The BEST Things to Do in Leadville, Colorado

Leadville - Web-0014-2

It’s no secret that Leadville is one of my favorite towns in Colorado. With its proximity to so much amazing riding, scenery, and the town’s historical importance and abundant food options…any trip to Leadville can be spent doing something completely new! Here’s a complete guide to help make Leadville a destination on your motorcycle trip!

Don’t ride a motorcycle? Keep Reading! There is plenty of useful information here, no matter what type of vehicle you choose to travel in (or on).

Why is Leadville Worth Visiting?

No matter where you go in Colorado, you’re bound to see remnants of the state’s mining history. From the Colorado Gold Rush to modern-day times, Leadville has played an important role in the state’s history. In the 1870s, over 30,000 people called Leadville home during the Silver Boom. At one point, the town was the second-most populated in the state!

In its mining boom heyday, Leadville was the epitome of the wild West. Brothels, gambling halls, and saloons were popular hangouts. But as the booms went bust, the mining town slowly declined. But unlike other towns which turned to skiing to reinvent themselves, Leadville remained true to its character of a mining town.

Today, Leadville has a population of roughly 2,500 residents and is the highest incorporated city in North America, sitting at 10,152 feet in elevation.

A few other Leadville fun facts:

  • According to geologists, Leadville contains the largest pockets of precious ores in North America (Source: Leadville.com)
  • Leadville is famous for a different type of riding activity: The Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race. It’s a world-renowned event and is typically held in August, annually. 
  • Leadville is home to the headwaters of the Arkansas River and world-class trout fishing.
  • Notable folks who have called Leadville home include the “unsinkable” Molly Brown, outlaw Doc Holliday, and “The Silver King,” Horace Tabor.
  • Enjoy Hiking? The Colorado Trail runs just west of town. At 14,439 feet in elevation, Mt Elbert is the highest summit you can “bag a 14er” on in the state of Colorado! It’s also the highest summit in the entire Rocky Mountain Range.

Where is Leadville?

Leadville is situated high in the Colorado Rockies. It’s roughly 100 miles (2 hours) from Denver—the closest major metropolitan city in Colorado. Colorado Springs is roughly 145 miles or 3 hours from Leadville.

No matter which way you choose to get to Leadville, you’ll be taking some of Colorado’s best scenic byways and mountain passes! The town is completely surrounded by incredible scenic byways and off-road routes, making it the perfect destination!

Red Cliff Bridge in Colorado Mountains
The Red Cliff Bridge, part of the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway, is North of Leadville along Highway 24.

Great Motorcycle Rides & Scenic Drives Near Leadville, Colorado

  • Top of the Rockies Scenic & Historic Byway: This is one of my favorite scenic byways in Colorado as it features Independence Pass, and Tennessee Pass. To “top” this epic road trip off, this scenic byway runs right through Leadville! You can read my full guide on Independence Pass, here.
  • Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway: If you travel to Leadville from Buena Vista or further south, you’ll get to enjoy views of what locals call 14ers! The Collegiate Peaks continuously rise over 14,000 feet in elevation and are a sight to see. They’ll be on your left as you head north through the Arkansas River Valley.
  • Turquoise Lake Road: Just a few miles west of downtown Leadville sits Turquoise Lake. This is a narrow, winding paved road that circles around the entire lake! At times you’ll even be much higher in elevation than the town of Leadville!
Independence Pass Colorado

>>>> Read Next: Colorado’s Best Seasonal Roads for Motorcyclists

If you’d like to take an unpaved, off-road route into Leadville, there are a few options. Be advised that each has its own obstacles and will require common knowledge of off-road trail etiquette to traverse. Headed through Colorado via the Backcountry Discovery Route? You’ll pass right through Leadville in section 4!

  • Weston Pass:  (Rated as Easy to moderate on OnX Offroad) this is a popular off-road route from FairPlay to Leadville, especially in the Fall.
  • Hagerman Pass (Moderate to Difficult)
  • Mosquito Pass (Difficult) – This route is nicknamed the “Road of Frozen Death” and reaches over 13,000 feet in elevation.

What is the Best Time of Year to Visit Leadville?

Leadville sits at 10,152 feet in elevation, which means that Wintry weather sticks around a bit longer here. If you’re planning a motorcycle trip to Colorado, you’ll want to visit in the Summer and Fall (between the months of June and October) for optimal weather.

You can encounter a snowstorm at nearly any time of year in Colorado, but your chances of snow accumulation in the high country are much less between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day weekend, annually.

Visiting Leadville in the Summer:

The Summer months are a great time to enjoy Leadville! The evergreen and aspen trees are vibrantly green, the snowpack is slowly beginning to melt from the surrounding mountain peaks, and the views are gorgeous.

High winds are common in the Spring and Summer months, especially in the afternoons.

If you plan to visit Leadville via one of the surrounding off-road routes or the Colorado BDR, you’ll definitely want to plan for later in the Summer or early Fall due to snowpack.

Visiting Leadville in the Fall:

Taking a ride to Leadville in the Fall, if timed correctly, will give you the opportunity to see Colorado in all of its vibrant yellow aspen glory. The fall foliage is phenomenal and really makes things “pop” in the high country. 

Things to Do in Leadville

Mining Equipment in Leadville Colorado

Check out some Mining History!

There’s gold and silver in these hills. However, Leadville is an above-ground gold mine for history buffs. Whether you have time to spend a couple of hours or an entire weekend exploring, there’s plenty see to learn about Leadville’s importance from its booming mining era.

  • Mining Hall of Fame: https://www.mininghalloffame.org/
  • Visit Old Mining Sites:
    • The Matchless Mine and Babe Doe Cabin are a part of the Mining Hall of Fame, but you can do a self-guided tour if you head directly to the mine (fees required)
    • Leadville’s Route of the Silver Kings is a self-guided route through the historic mining district. There are over 20 sites to see along the route. This route is mostly unpaved and can be steep in some sections.

