Exploring Chalk Creek: A Hidden Gem in Colorado


​​Chalk Creek in Chaffee County is best known for the vibrant white cliffs that give the scenic valley its name. However, it’s also home to historic mining towns, abundant wildlife, scenic trails, and some of the best trout fishing in Colorado.

From hiking mighty 14,000-foot peaks to panning for gold in old mining ghost towns, Chalk Creek has something to offer every traveler. Its proximity to major attractions like the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area, Mount Princeton Hot Springs, and the Arkansas River makes it an ideal base camp for experiencing many quintessential Colorado activities.

Whether you’re an avid outdoor enthusiast or simply looking to relax in the mountains, Chalk Creek has something for everyone. Let this special Rocky Mountain refuge rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit.


  • Chalk Creek is a scenic Rocky Mountain valley with vibrant white cliffs that offer stunning views and outdoor recreation opportunities.
  • Historic towns like St. Elmo Ghost Town capture the area's rich mining history.
  • World-class hiking, camping, fishing, and other outdoor adventures abound in the valley and surrounding Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.
  • The valley offers easy access to major attractions like Mount Princeton Hot Springs and the Arkansas River.

Scenic Landscapes

Chalk Creek’s magnificent white cliffs seem to glow against the dark green forests and surrounding mountain peaks. Formed by ancient hot spring deposits, these chalky palisades jut sharply towards the sky at the entrance to the valley. This creates an unforgettable vista that’s visible for miles.

As the valley follows the path of the meandering Chalk Creek, visitors are treated to spectacular views of the Collegiate Peaks, including 14,000-foot giants like Mount Yale, Mount Princeton, and Mount Antero. With an average elevation of over 9,000 feet, the valley is bordered by pine forests, wildflower meadows, and cascading waterfalls that feed into Chalk Creek.

For those looking to immerse themselves in the peace and solitude of the Rocky Mountains, Chalk Creek offers endless scenic spots to enjoy the pristine wilderness. The Chalk Creek Trailhead provides easy access to trails of varying difficulties, from leisurely nature walks to challenging summit attempts on Mount Antero.

No matter how you choose to experience Chalk Creek, its diverse landscapes and awesome mountain views will amaze you.

Historic Charm

Beyond its natural splendor, Chalk Creek provides a window into Colorado’s fascinating mining history. During the 19th-century gold and silver boom, the valley was home to several mining towns and settlements seeking to capitalize on the region’s rich deposits.

The most well-preserved of these sites is the ghost town of St. Elmo, established in 1880. This eerie cluster of abandoned wooden buildings perfectly encapsulates the state’s fading mining era. Visitors can explore the town’s enduring general store, saloon, and church while imagining what life was like during St. Elmo’s bustling heyday. The town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and maintains much of its original infrastructure from over a century ago.

For those looking to experiment with mining, the Chalk Creek District offers promising geology for gold panning and rock hunting. Whether or not you strike it rich, digging through the valley’s mineral-rich history will be fun and rewarding!

Outdoor Adventure Hub

Chalk Creek’s main draw is the unlimited outdoor recreation right outside your door. The valley is the perfect launching point for exploring the surrounding Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, which offers over 160,000 acres of pristine alpine terrain. Premier destinations like Mount Princeton Hot Springs, the Arkansas River, and the Colorado Trail are also easily accessible from the valley.

Expert hikers have their sights set on ascending the region’s many 14ers, including the challenging slopes of Mount Antero. At 14,269 feet, it is the highest peak along the Continental Divide in the Rockies. Those looking for something more leisurely can choose from dozens of hiking trails stemming from the Chalk Creek Trailhead. These trails consist of everything from easy nature walks to moderate ridgeline traverses.

In addition to hiking, visitors flock to Chalk Creek for world-class fly fishing. Stretches of Chalk Creek and the Arkansas River are known for their healthy populations of Brown Trout, Cutthroat Trout, and Rainbow Trout. Local fishing outfitters can direct you to the best fishing spots, and guides can teach you techniques for reeling in the feisty fish.

