Scenic Leadville Road Trip Routes and Local Attractions


This historic mining town serves as a gateway to exploring Colorado’s highest peaks and offers access to Leadville road trip routes, scenic byways, outdoor activities, and cultural sites. At an elevation of 10,152 feet, Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the United States. Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or a longer Colorado road trip, Leadville and its surrounding areas provide a unique blend of natural beauty and rich history.


  • Leadville is surrounded by incredible national park areas, scenic byways, and off-road routes, making it the perfect destination for a road trip.
  • The area offers a variety of accommodations, from historic hotels to cozy cabins, allowing you to choose the best base for your itinerary.
  • Planning and preparation are essential for a safe and enjoyable road trip experience in the high-altitude terrain of Colorado.

Stay & Plan

Choosing Your Base in Leadville

Leadville offers a range of accommodation options to suit different preferences and budgets. For a historic stay, consider the Delaware Hotel or the Tabor Grand Hotel, both located in the heart of downtown. If you prefer a more rustic experience, there are several cabins and vacation rentals available in the surrounding areas, such as Twin Lakes and Turquoise Lake.

When selecting your base, consider the proximity to the attractions and routes you plan to explore. Staying in downtown Leadville provides easy access to dining, shopping, and historical sites, while accommodations near the lakes or trails offer a more secluded and nature-oriented experience.

Preparing for High Altitude

Leadville’s high elevation can pose challenges for some visitors, so it’s essential to take precautions and allow time for acclimatization. Drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol and excessive caffeine, and get enough rest to help your body adjust to the altitude. If you experience symptoms of altitude sickness, such as headaches, nausea, or dizziness, descend to a lower elevation and seek medical attention if necessary.

When packing for your Colorado road trip, be sure to include warm layers, as temperatures can drop significantly at night, even during the summer months. Bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the intense high-altitude sun, and don’t forget to pack any necessary medications and a first-aid kit.

Road Trip Essentials

In addition to your personal items, there are a few essentials to consider when embarking on a road trip in Colorado:

  • A reliable vehicle with good tires and brakes, suitable for mountain driving.
  • A physical map or offline navigation app is needed since cell service can be spotty in remote areas.
  • Plenty of water and snacks, as well as a cooler for perishables.
  • A full tank of gas and a spare tire, as gas stations and services can be far apart in rural areas.
  • Cash for toll roads and small-town businesses that may not accept credit cards.

Exploring Leadville’s Historic Routes

The Mining History Trail

Leadville’s prosperity during the late 19th century was largely due to its rich silver and gold deposits. The Mining History Trail is a self-guided tour that takes you through the town’s most significant mining sites, including the Matchless Mine, where silver baron Horace Tabor made his fortune.

Start your tour at the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, which offers exhibits on the history of mining and the geology of the area. From there, follow the trail to the Healy House Museum and Dexter Cabin, a beautifully restored Victorian home and mining office that provide a glimpse into the life of a wealthy mining family.

Scenic Byways and High Mountain Passes

Leadville is surrounded by some of Colorado’s most stunning historic byway sites, offering breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountain region. The Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway is a must-drive route that takes you over Independence Pass, the highest paved pass in Colorado at 12,095 feet. The route connects Leadville to Aspen, passing through the ghost town of Independence and offering panoramic views of the Sawatch Range.

Another popular drive is the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway, which follows the Arkansas River Valley and provides access to some of Colorado’s highest peaks, known as the Collegiate Peaks. The byway passes through the towns of Buena Vista and Salida, both of which offer excellent dining and shopping options.

When driving on high mountain passes, be sure to take it slow and use lower gears on steep inclines. Watch for wildlife, especially during dawn and dusk, and be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions. Many passes are closed during the winter months, so check road conditions before setting out.

Outdoor Adventures Along the Way

Hiking and Biking Trails

Leadville is a hiker’s paradise, with numerous trails ranging from easy nature walks to challenging high-altitude treks. The Colorado Trail, a 500-mile route that crosses the state from Denver to Durango, passes through Leadville and offers several access points for day hikes.

For a moderate hike with stunning views, try the Turquoise Lake Trail, a 6.4-mile loop that circles the lake and offers opportunities for fishing and picnicking. More experienced hikers can tackle Mount Elbert, Colorado’s highest peak at 14,439 feet, accessible from the Mount Elbert Trailhead just outside of Leadville.

