Bustang bus service offers routes through the county. Many lodgings provide shuttle services to nearby trailheads, parks, and town centers as well.

When do events take place in the county?

Popular annual events include Elizabeth Celtic Festival in July, Cherry Creek Arts Festival in August, Elizabeth Chalk Art Festival in October, and holiday celebrations in Kiowa, Elbert, and Elizabeth from late November through December.


About the author

James Ranson

I’m an editor, traveler, and fan of the great outdoors. I’ve been to all 48 continental US states, and my drives through Colorado’s rugged peaks and snowy forests (not to mention whiskey tastings in Denver!) still stand out in my memories. I’m excited to use my ten years of editing experience to develop engaging and informative guides and articles that enhance the outdoor experiences of both Colorado residents and visitors. Whether a piece is about exploring the best ski resorts, uncovering scenic trails for hiking, or finding the most inspiring drives through the Colorado Rockies, my aim is to provide comprehensive and accessible content that encourages adventure and exploration.