Welcome to Silverton Colorado!
At a height of over 9,000′ the small town of Silverton Colorado is almost twice as high as Denver. Add to that surrounding mountains rising another 3,000′ above ‘town proper’ and you have definitely found your way to the heart of the Colorado Rockies. In addition to clean, crisp air, remarkable views, fantastic shops, excellent skiing, generous quantities of hiking and biking trails and an abundance of exciting ‘adventure’ activities, the town has historical significance. It’s ‘Grand Imperial Hotel’, sitting squarely in the middle of town, creates the setting for this one-time wild and woolly western frontier town whose streets are worthy for the filming of any Hollywood western.
The ‘Classic’ Inn of Silverton
This ‘Wild West’ Town comes equipped with a ‘Wild West’ hotel: The Grand Imperial Hotel has been remodeled and restored and looks just like it must have looked over one-hundred and thirty years ago. Of course there are modern conveniences today, and you don’t have to wear your ‘six-gun’ to walk the streets, but your stay here will definitely transport you to an earlier time in our nation’s history.
Grand Imperial Hotel
Activities and Tours in the Silverton Area
In the wintertime everyone thinks ‘skiing’ in Silverton….and when we say ‘everyone’ we mean just that. Silverton has the perfect mountain slopes for beginners and families but is also the home to another ski mountain that has the very highest and the steepest runs of any place in Colorado. To have ski slopes just perfect for beginners and at the same time have challenging runs that ‘take no prisoners’ is truly unique. But activities extend well beyond just skiing because there are plenty of other outdoor adventures. These will include snowmobiling, hiking, biking, 4 wheeling, fly fishing, backcountry skiing, the train-ride to Durango, Gold Mine tours, ATV’s and more.
Silverton – In the Heart of the Rockies
Set (9,318-ft.) in a high mountain valley, Silverton is a well-preserved mining town surrounded by 13,000-ft. peaks. Built mainly between 1882 and 1910, the town is a national historic landmark. Surrounded by BLM land, towering peaks and three national forests, the town’s location couldn’t be better for visitors looking for natural beauty and outdoor adventure. The adventure starts while heading for the town from Ouray on the 24 miles of highway dubbed the “Million Dollar Highway”. This famous, incredible, scenic, narrow, winding, sometimes treacherous road lies between two high passes on Hwy. 550, passing mining town ruins on its way to cross Red Mountain Pass (11,018-ft.). The route from Durango to Silverton is equally spectacular, crossing Coal Bank (10,640-ft.) and Molas (10,970-ft.) passes along the way. An alternate route, during the summer and early fall, several times a day the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (D&SNG) makes the 45-mile run between Durango and Silverton.
Arriving in Silverton, the main street, Greene Street, tells part of the story of the town’s heyday in the 1880s when lots of gold and silver were being extracted from nearby mines. To the east of the main drag, Blair Street and adjacent side streets tell the story of many saloons, dance halls, and brothels that were constructed in Silverton together with lavish hotels and ornate homes. Gift shops, cafes, snack shops and restaurants in restored structures replaced the town’s “red light” commerce as Silverton became a mecca for tourists and sightseers driving the San Juan Skyway. The history of Silverton from the early 1880s to today is exemplified by the Grand Imperial Hotel. Originally the Thomson Block, built by perfume importer and mill owner W. S. Thomson in 1882-83, this enormous granite structure was recently restored to its former elegance by American Heritage Railway Hotels.
Anyone with an interest in the area’s gold mining history should visit the San Juan County Historical Society’s Mining Heritage Center in town and experience at least one of the fascinating gold mining tours near Silverton.The Old Hundred Gold Mine is located just minutes outside of Silverton. A 1-hour guided mine tour takes visitors into the center of the 13,000-foot-tall Galena Mountain to experience the hidden world of gold miners. Visitors ride in a vintage electric-powered mine train in a miners’ “man-trip” car originally used at the Camp Bird Gold Mine. Passing through solid volcanic rock tunnels filled with colorful crystals and minerals, visitors can watch demonstrations of mining equipment. If that is not enough for mining history buffs, located just 2 miles northeast of Silverton the Mayflower Gold Mill is one of the last remaining precious metal mills not in total disrepair. A National Historic Landmark, this beautifully preserved metal mill provides a very authentic look inside the area’s rich mining history and the entire gamut of mining operations, from extracting silver, gold, and base metals from hard rock ores to how silver and gold were processed after the ore was removed from the mine.
Animus Forks, a ghost town 15 miles northeast of Silverton, still contains a large number of buildings and mining structures from the 1820s to the 1920s. (A dirt road leads to the site that doesn’t require but definitely favors high clearance vehicles.) Animus Forks also has the distinction of being the beginning of the Alpine Loop, a National Backcountry Byway. The 65-mile 4WD route climbs over Cinnamon Pass and drops down to Lake City on Hwy 149. The return route to Animus Forks heads over Engineer Pass. The entire route, that passes historic ghost towns and mining sites, winds through beautiful mountain landscapes with panoramic vistas.
Silverton offers visitors and hiking enthusiasts many great day hikes. The scenery of the Ice Lake hike garners the most accolades. Wildflowers fill the Lower Ice Lake basin that leads to waterfalls tumbling down from alpine lakes. The gorgeous blue waters of Ice Lake in the upper basin are surrounded by a cirque of sculpted ridges and peaks. So many visitors to Silverton know about and explore this alpine wonderland that concerned folks in Silverton set up a tiny house at the trailhead to coach visitors about protecting the magical attractions of Ice Lake. Several other lakes near Silverton also have become popular hiking destinations: Columbine Lake, Highland Mary Lakes, Bullion King Lake, Porphyry, Blue Lake, and Mud Lake.
A ski experience at the Silverton Mountain ski area is unlike anything skiers have experienced anywhere else in Colorado. Groomed runs and cut trails are non-existent. Just a single chairlift supports skiers. With plenty of awesome powder (average 400” a year) and the terrain only partially lift accessed, the Silverton Mountain ski experience has become a legend for expert/advanced (and daring) skiers. It is full of thrills and spills. One of the only places to heli-ski in Colorado, it is definitely the place to be for adventuresome skiers.
Articles Relating to the ‘Town of Silverton
The road did not cost more than a million dollars to build, but it did cost a huge sum for its time. It may contain some waste from early gold mills and silver mines, but nowhere near a million dollars worth. There’s also some mystery and dispute about the length of the Million Dollar Highway.
As new mining claims were discovered in the 1870s and the population of the San Juans mushroomed, so did the need for an economical, year-round transportation system. Most of the ore from mines discovered was not yet shipped out by the mid-1870s.
Heading south on Hwy 550 from Ridgway to Ouray, the panorama is full of summits and jagged ridges of the Uncompahgre Wilderness. The very pretty Victorian mountain town of Ouray, tucked beneath a dramatic granite amphitheater…