A Trip to Lake City

The historic mining town of Lake City is 55 miles southwest via Colo. 149 (turn south off U.S. 50, 9 miles west of Gunnison). Founded in 1874, this former silver and gold town is set at 8,671 feet elevation against a backdrop of 14,000-plus-foot peaks in three different national forests -- the Gunnison, Uncompahgre, and Rio Grande. Although the year-round population is a bit under 400, that figure quintuples in summer.

One of Colorado's largest national historic districts, Lake City has more than 75 buildings that date from the 19th century. Visit the renovated Hinsdale County Courthouse, 317 N. Henson St., built in 1877 and still the home of county government. You'll see exhibits on the trial of the notorious Alferd Packer and the courtroom where his trial took place.

History buffs will also enjoy the Hinsdale County Museum, 130 N. Silver St. (tel. 970/944-2050 in summer, or 970/944-2515 at other times; www.lakecitymuseum.com), with exhibits about the Packer trial, of course, plus the area's silver-mining heritage and other aspects of Lake City's history. There's also a Denver & Rio Grande Western caboose and a delightful Victorian garden with a sitting area. Next door is the 1870s Smith-Grantham House, a small, furnished Victorian home where you can see how people here lived in the late 1800s. The museum and Smith-Grantham House are open from mid-June until Labor Day, Monday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm and Sunday from 1 to 4:30pm; and irregular hours the rest of the year. Admission, which includes both the museum and the Smith-Grantham House, costs $3 for adults, $1 for children 8 to 12, and is free for children 7 and younger. The museum leads historic walking tours, home tours, cemetery tours, and ghost tours; call for the current schedule and prices.

For those intrigued with mining, visit the Hard Tack Mine Tours & Museum, about 3 miles west of town, via C.R. 20 (tel. 970/944-2506; www.hardtackmine.com). George and Beth Hurd of Lake City own the property and, with the help of their daughter Buffy, developed the tour and museum. The 40-minute tour through the state-inspected mine takes you back more than 100 years and shows you how the miners lived and worked, and you'll also see all sorts of mining equipment and an excellent display of crystals in the museum. Be aware that the temperature underground is a constant 45°F (7°C), so take a jacket even on the hottest summer day. There's also a gift shop, and gold panning is also offered (call for times and rates). It's open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The cost is $11 for adults and $7 for youths 14 and under.

Surrounded by some 600,000 acres of public land, Lake City is an important recreational center, offering hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, jeep rides, camping, and fishing in summer; and ice fishing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling in winter. Lake San Cristobal, just south of town via C.R. 30, is Colorado's second-largest natural lake and is particularly popular with fishermen. Also nearby you'll find several ghost towns and historic sites, most of which will require a four-wheel-drive vehicle, horse, mountain bike, or a good pair of hiking boots.

For information, including lists of boat and jeep rentals, outfitters, stables, accommodations, and restaurants, contact the Lake City/Hinsdale County Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 430, Lake City, CO 81235 (tel. 800/569-1874 or 970/944-2527; www.lakecity.com). The chamber operates a visitor information center at 800 N. Gunnison Ave., on the north side of town, which is usually open from 9am to 6pm Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm Saturday, and from 1am to 5pm Sunday.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.