I was recently fortunate to spend a few days traveling in the southern part of Colorado on the Gold Belt Tour National Scenic Byway.
I was told that the drive would be beautiful, but that was an understatement. Normally, driving to and from destinations is fairly predictable, especially if you’re on the interstate. But driving on the Gold Belt Tour was as exciting and fascinating as arriving at the destination. The drive took me to several small towns, each with their own unique history and vibe.
Place a Bet in Cripple Creek
My first stop was at Cripple Creek, a cute town with a rich history. Back in the 1890’s era of the gold rush, Cripple Creek was a busy metropolis packed with people from all over the country trying to make their millions. The town is surrounded by majestic mountains and offers plenty of activities. Plus, there are about 15 donkeys that wander the streets unsupervised, which was quite interesting! I visited the old jail, which is apparently haunted, and enjoyed ambling around the town feeling like I’d stepped back in time.
Small-town charm in historic downtown Cripple Creek, Colorado
The City of Goldmines
After another incredibly scenic drive on the Gold Belt Tour, I arrived at my next stop in a town called Victor. Victor these days has a residential population of less than 500. However, back in the 1890’s more than 18,000 people lived here. Victor, also known as The City of Goldmines, is still one of the biggest producers of gold in the country. I took a fascinating self-guided tour of the Independence Mill and again just wandered around the town. Like Cripple Creek, Victor has an old-time feel to it. After a coffee and delicious piece of cake from a local bakery, it was time to head back on the road, this time on the Phantom Canyon Road.
Independence Mine Tour in Victor along the Gold Belt Tour Scenic Byway, Colorado
The Phantom Canyon Road is about 30 miles long. You will need to drive this byway slowly to take in the stunning scenery and to mind the steep drop-offs and cliffs that border the road. There are several spots to pull over and take pictures and I did this often. Just when I thought the view couldn’t be any better, I rounded the next bend and was in awe time and time again. Phantom Canyon Road took me to my last stop of day, another small town called Florence.
Driving on Phantom Canyon Road on the Gold Belt Tour Scenic Byway, Colorado
A Charming Town Named Florence
Florence is a splendid town. It is full of lovely antique shops owned by people that are as charming as the goods that they sell. The streets were lined with flowers, and the vibe was simply relaxing. Exploring these quaint towns dotted all over Colorado had me feeling very peaceful. I loved that each of the places I’d visited were similarly quaint, but they also each had their own unique charm and heritage.
There are still so many places to visit along Colorado’s Gold Belt Tour, but the three I stopped at were a great way for me to start. I can’t wait to come back and explore more on this National Scenic Byway.
Enjoy small-town charm in downtown Florence, Colorado