Camping and Accommodations

To fully immerse yourself in Chalk Creek’s natural splendor, an overnight stay is necessary. Fortunately, lots of great accommodation and camping options are available in the valley and surrounding areas.

The Chalk Creek Campground and RV Park offers tent and RV camping along the banks of Chalk Creek itself. Its scenic location grants easy access to the Arkansas River as well as to trailheads in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. Well-spaced campsites allow guests to take advantage of the beautiful scenery.

For a more rustic experience, visitors can pitch a tent at one of the National Forest campgrounds in the San Isabel or Gunnison National Forest. These primitive campsites provide a peaceful backcountry respite amidst the aspen groves and evergreen forests.

The nearby town of Nathrop also has a few motel and hotel options for those seeking extra amenities and comfort. However, to get the full Chalk Creek experience, camping underneath the stars is highly recommended. Drifting off to sleep to the gentle roar of the creek makes for an unforgettable night in the Rocky Mountains.

Relaxation and Rejuvenation

While Chalk Creek has no shortage of heart-pumping adventure, there are also plenty of ways to relax and recharge in the valley. Soaking at the iconic Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort is a perfect restorative activity.

Since 1865, these naturally heated mineral waters emerging from the slopes of Mount Princeton have been revered for their healing and rejuvenating properties. Visitors can alternate between soaking in the soothing waters and indulging in spa treatments like massages, body wraps, and facials. The scenic views and clean mountain air complete a blissful wellness experience.

The Chalk Creek valley also affords many quiet spots to absorb the peaceful wilderness ambiance. Picnicking alongside Chalk Creek or meditating atop one of the valley’s rolling hills allows you to slow down and appreciate the age-old rhythm of these Rocky Mountains. Leave the worries of daily life behind and let the calm mountain vistas wash over you.

Whether you’re seeking an invigorating adventure or a tranquil escape, Chalk Creek has everything you need to recharge your body and soul.

Conservation Efforts

This pristine alpine habitat remains well-preserved thanks in part to the awareness and stewardship of visitors. Following Leave No Trace ethics when hiking, camping, or fishing on public lands ensures these unspoiled wildlands stay vibrant for future generations.

Locals also urge visitors to properly prepare for variable mountain conditions to avoid unnecessary rescues or accidents. Checking weather reports, packing appropriate gear, and consulting with guides help promote safety while supporting the area’s search and rescue teams.

When practiced responsibly, ecotourism like wildlife viewing, catch and release fishing, and supporting local conservation groups also preserves Chalk Creek’s delicate ecological balance. Visitors should strictly follow fishing limits and regulations to sustain healthy fish populations.

By educating ourselves about minimum impact techniques and respecting trail closures, we can all do our part to conserve Chalk Creek’s natural splendor.


What is there to do in the winter in Chalk Creek?

The valley offers exceptional cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice-climbing opportunities once the snow starts falling. Miles of scenic trails and frozen waterfalls await winter exploration.

Where can I view local wildlife?

Deer, elk, black bear, and bighorn sheep are some of the area’s notable wildlife. Prime viewing areas include meadows near Mount Antero and the Collegiate Peaks.

What is the best way to access Mount Princeton Hot Springs?

Follow Chalk Creek Road (County Road 162) west to Mt. Princeton Road (County Road 162), and then turn south. The entrance to the hot springs resort will be on your left.

Are campfires permitted in the National Forest campgrounds?

Yes, but check current fire restrictions, and fully extinguish fires before leaving them unattended.

What fishing license do I need?

A valid Colorado state fishing license with a Habitat Stamp is required for all anglers over sixteen. Consider purchasing a combination license to fish both Chalk Creek and the Arkansas River in one.


About the author

Shannon Persad

As a seasoned journalist and Colorado native, I bring a deep-rooted connection and comprehensive understanding of Colorado to my work at ReadyColorado.com. My appreciation for the state’s rich history, vibrant culture, and pressing environmental issues drives my commitment to exploring its evolving landscape—from the bustling urban centers to the tranquil mountain towns.