Fairplay, Colorado: Year-Round Outdoor Adventures and History


Once a booming mining settlement during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush in the late 1800s, Fairplay sits at an elevation of 9,000 feet. It has emerged as a year-round tourist destination known for its wealth of outdoor recreational activities, cultural attractions, and charming mountain town atmosphere.

Fairplay offers limitless adventures for visitors throughout the seasons, from hiking and fishing in the summer to skiing and snowboarding in the winter. The town also hosts several annual events and festivals that showcase its Gold Rush roots and pioneer spirit. A stroll through the South Park City Museum provides an immersive glimpse into Fairplay’s past as a frontier mining camp.

With its high alpine setting and welcoming community, Fairplay has something to offer any traveler looking to experience the best of Colorado’s natural splendor while also connecting with the rich history of the American West.


  • Historic Rocky Mountain town with roots in the 19th-century gold rush.
  • Surrounded by national forests and peaks with abundant hiking, fishing, and skiing.
  • South Park City Museum showcases Fairplay's mining heritage.
  • Annual events and charming community atmosphere.

Cultural Highlights Reflecting an Authentic Mining Town

As one of Colorado’s last remaining frontier mining towns, Fairplay offers visitors plenty of opportunities to connect with authentic local history and culture. From exploring preserved buildings from the town’s earliest days to experiencing reenactments of life in a 19th-century mining camp, Fairplay provides a window into the state’s Gold Rush past.

The crown jewel of these attractions is South Park City, an open-air museum featuring over 40 historical buildings collected from abandoned mines and ghost towns in the region. As you wander down the old Main Street and pass by restored buildings—including a saloon, general store, and church—costumed interpreters share stories of Fairplay’s founding as a mining camp in 1859 after discovering gold deposits in the area.

Special events like Burro Day and Living History Days offer additional ways to engage with Fairplay’s cultural heritage and discover life in this small town’s early days.

The area also provides practically unlimited opportunities for outdoor recreation across all four seasons.

Popular warm-weather activities include hiking and backpacking through the dramatic rock formations and alpine lakes of the Collegiate Peaks, fishing along Gold Medal trout streams, and boating or paddle boarding on Antero Reservoir. Several scenic byways offer incredible road trip adventures, like the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway and the Gold Belt Tour Scenic Byway.

Once winter arrives, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and ice fishing take center stage. The famous ski resorts of Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, and Copper Mountain are also just a short drive away.

With so many natural treasures outside of town, Fairplay offers an ideal basecamp for visitors to experience the best of Colorado’s mountain adventures and wild beauty.

Historical Significance as a Boomtown During the Gold Rush

As one of Colorado’s earliest settlements, Fairplay has a storied history intertwined with the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush of 1859. Initially founded as a mining camp named South Park City, Fairplay boomed into a town of over 700 residents within two years when placer gold deposits were discovered in the rivers and streams of the area.

As tales of abundant gold swept the nation, thousands of prospectors and merchants poured into South Park City to seek their fortunes. Saloons, hotels, and newspapers quickly sprang up to meet demand, establishing Fairplay as an essential supply hub and commercial center to support mining operations across the region.

At one point, South Park City even emerged as the leading contender for the capital of Colorado, thanks to its rapid early growth and economic prominence. When Park County was formed in 1861, South Park City was chosen as the county seat. The town soon adopted the name Fairplay to honor a local judge who intervened to mediate a dispute between miners in a fair and ethical manner.

While gold production eventually declined in the late 1800s, Fairplay had already secured its status as one of the most influential boomtowns of the Colorado Gold Rush. The pioneer spirit of those early prospectors lives on today in the town’s enduring charm and adventurous atmosphere.

Seasonal Attractions for Year-Round Visitors

One of Fairplay’s biggest assets is its lineup of attractions and activities across all four seasons, making it an enticing destination for visitors any time of year.

Spring welcomes warmer weather and the return of scenic drives like the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway, where sightseers can enjoy wildflowers, rushing rivers, and majestic mountain scenery. Late spring also brings opportunities for incredible whitewater rafting as the mountain snowpack melts.

Summer is the most popular season, with endless hiking, camping, fishing, boating, horseback riding, and mountain biking adventures. Annual events like Burro Day, the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, and the town’s July 4th Celebration also entertain visitors.

The blazing golden aspens and crisp fall air create a different mountain experience. It’s a beautiful time for photography hikes, festivals like the Fairplay Burro Race, and unwinding at one of Park County’s five relaxing hot springs.

And winter transforms the landscape yet again, with plentiful snowfall opening up options for skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and more. No matter when you visit, Fairplay offers scenic beauty and endless activities across its four distinct seasons.

Planning Your Visit – Travel Tips and Recommendations

As an established tourist destination, Fairplay offers travelers many accommodations, amenities, and services. Here are some top tips for planning your visit:

When to Visit

Any season offers compelling reasons to visit Fairplay. But late spring through early fall provides the most pleasant weather for outdoor adventures. Winter is also popular for snow sports.

Getting There

Fairplay is located along Highway 285, approximately 2 hours from Denver or Colorado Springs. Many find it convenient to fly into Denver International Airport and rent a car.

Where to Stay

You can choose from hotels and inns in town or vacation rental cabins scattered throughout the surrounding national forests. Campgrounds range from primitive sites to luxury glamping.

Must-See Attractions

Top sights include the South Park City Museum, the Colorado Trail hiking segments, driving the scenic byways, and exploring the historic buildings along Front Street.

With inviting mountain charm and no shortage of natural beauty, Fairplay offers an authentic taste of Colorado’s rich history paired with almost limitless opportunities for creating unforgettable memories. Start planning your Colorado adventure today.


What is there to do in Fairplay during the winter?

Popular winter activities include downhill skiing at nearby Breckenridge Resort, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing the mountain trails, ice fishing at Antero Reservoir, and exploring the town’s local history at attractions like the South Park City Museum.

Where are the best hiking trails near Fairplay?

Some top-rated trails include segments of the Colorado Trail near Lost Park, the Four Mile Creek Trail, and the trails surrounding Little Horsethief Park. Scenic hikes along the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway are also highly recommended.

What annual events take place in Fairplay?

Check out staples like Burro Days in late June, the Fairplay Burro Race over Labor Day weekend, and the town’s lively 4th of July parade and celebrations. Many other small festivals and events also entertain visitors throughout the warmer months.

How long should I plan to stay when visiting Fairplay?

While passing through for a day or two allows you to take in some of the charm and history of the town itself, visitors could easily spend a week or longer fully exploring all of the surrounding campgrounds, trails, historic byways, reservoirs, and attractions in the area.

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About the author

Simone Weisman

My deep appreciation for nature and active living strongly aligns with the vibrant outdoor culture of Colorado. My enjoyment of yoga, hiking, and exploring scenic trails provides me with a unique perspective that I bring to ReadyColorado.com. This personal passion enriches my ability to connect with and inspire our audience, whether they’re local residents or visitors seeking to explore all that Colorado has to offer.