Leadville was a hidden gem of a high country Colorado town until the summer of 2020. This old mining town sits at 10,151 feet with 360-degree big mountain views. It’s easy to see why so many people choose to travel here when all of the Leadville experiences will take even the most well-traveled individuals breath away.
Although there are many ways in which tourism benefits a community, there are also negative impacts a community may face as well. In this post, I will be sharing some of the best sustainable Leadville Experiences and how you can leave a positive impact on the community during your stay and beyond.
Let’s explore Leadville, Colorado
7 Best Leadville Experiences
These 7 sustainable Leadville experiences will ensure you’re seeing everything the center of the Wild West has to offer.
Hike a 14er
Hiking a 14er may be a Colorado right of passage, but it’s not for everyone! Only those who are experienced hikers with a high level of physical fitness should attempt a Colorado 14er.
Leadville is home to Colorado’s two tallest mountains, Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive at 14,439’ and 14,429’ respectively. Some of the best 14ers for beginners can also be found in and just outside of Leadville; Mt. Sherman and Quandry Peak are labeled as some of the Easiest 14ers in Colorado by Backpacker.
If a 14er isn’t quite your speed, there are plenty of other beautiful Leadville experiences that involve hiking. The Interlaken Lake Trail, Windsor Lake Trail, and Turquoise Lake Trail are all much more mellow options that still provide stunning views.
Drive Independence Pass
This iconic road runs from Twin Lakes to Aspen and is a must-do when you visit Leadville.
If you’re looking for amazing views but can’t or don’t want to exhaust yourself to get to them, I highly recommend this drive. Park at the top and take an easy, paved walk to a beautiful overlook.
It’s important to note that this pass is only available to vehicles under 35 feet and that is closes for the winter around November 7th each year.
Paddle on Turquoise or Twin Lakes
Turquoise Lake is located just a few miles from town and offers a variety of outdoor activities. Paddling is one of the most peaceful ways to experience Turquoise lake and the beautiful landscape that encompasses it.
Twin Lakes is located about 15 minutes south of Leadville and is a slightly smaller lake with beautiful views. You can rent canoes, kayaks, or stand up paddle boards from Twin Lakes Canoe and Kayak nearby.
The Colorado Boating Handbook states that all vessels less than 16 feet in length, including all paddle boards, canoes, kayaks, must carry one wearable Coast Guard-approved life jacket per person. As you can see, I am not wearing a PDF in these photos and that is 100% my bad!
My lack of local education on the subject does not excuse my poor role modeling. I will be snagging a belt PFD for the 2023 season!
Learn About Mining History
Learn about Leadville’s extensive mining history at the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum. The scandalous tales of old Leadville elites and the process of moving town from Climax to it’s current location.
You can also visit one of the most famous mines in Colorado, the Matchless Mine. Learn about the Tabor legacy on a surface tour of their 1800’s mine and home.
If it’s an underground mine tour you seek, Hopemore is the ultimate local Leadville experience. Learn what a day on the job was like for a Leadville local in the 1800’s.
Mountain biking is one of the Leadville experiences that largely goes unnoticed. It may not have the fancy lift access bike parks of other Colorado Mountain Towns or world-renowned trails, but they are constantly improving upon their trail system.
Bike the Mineral Belt Trail for amazing views and mining history, but leave the beaten path around mile 8 to check out the Timberline Trails. The Cloud City Wheelers have done some amazing work on this trail system. We loved shredding Gold Digger and Slip N Slide at the end of our Mineral Belt Ride before bombing down Boulders to our parked car.
You can also ride the Turquoise Lake trail out and back and/or check out the newest trail system Leadville has to offer. Eight miles of Colorado flow trail have been built to compliment the existing Turquoise Lake Trail and they are full of amazing views.
Leadville Railroad Scenic Train Ride
You won’t experience Leadville like a local on a scenic train ride designed for tourists, but it’s a great family-friendly activity if you’re visiting town.
Enjoy the views on one of Colorado’s best train rides. The Southern Railroad boasts beautiful views of the San Isabel National Forest and the Arkansas River Valley.
Aside from walking or biking, taking the train is one of the most environmentally friendly modes of transportation. Enjoy the views and feel good about it too!
Nordic and Alpine Ski
Downhill ski at the local, family-friendly Cooper Mountain. This affordable ski area is a local favorite for skiers and riders of all abilities. Skip the crowds and lines associated with other big-name mountains and enhance your Leadville experience with the softest snow surface in Colorado.
If downhill skiing isn’t your style, try cross country skiing at the Tenessee Nordic Center. Discover the very best Nordic skiing with over 16 miles of set track groomed for every style and ability.
Choose to ski, snowshoe, or fat bike at Tennesse Pass and enjoy stunning views of the Sawatch Mountains.
Leave a Positive Impact on Leadville’s Locals
Your dream vacation location in someone else’s home. How do you leave a positive impact on the communities you travel to?
Here are 7 ways you can enhance your Leadville experiences while giving back to the local community.
All of the restaurants and shops in downtown Leadville are one of a kind. The only chain restaurant you’ll find in town is Subway. There are only a few box stores, such as Family Dollar and Safeway, in Leadville as well.
