Leadville, Colorado — Pack the camera and an extra memory card, you’re going to want to remember these views and share them with friends. Here are nine sights in Leadville and Twin Lakes, Colorado, that you won’t want to miss, along with some insiders’ tips for getting the best photos:
1. Top of the Rockies Scenic and Historic Byway – This 115-mile National Scenic Byway is one of just 53 in the nation. Drive it in one direction, spend the night, then drive it in the opposite direction for an entirely different view!
Insiders’ tips: Pull into the Camp Hale Memorial at the base of Ski Cooper. The training site for the 10th Mountain Division during World War II, Camp Hale is an excellent place for watchable wildlife, including foxes, deer and elk; U.S. 24 south of Leadville is a good place to spot pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep and jaw-dropping views of the Collegiate Peaks. Always find a safe spot to pull off the road.
2. Downtown Leadville – Wander through 70 blocks in the Leadville National Historic Landmark District, renowned for its iconic Victorian architecture. Capture dramatic and artistic photos of original architectural details and weathered wooden buildings that have been around since Doc Holliday and the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown lived here in the 1880s.
Insiders’ tips: Take to the side streets for sights of Leadville’s “painted ladies” — beautifully preserved and colorful Victorian homes. Don’t forget to look up! Rooflines often offer some of the most interesting shots.
3. On the trails — Landscape and wilderness photography is unrivaled around Leadville and Twin Lakes. Get off the roads and on the trails to find the spots that others might miss. More than 188,000 acres of national forest and Bureau of Land Management land will keep you busy for days!
Insiders’ tips: The Timberline Lake Trail is a five-mile hike that’s suitable for beginners. The Leadville National Fish Hatchery has a one-mile Evergreen Lakes Nature Trail with interpretive signs that identify flora and fauna. There are three trails that access the famed 500-mile Colorado Trail.
4. Mineral Belt Trail – You can hike, bike, ski and snowshoe this 11.6-mile, non-motorized trail that loops downtown Leadville and the outlying areas. You’ll be in awe of the Sawatch and Mosquito mountain range views, wildflower meadows, conifer forests and major historical sites.
Insiders’ tip: You can explore California Gulch and the mining district from this trail, which is paved and ADA-accessible.
5. Historic Mining District – The Route of the Silver Kings leads visitors through the historic mining district surround Leadville. With 14 stops including mines, ghost towns and mining camps, the tour begins at Monroe St. and Harrison Ave. downtown. Allow several hours to enjoy this route.
Insiders’ tip: Maps and souvenir booklets are available at the Leadville Lake County Chamber of Commerce at 809 Harrison Ave.
6. Turquoise Lake – This peaceful mountain lake is a locals’ favorite for fishing, hiking and camping in the summer and fall, and for ice fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and Nordic skiing in the winter.
Insiders’ tip: Get some shots while enjoying the lake, then get a birds’-eye view of this pristine blue-water phenomenon on a horseback ride through the San Isabel and White River National Forests.
7. Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive – At 14,440 and 14, 421 feet respectively, these are the two highest peaks in Colorado. Not only that, but they lay claim as highest peaks in the Rocky Mountains! They provide the stunning backdrop for much of what you’ll see while you’re here, whether you’re driving, strolling through downtown or out on the trails.
Insiders’ tips: Both of these “Fourteeners” are non-technical hikes and therefore rated as “easy” by Fourteener standards, but all hikers should be prepared for the high altitude and rapid changes in the weather. Stop by the Leadville Forest Service District Office on Highway 24 just south of Leadville to make sure you’re prepared before starting out. If hiking to one of these peaks isn’t for you, they can be photographed from different angles throughout Lake County.
8. Twin Lakes – No matter the season, this stunning panoramic view is one of the most beautiful and amongst the most-photographed spots in Colorado. The glacial lakes are ringed by rugged, snow-capped Fourteeners, lush evergreen forests and quaking aspen groves.
Insiders’ tips: Explore the lakes on kayaks or on a guided boat tour to the historic Interlaken Resort, which can also be reached by trail on the south side of the lakes. Picnic on the banks, then walk the paths through the Historic Twin Lakes Village.
9. Independence Pass – This winding mountain road links Twin Lakes and Aspen during the warmer months, usually from Memorial Day Weekend through October depending on the weather. Paved trails at the summit offer spectacular views.
Insiders’ tips: There are lots of trailheads on the pass. Bring water, snacks, maps and a compass, and dress for altitude on the highest paved pass in North America: layers, a waterproof jacket, a hat and sunscreen. On the west (Aspen) side of the pass, watch for the Independence Ghost Town, a silver mining settlement from the late 1870s.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. At night, tuck yourself in for a good night’s sleep at one of our several inns, hotels, B&Bs, cabins, condos or vacation rentals, then start your adventure anew tomorrow. As your status as an el-e-vacationer soars, you’ll find photo opportunities around every corner and with each new step. Visit us at VisitLeadvilleColorado.com or call 855-488-1222 to start planning your trip today.