38 miles S. of Vail, 59 miles E. of Aspen, 113 miles W. of Denver

Not much more than a century ago, Leadville was the most important city between St. Louis and San Francisco. It was the stopping point for Easterners with nothing to lose and everything to gain from the promise of gold and silver. Today Leadville is one of the best places to rediscover the West's mining heritage.

Founded in 1860 on the gold that glimmered in prospectors' pans, Leadville and nearby Oro City quickly attracted 10,000 miners who dug $5 million in gold out of a 3-mile stretch of the California Gulch by 1865. When the riches were gone, Leadville was deserted, although a smaller lode of gold-bearing quartz kept Oro City alive for another decade. Then in 1875, two prospectors located the California Gulch's first paying silver lode. Over the next 2 decades, Leadville grew to an estimated 30,000 residents -- among them "the Unsinkable" Molly Brown, whose husband made his fortune here before moving to Denver, where the family lived at the time of Molly's Titanic heroism.

Now an isolated mountain town (elevation 10,152 ft.) of about 2,700 residents, Leadville has managed to maintain its historic character. Many buildings of the silver boom (which produced $136 million in 1879-89) have been preserved in Leadville's National Historic Landmark District. So for those who want to take a break from playing outdoors to explore Colorado's frontier past, this is just the place to do it.