The historic town of Cripple Creek, Colorado sits on the southwest slopes of majestic Pikes Peak in the beautiful Colorado Rockies. More than 100 years ago, this charming community attracted tens of thousands of gold-seekers to its hillsides in search of their fortunes. The Gold Rush is part of Cripple Creek’s colorful history, and today, visitors can choose from a variety of heritage-rich experiences such as descending 1,000 feet into a historic gold mine or riding a steam locomotive.
Cripple Creek’s history extends back to the days of old, when mountain men explored the area and Native Americans lived off the land. The area would see many changes as the Gold Rush put Cripple Creek on the map. Soon, major transportation systems and railroads were developed and the gold camp grew. While World Wars and Labor Wars have aided in the decline in the number of mines currently in operation in Cripple Creek, visitors can visit the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold mine, which is still in operation today. In recent history, gaming was introduced into Cripple Creek in 1991 and has become one of the major industries of Cripple Creek.
Explore the rich heritage of Cripple Creek and discover for yourself the institutions and characters that made it so special.
Cemeteries and Memorials
Beautiful cemeteries and stunning memorials can be found in the Gold Camp Region. Some cemeteries offer maps for self-guided tours, providing information on the history of the property, as well as the stories of some of the people buried or memorialized there. Located among stunning scenery and peaceful environments, these cemeteries and memorials are peaceful places to visit–on a self-guided tour or to attend one of the guided events that occur throughout the year.
The Pikes Peak Region is rich with history, and several historical societies have formed to preserve the area’s history and heritage for future generations. These historical societies are often seen participating in events throughout the state and are often found providing ambiance and information on the streets while in period clothing. Some of these societies have offices where you can request information or conduct research.
In the early 1800s, Colorado was an unknown expanse of wilderness. Adventuresome beaver trappers and explorers explored its valleys and forests, established forts, encountered Native Americans and drew the first rough maps. It was not gold that originally brought the first visitors from the East coast to the Rocky Mountains in the early 1800s; it was fur.
Long before gold was discovered deep in the rock of Pikes Peak, Native Americans lived off the land in the mountain’s shadow. The earliest inhabitants were the Utes, a people whose tribal elders say didn’t migrate here, but instead lived for generations in the mountains, foothills and high plains. The name “Ute” means “land of the sun.”
At its peak, the gold camp was served by three railroads and two electric trolley systems. The narrow-gauge Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad came up from Florence through Phantom Canyon, climbing 5,000 feet in 40 miles. Called “The Gold Belt Line,” this train ran three times a day until 1912, when its roadbed was washed out by a flood.
The Gold Rush
Many miners in the Cripple Creek district had been farmers back east and didn’t even know what they were looking for in their quest for gold. They didn’t know how to pitch a tent or build a fire, but they had caught gold fever. In the 1840s, gold seekers crowded the trails across the Great Plains on their way to California, where gold had been found. In 1859, a second onslaught of miners headed west.