Travel: Tour Colorado's Gold Mines

July 18 2012, 9:00 AM

Before we were famous for ski resorts and microbrews, mining was Colorado's claim to fame. In fact, it's what originally brought most European settlers to the area. And it wasn't just prospectors who headed west in search of quick riches. Thousands of savvy businesspeople came with them to peddle everything from shoe shine to moonshine.

When the rush ended, many mining communities vanished, but here are three that still thrive. So strap on your hard hats and grab a pickaxe; it is time to relive mining's glory days.

1. Mollie Kathleen Mine, Cripple Creek: Descend 1,000 feet into the earth to experience life as an 1860's miner. See mining machines in action, ride the air-powered tram, push a one-ton ore cart, and view an impressive underground mineral display.

2. Country Boy Mine, Breckenridge: Knowledgeable guides explain the history of the mine, run drills, and tell old mining stories. Kids will love the 55-foot ore chute slide and miniature burros named Goldilocks and Canary. 

3. Argo Gold Mine and Mill, Idaho Springs: Ater a short geology lesson and film about the Gold Rush, guests embark on a self-guided tour into the mountainside. The Argo is one of only two gold mills in the United States still open to visitors.

All tours last about an hour and guests are encouraged to stay and pan for gold afterward. Happy hunting. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow Davina van Buren on Twitter at @DvB_Travel