Thursday, June 29, 2006

Gold Belt Tour Scenic Byway

One of the more fascinating trips we've seen in Colorado, this byway seemed to have a bit of everything; from small-town local flavor, gold mining, four-wheel drive roads, and historic hotels, it's all packed into the Gold Belt Byway!

Starting in Florissant, and the ancient fossil beds of this dually named National Park, the byway begins in south-central Colorado, just west of Colorado Springs (south of Denver). Taking you through the towns of Cripple Creek, Victor, Florence, and Cañon City, the four-wheel drive roads climb from 7 to 10,000 feet in elevation, peaking at Victor, perhaps one of the cutest mining towns in the state. We spent the night at the historic (1890) Victor Hotel, complete with a birdcage elevator, a 100-year old vault, and an accessible room on the third floor! Don't miss the American Eagle Overlook, a 4-wheel drive road to with 360º views of the valley and cavernous gold mining canyons below. Also have some New York style pizza at Sally's, seemingly an old brothel now owned by two NY-ers who pride themselves in their brick oven goodies.

Cripple Creek gets the most action on this tour, like a little Las Vegas with nearly a dozen casinos and busloads of tourists filling their halls. Neighboring to Victor, we'd recommend rolling the boardwalks of this historic town over the glitz of Cripple Creek (even dispite its ironic name) anyday. The mining train that starts here is worth help up the few stairs to the train, however, with views of the million$ half-century gold-mining empire mentioned in Victor.

Definitely take the Phantom Canyon Road to Victor for the best views in the area, that is if you've got 4-wheel drive!

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