Touring the old historic ghost towns of the west is a fascinating activity for the entire family and the time spent is guaranteed to be a learning experience. All of the follies of mankind are on full display in these old abandoned communities, especially in the mining industry boom towns that went from rags to riches overnight. Some of these boom towns went bust so quickly that they were abandoned overnight, while others limped into the modern age by meager means to achieve living ghost town status. The current condition of the completely abandoned old mining camp towns can range from piles of rubble and a few remaining building foundations to a full display of downtown commerce buildings in mint condition. The old community of Saint Elmo, Colorado definitely falls into the latter category and this destination actually is one of the best preserved ghost towns in the entire west!
The Saint Elmo Ghost Town is located on a smooth dirt road in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and this destination is fairly easy for an average passenger car to access. The easy way to Saint Elmo begins near Nathrop on Highway 285 and the road to look for is Chalk Creek Drive. Chalk Creek Drive follows the creek bed through a series of heavily forested mountain canyons, so some wildlife viewing can be done along the way. Doing some fly fishing is an option too and there is even a famous hot springs resort in this area, so visitors can go as basic or fancy as they wish.
For those who drive a high ground clearance vehicle or a 4x4, there will be an option to continue on a rough dirt road through the mountains to the Tin Cup Ghost Town. The Saint Elmo-Tin Cup touring route is a very popular weekend warrior Jeep trail in the summer season, while during weekdays only a handful of vehicles tackle this excursion. Because Saint Elmo is so easy to access, this destination can be crowded on weekends, so touring during the work week is the means for finding more breathing room.
Saint Elmo was established in the late 1800s back when the Colorado gold and silver rush first began. The local mining industry achieved stability and eventually a few thousand people settled in this area. A short line railroad was built to haul ore, which made it easy for this town to blossom. A main street business district was constructed and this community certainly was thriving. Unfortunately, the local mines finally played out in the early 1900s and the railroad line pulled out. This left Saint Elmo high and dry at a point in history when the majority of the local population was moving on to new horizons. The few who remained found this area a very pleasant place to be and they kept their proud little main street area fully intact even after the post office finally closed up shop back in the mid 1900s. The Saint Elmo Ghost Town gradually turned into a tourist attraction that became increasingly more popular as time moved on.
The old main street area is the primary attraction in Saint Elmo and there are a few historic sites to be seen around town too. Saint Elmo is now a fee area and highlighted local maps are available for doing a complete historic foot tour. Saint Elmo actually is a living ghost town, since it was never completely abandoned, so tourists will indeed be walking on private property and it should be respected as such. For this reason, it is best to only take a closer look at the official historic buildings, so you do not intrude upon the locals that still reside in this old town.
The old wooden main street buildings and rustic timber lodges still stand tall, while each has a story to tell. There are several historic information placards in this town and each is worth taking the time to read. The rustic lifestyle of this community is also highlighted, so a lot can be learned while doing a walking tour. Because of the heavily forested Rocky Mountain canyon setting, Saint Elmo certainly is one of the prettiest old ghost towns in the west, so be sure to bring a good camera along for the venture!
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