It should be easy to enhance your Leadville experience with a number of unique shopping opportunities. Give back to the local economy by spending money at local establishments!
Melanzana is a well-known Leadville outdoor clothing store. Hand made and sold only in Leadville, a ‘melly’ is pretty much required for locals and tourists alike. Make an appointment to shop and snag you’re sweatshirt on your next trip.
If you’re looking for local Leadville outdoor clothing that’s lesser-known, check out Galena. Galena Mountain Projects believe in giving back to the community and supporting local artists. Most of the folks who contribute their creative ideas to Galena Products are outdoor educators!
Leave Cash Tips
Because the cost of living is rising in Leadville, a lot of businesses are hurting for help. You might experience limited opening hours and longer waiting times when dining out.
Remember that your Leadville experiences wouldn’t be the same without the locals that make them happen in the first place. Leave a cash tip for your waitstaff and tour guides.
The average tip amount for a waiter or bartender is between 18-20%. For a tour guide, between 10 and 20% is acceptable depending on the level of service.
Leave a cash tip to ensure businesses aren’t taking service fees out of their employees hard earned tip money.
This might sound like a silly thing to do while you’re on vacation, but hear me out. Places like Leadville host amazing events that are only made possible by volunteers.
What better way to experience a place and give back to the community than to volunteer at an iconic event?
Volunteer with the Leadville Race Series. There are pre-race, race, and post race volunteer positions available each year, ranging from medical professionals to registration and packet pick up. You won’t regret the opportunity to cheer on the participants and celebrate their achievements.
However, it doesn’t have to be an iconic event. Do some research and find something that interests you.
My fiance and I chatted about volunteering with the Leadville Race Series on a return trip to Colorado! We hope to spend more time out West in future summers and volunteering is certainly a topic of conversation for us as we plan our trips.
Leave No Trace
If you don’t know the 7 Leave No Trace Principles, please educate yourself before spending time outdoors.
These seven items provide the framework for minimizing your impact on the outdoor world. Many of the best Leadville experiences fall into the category of outdoor recreation.
With more and more tourists visiting Leadville and seeking outdoor adventure activities, negative environmental impact is inevitable. Let’s make sure we do out part to lessen it.
Although all 7 of the Leave No Trace principles are important, there are a few issues that stand out.
Garbage and human waste are an every growing concern. Pack all garbage out from trails and campgrounds; purchase a 40 gallon yellow Lake County garbage bag at the start of your stay and drop it at either of the two drop sites on your way out of town.
Human waste in the wilderness is shitty. Please carry a WAG bag when you plan to hike above tree line and dig a 6-8” cat hole 200 feet from water sources and the trail. Whether you go number one or two, plan accordingly for carrying out your toilet paper.
Please remember to heed all warnings and follow all posted regulations. Leave the wilderness areas of Leadville better than you found it!
Participate in Community Events
One of the ultimate summer Leadville experiences includes attending Boom Days. This historical celebration of the old west includes three days of food, arts and crafts, and activities for the whole family. Burro racing, costume contests, parade and so many other fun activities take place at Leadville Boom Days.
The Ski Joring and Crystal Carnival weekend if an incredible winter Leadville experience. Witness the unique sport of ski joring and join in on other fun events like mountain bike and Nordci ski races, a paintball biathlon, and a ton of other winter fun.
Participating in community events helps you to better understand a community, thus creating a greater level of respect for the space and those who call it home.
Stay a little bit longer so you have time to truly engage and interact with the community. When you have a better understanding of a place, you’ll have a more meaningful experience.
Foster a deeper connection by making more time for leadville experiences, conversations with locals, and giving back to the community. The more you do while visiting Leadville, the more you’ll learn about and respect the space.
Additionally, a longer vacation means you’ll be giving more money to the community as you stay, dine, and explore. Plus… it’s more fund for you!
Donate to Local Charities
If you visit and feel so inclined to make a difference, donate to local charities.
In a lot of popular vacation locations, locals may struggle with the rising cost of housing, groceries, and population growth. This leaves local workers without affordable housing which in turn leaves restaurants, schools, and other businesses without enough staff.
Local charities, such as Full Circle of Lake County, work to support families through resource connection and youth programs. Donate food, time, and/or funds to St. George Episcopal Church and community meals to help with food security for locals who might not enjoy a hot meal otherwise.
If you’re looking for an environmental cause, check out Cloud City Conservation Center. They provide educational opportunities and lasting community infrastructure that inspires stewardship of Leadville and Lake County’s natural resources.
Tips for Saving Up for Leadville Experiences
Leadville was the final stop on our summer road trip and we are so glad it was. The laid back, high country lifestyle was the perfect way to end our month-long vacation.
Saving up for vacation can be a daunting task, here are a few easy ways to make a few extra bucks.
- Sign up for and regularly use Travel Credit Cards where you earn flyer miles and/or cash back!
- Utilizing coupon apps for grocery shopping and online shopping at your favorite stores
- Clean out your closet at sell your clothes at consignment stores or on second hand apps such as Poshmark and Mercari.
Read the full list for 9 easy ways to make money for travel. A little extra effort goes a long way!
This post was created in collaboration with Leadville Twin Lakes