This Colorado travel guide article first appeared in winter, 2012 at GoColorado.com.
Keystone’s reputation as an outstanding skiing and mountain biking region often overshadows other fun things to do in Summit County, but whether you visit during winter or summer, you’ll find plenty of recreation options besides these two popular activities. If you’re looking for a family-friendly entertainment option, exploring nearby ghost towns can be a fascinating experience for any age.
Visiting many of Colorado’s best ghost towns often requires four-wheel drive access, but if your vehicle isn’t capable of going off road, a few local rental companies can get you there. Renting a jeep or ATV is an exhilarating experience, but before you do, take an honest assessment of your off-road experience: if you have none at all, consider the hassle-free experience that a guided tour guide can offer. When you pay a local to show you around, you’re not just getting a ride to the ghost town, but you’ll also get an educational experience that guide books alone can’t offer.
Should you decide to see ghost towns near Keystone without an escort, always pack extra gear, food and water. If you get stuck, it could be hours or even days before someone reaches you since cell phone service is unreliable in many places.
To Montezuma and Back in a Day
Montezuma is one of the most accessible ghost towns near Keystone and nearly any two-wheel-drive cars can get there. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll enjoy one of the most complete and most realistic glimpses into Colorado’s colorful mining past.
Situated at nearly 10,000 feet elevation, Keystone was founded around 1865 by mining prospectors who braved the 13,000 foot peaks of Loveland Pass to cash in on the local silver mining boom. By 1880, Montezuma was the largest town in the region, but when silver prices fell, the population dwindled. Over a century later, only a few dozen summer residents remain in homes built among weathered ruins that include a general store and a school house still in use by locals.
Montezuma is only about six miles from the Keystone resort area, making it accessible during winter or summer. Take Highway 6 (also known as Loveland Pass) east from Keystone to Montezuma Road and six miles later, you’re there. Heartier souls can hop on a mountain bike and ride uphill on a forested path that winds along the Snake River up to Montezuma.
If snow’s on the ground when you arrive in Keystone, you can strap on a pair of skis or snowshoes and explore nearby Deer Creek, a popular option for families with kids. Or, head to the more isolated Peru Creek for an adventurous back country adventure. If you have a four wheel drive vehicle and more time to explore, two other isolated ghost town ruins are nearby:
Saints John ghost town is just two miles past Montezuma and is easily reached by the novice off-roader. This former company town was most notable because it lacked the requisite mining town saloon, but instead offered residents a library with over 300 books.
Go deeper into the forest, and you’ll find Wild Irishman Camp, a relatively intact ghost town with ruins that include several cabins, silver mining structures and outhouses. Getting there requires a bit more technical four-wheeling expertise and good map reading skills.
Whether you arrive at Keystone area ghost towns by foot, ski, snow show, jeep or mountain bike, the surrounding area offers an unlimited selection of recreation activities any time of year. Before heading out, call or visit the nearby U.S. Forest Service office in Silverthorne for directions and current trail conditions.