Red Cliff, Colorado: Tourism and History


Red Cliff, Colorado, sits at an elevation of 8,650 feet, making it one of the highest incorporated towns in the United States. This small mountain town, located in Eagle County, is a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike.


  • Red Cliff has a unique geographical location and played a role in Colorado's mining history.
  • Red Cliff offers a variety of outdoor recreation and tourist activities year-round.
  • Red Cliff and the surrounding area are home to important historical landmarks.

Historical Overview of Red Cliff

Red Cliff was founded in 1879 by miners from nearby Leadville. The town quickly grew as a mining hub, with several mines operating in the area, including the Herald lode on Battle Mountain. Red Cliff served as the county seat of Eagle County from 1883 until 1921.

As mining activity declined in the early 20th century, Red Cliff began to transition into a tourism and recreation destination, capitalizing on its stunning natural surroundings and rich history.

Geographical Significance

Red Cliff is situated in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, surrounded by the Holy Cross Wilderness, White River National Forest, and the Eagle River. The town’s location provides easy access to a wealth of outdoor adventures and natural landmarks, such as Battle Mountain, Vail Pass, and Copper Mountain.

The high elevation and mountain setting give Red Cliff a unique climate, with cool summers and snowy winters, perfect for a variety of outdoor activities throughout the year.

Outdoor Recreation and Activities

Red Cliff offers a wide range of outdoor pursuits for visitors and residents alike:

  • Hiking and mountain biking trails: Numerous trails in and around Red Cliff provide opportunities for exploring the stunning mountain landscape, including highlights such as the Shrine Pass.
  • Winter sports: With its high elevation and ample snowfall, Red Cliff is a great destination for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, as well as downhill skiing at the nearby Vail Mountain.
  • Fishing and camping: The Eagle River and surrounding wilderness areas offer excellent fishing and camping opportunities.

Local Culture and Community

Despite its small size, Red Cliff boasts a vibrant community with several annual events and festivals. Local businesses, including restaurants and lodging options, contribute to the town’s economy and provide visitors with a taste of the local culture.

Architectural and Historical Landmarks

Red Cliff is home to several significant buildings and structures that tell the story of its mining past, such as the Red Cliff Arch Bridge, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. The nearby Camp Hale National Monument is also a must-visit for WWII history enthusiasts.

Guided tours and informational resources are available for visitors interested in learning more about Red Cliff’s architecture and history.

Accommodations and Dining

Visitors to Red Cliff can choose from a variety of lodging options, including vacation rentals, cabins, and campgrounds. Local restaurants offer a taste of the region’s cuisine, with many featuring locally sourced ingredients and mountain-inspired dishes.

The town’s accommodations and dining options play a crucial role in enhancing the overall Red Cliff experience for visitors.

Planning Your Visit to Red Cliff

The best times to visit Red Cliff depend on your preferred activities and weather conditions. Summer months (June-September) are ideal for hiking, biking, and fishing, while winter months (December-March) are perfect for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

To maximize your experience in Red Cliff, consider the following tips:

  • Check local event calendars to plan your visit around annual festivals and celebrations.
  • Make reservations for lodging and dining in advance, especially during peak seasons.
  • Consult local resources for up-to-date information on trail conditions, weather, and local recommendations.


What are the top attractions in Red Cliff, Colorado?

Top attractions in Red Cliff include the Red Cliff Bridge, biking and hiking trails in the surrounding wilderness areas, and the town’s historical mining sites.

How can visitors best experience the outdoor activities in Red Cliff?

Visitors can experience Red Cliff’s outdoor activities by hiking or biking on local trails, fishing in the Eagle River, camping in the nearby forests, and snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in the winter months.

What accommodations are available for visitors in Red Cliff?

Accommodations in Red Cliff include vacation rentals, cabins, and campgrounds, catering to a variety of preferences and budgets. The Green Bridge Inn is a popular choice for visitors looking to stay in town, while outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the dispersed camping options surrounding Red Cliff.


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.