Mountain biking enthusiasts will find plenty of options in the Leadville area, from easy rides on paved paths to technical single-track trails. The Mineral Belt Trail is an 11.6-mile loop that circles the town, passing through aspen groves and offering views of the surrounding peaks. For a more challenging ride, head to the Colorado Mountain College Timberline Campus, which has a network of trails suitable for intermediate to advanced riders.

Fishing and Water Activities

Leadville is home to several lakes and reservoirs that offer excellent fishing opportunities. Twin Lakes, located just south of town, is a popular spot for catching rainbow and lake trout, as well as kokanee salmon. Turquoise Lake, to the west of Leadville, is another great option for fishing, with boat rentals available during the summer months.

In addition to fishing, these lakes offer opportunities for boating, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. Be sure to wear a life jacket and follow all safety guidelines when engaging in water activities, as the water can be cold and conditions can change quickly in the mountains.

Cultural and Culinary Stops

Historic Towns and Ghost Towns

Leadville’s surrounding areas are dotted with historic towns and ghost towns that offer a glimpse into Colorado’s mining past. Twin Lakes, located just south of Leadville, is a charming village with a rich history and several well-preserved buildings from the late 19th century.

For a more eerie experience, visit the ghost town of Independence, located along the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway. This former mining camp was once home to over 1,500 residents but was abandoned in the early 20th century when the mines dried up. Today, visitors can explore the remnants of the town, including the restored stagecoach stop and several crumbling cabins.

Local Cuisine and Dining Experiences

Leadville’s dining scene offers a mix of classic American fare and unique local flavors. For a hearty breakfast or lunch, head to the Golden Burro Cafe, a Leadville institution that has been serving up comfort food since the 1930s. The cafe’s green chile and homemade pies are particularly popular among locals and visitors alike.

For a taste of Colorado’s craft beer scene, visit Two Mile Brewing Company, located just outside of downtown Leadville. The brewery offers a rotating selection of beers, including seasonal and experimental brews, as well as a menu of pub-style food.

Navigating Leadville’s Natural Landscapes

National Forest and Wilderness Areas

Leadville is surrounded by the San Isabel National Forest, which offers over a million acres of pristine wilderness for hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing. The forest is home to several designated wilderness areas, including the Mount Massive Wilderness and the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness, both of which offer challenging backcountry experiences for experienced hikers and backpackers.

When exploring these natural areas, be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment. Pack out all trash, stay on designated trails, and respect wildlife by keeping a safe distance and not feeding them.

Lakes, Reservoirs, and Water Activities

In addition to Twin Lakes and Turquoise Lake, the Leadville area is home to several other bodies of water that offer recreational opportunities. Clear Creek Reservoir, located just south of town, is a popular spot for fishing and boating, with a campground and picnic area available for day use.

For a more secluded experience, head to Halfmoon Creek, a tributary of the Arkansas River that offers excellent fly fishing opportunities. The creek is accessible via a short hike from the Halfmoon Creek Trailhead, located just off Highway 24.


What is the best time of year to plan a road trip to Leadville?

The best time to visit Leadville depends on your interests and preferred activities. Summer (June to August) offers warm weather and ideal conditions for hiking, biking, and water sports, but can also be busy with tourists. Fall (September to October) brings stunning foliage and fewer crowds, but cooler temperatures. Winter (November to April) is perfect for skiing and snowboarding, but some roads and trails may be closed due to snow.

How can I prepare for the unpredictable weather in the Colorado mountains?

The key to preparing for Colorado’s mountain weather is layers. Pack a mix of warm and cool clothing, including a waterproof jacket, hat, and gloves, even in the summer months. Check the weather forecast before setting out on any hikes or drives, and be prepared to adjust your plans if conditions change.

Are there any restrictions or permits required for accessing certain areas around Leadville?

Some wilderness areas and trails may require permits for camping or backpacking, particularly during peak season. Check with the San Isabel National Forest office or the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website for up-to-date information on permits and restrictions.

What are some safety tips for hiking and outdoor activities in the Leadville area?

When hiking in the Leadville area, be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, and sun protection, as the high altitude can dehydrate you quickly. Let someone know your planned route and expected return time, and carry a map and compass or GPS device. Be aware of signs of altitude sickness, such as headache, nausea, and dizziness, and descend to a lower elevation if symptoms persist.

Can I explore Leadville’s historic sites and trails with pets?

Many of Leadville’s historic sites and trails are pet-friendly, but it’s important to keep your furry friend on a leash and clean up after them. Some wilderness areas may have restrictions on pets, so be sure to check the regulations before setting out. Always bring plenty of water and snacks for your pet, and be aware of their limitations in the high-altitude environment.


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 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.