Exploring Colorado Ghost Towns
The Durango area is beloved for its rafting, hiking, and off-roading adventures, but its rich history and rugged terrain offer you another type of adventure – exploration. If you’ve ever romanticized Old West history or wanted to unleash your inner Indiana Jones, Durango’s ghost towns are for you.
Hundreds of former mining and mill towns once dotted the landscape of Colorado. Several are located near Durango, including the not-to-be-missed Animas Forks. Deserted but not forgotten, these ghost towns give you the opportunity to venture off the beaten path. Most of the ghost towns are in hard-to-reach areas, meaning you will need a Jeep or ATV to reach them. Durango Rivertrippers & Adventure Tours can get you in a Jeep or ATV and provide directions to reach these historical locations.
Animas Forks is one of the best-known ghost towns in the Durango/Silverton area. At an elevation of over 11,500 feet, Animas Forks is one of the highest mining towns ever established. Founded in 1873, this once-booming mining community was deserted by the mid-1920s. The town is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the remaining buildings have been stabilized so visitors can safely enter and explore. There are nine structures in Animas Forks that visitors have complete access to, the oldest being the town’s jail. Interpretive brochures and maps are available upon arrival.
Animas Forks is part of the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway. The Byway is four-wheel drive terrain that traverses the summits of the Rockies. Spanning some 65 miles, the Alpine Loop runs between Lake City, Ouray, and Silverton, and takes more than 4 hours to complete. The spectacular views make it well worth the time. Be aware that the road requires a vehicle with high clearance and the ability to handle rocky terrain. Most adventurers take a Jeep on this excursion since the narrow road makes traveling with a full-size truck less than desirable.
A “young” ghost town, Graysill Mines was established in 1945 as a uranium mining town. It experienced a rush of prospecting when scientists learned how to harness uranium for atomic power. The town was abandoned by 1963, with only a few buildings remaining today. Located between Durango and Silverton, this ghost town is a good stop for day trips between the two towns. Graysill Mines is best explored during the summer months since ice and snow can make travel treacherous.
When it comes to Colorado ghost towns, half of the adventure is just getting there. Jeeps and RZR side-by-sides are great options to take your backcountry experience to the next level. Our side-by-side ATVs come with everything you need: helmets, fuel, safety instructions, directions, and maps. Our fleet of Jeeps is well-maintained to provide the best journey possible. Any time you rent an ATV or Jeep for a self-guided tour, we will ensure you have maps, directions, and a local’s knowledge of how to get around and where to find the best views. If you prefer to let someone else navigate, sign up for one of our 4×4 tours which include visits to ghost towns and mines.