Celebrate Boom Days

Leadville gets all fancied up with a weekend festival called Boom Days every August to celebrate the town’s mining history. Besides the Leadville 100 Bike Races, it’s the biggest event in the town with over 100 food and craft booths, vendors, burro races, and more.

If you won’t be in the area during the celebration, you can see some of the boom day remnants of years past on the south edge of town just off the highway. The big rocks with the holes are part of the mining skills competitions.

Visit Camp Hale

If you’re into war history, this stop is for you! About 16 miles north of Leadville as you head towards Red Cliff and Minturn, you’ll find the remnants of Camp Hale. This peaceful valley was once a busy training area for the United States Army with over 1,000 builders and 15,000 troops during World War II.

Other Museums + Historical Sites

70 square blocks of downtown Leadville have been designated as a National Historic Landmark District of Victorian Architecture, with most of the buildings dating between 1880 and 1905. If Museums and historical sites are your thing, here are a few more recommendations that you can easily see while walking through Leadville:

  • Leadville Heritage Museum
  • Tabor Opera House
  • Tabor Home
  • House with the Eye

Where to Eat in Leadville

Leadville is the perfect place to stop for a bite to eat if you plan to travel through the area! In fact, I typically choose it as a destination for lunch when I want to take a day trip into the mountains from Denver. While there’s very few “chain” restaurants, there’s plenty of locally owned businesses that offer something different. Here are a few of my top recommendations to try:

A Pizza with Pepperoni, Shrimp, and Jalepenos
The “Crocodile” and the “Carnivore” split onto a pizza at High Mountain Pies
  • The Silver Dollar Saloon: Of the 64 bars that once operated in Leadville, “The Dollar” survived, and is now one of the oldest bars in Colorado. If you time your visit in accordance with their kitchen hours, you can also eat at the Silver Dollar. Their food, ambience, and decorations from decades past are all well worth a stop! I love this place so much, I even wrote a full article about the Silver Dollar, here.
  • High Mountain Pies: If you’re a pizza head or a fan of wings, you can’t visit Leadville and not stop in to High Mountain Pies.
Neon Restaurant Sign featuring a Burro
  • Golden Burro Cafe: This is a plant-based cafe! Even if you’re not vegan (or vegetarian) you’ll find that the food here is really good! Their neon signage is a popular thing to photograph in Leadville as well.
  • Treeline Kitchen: It’s hard to beat the views from their rooftop if you’re able to get a seat! This is a pricier establishment in Leadville but well worth a visit for any foodie.
  • Quincy’s: The original Quincy’s location is located in Leadville! They’re known for having an extremely simple and affordable menu. Depending on what day you visit, your options will be filet mignon or prime rib. Rumor has it that the reason the meat is so affordable is that it comes from cattle raised by prisoners…but I’ve never had that verified. It adds to the fun of visiting, though. 
  • Two Mile Brewing: This is the highest brewery in North America!
  • La Mina: Tacos, tacos, TACOS! 
  • City on a Hill Coffee & Espresso: Coffee, pastries, breakfast burritos, salads, and sandwiches.

Where to Stay in Leadville

If you’re wanting to stay overnight in Leadville to enjoy everything the town has to offer, there’s quite a few options for lodging, although most are not your typical chain hotel. There are only two “chain hotels” in town: Super 8 and Rodeway Inn. I always use hotels.com to find the best hotel lodging options!

Lodging Options in Leadville:

  • The Delaware: historic and right in the heart of downtown
  • The Timberline Motel: A revamped motel at the south end of the main street.
  • Tiny House Leadville: I mean…who doesn’t want to stay in a tiny house at least once in their life?!
  • AirBnB + Vrbo Rentals: There are dozens of options, depending on how early you search for lodging
  • Hostels: There are two hostels in Leadville! Inn the Clouds Hostel & the Colorado Trail House
Motorcycle rider camping near a lake and mountains in leadville colorado

Where to Camp in Leadville:

Leadville is a popular place to camp in the Summer months in Colorado, especially on the weekends.

Most of the established campgrounds in Leadville can be found near Turquoise Lake and can be reserved using the recreation.gov app. Camping in this area during the summer is VERY popular. These campgrounds fill up fast with reservations well in advance, but it’s not impossible to find an opening at the last minute. Some do have first-come, first-served options available.

The primary privately-owned and operated campground in Leadville is the Sugar Loafin’ campground. They have RV and tent sites available. They also work on a reservation system, but you may be able to snag something at the last minute.

Dispersed Camping is also available near Leadville! I use the Dyrt app + my Pro Membership to find free camping areas.

Pin this blog for later so you can reference it to plan your trip to Leadville!

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Staci Wilt

I’m Staci: a freelance journalist, photographer, and marketing consultant. I primarily focus those skills around my passions of motorcycles, travel, and food…and yes, we will count margaritas and craft beer in that last category. Thanks for checking out my blog!
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4 Comments

  1. Chris on March 24, 2023 at 7:27 PM

    This is SO helpful. I’m super excited to do a ride here and check everything out!

    • Staci Wilt on March 27, 2023 at 10:51 AM

      Yay! You’re going to love it!!!

  2. Chuck Colborn on April 19, 2023 at 6:02 AM

    Hi Staci! I’m definitely going to stop for the night in Leadville. What a great town that you have showcased for us.
    Then the next day heading to the Trail Ridge Road then north to Casper. That pizza looks sooo good!!!!
    This will be my last motorcycle trip, (over 5500 miles in two weeks), with a couple of my friends….
    Thanks for your efforts in motorcycle touring!!!!

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