SubscribeAvailable Now
North Clear Creek Falls is one of the most photographed waterfalls in the state and a must-see for those driving along the Silver Thread Scenic Byway. Photo by Katie Hearsum

First-Timer’s Guide: Creede

This remote town might seem like just a blip on the map, but Creede is at the epicenter of some of Colorado’s most spectacular outdoor recreation and scenery.

|

Located in the heart of Mineral County—comprising 900 square miles of rugged Western landscape, 95 percent of which is public land—Creede is an oft-overlooked hub of outdoor adventure, small-town charm, and geological interest. Founded as a silver-mining town in the late 1800s, Creede now serves as the jumping-off point to some of Colorado’s most popular backcountry regions: the Weminuche and La Garita Wilderness Areas, and the San Juan and Rio Grande National Forests, known for harboring some of the state’s finest fishing streams, backcountry trails, and towering mountain peaks. In addition to providing a no-frills basecamp for adventure junkies, Creede celebrates its mining heritage with a variety of hands-on educational attractions, providing more than enough entertainment for those in search of an interesting place to travel for a fun weekend getaway or a weeklong Western road trip.

The Odometer: 255 miles, one-way

Advertisement

History & Culture

A visit to Creede isn’t complete without exploring its rich mining history. In town, stop by the Creede Historical Society Museum housed in the former Rio Grande Railroad Depot to peruse a collection of photos and artifacts from its heyday. Just north of downtown, the Underground Mining Museum is built into the cliffs featuring a thorough display of mining equipment and history. Venture farther up the canyon to The Last Chance Mine for a free underground tour and to experience a dig first-hand (collectors can take their discoveries home for a fee of $2 per pound). The mine was once one of the biggest producers of silver ore, amethyst, and other minerals like sowbelly agate. More recently, a 300-pound amethyst boulder was recovered by one very lucky “rock hound.” This is also one of just five Colorado mines that is a natural source of turquoise, although it is a rare find. Those who wish to take home something sparkly without getting their hands dirty can purchase gem pieces in the mine’s gift shop instead. The mine is open from Memorial Day through September, weather permitting.

Get Outside 

Creede is primarily a destination for serious fly-fishing anglers who travel here to cast a line into the fertile headwaters that feed the Rio Grande and San Juan rivers. Lacking gear or experience? The Rio Grande Angler & Fly Shop offers lessons for beginners and expert-guided trips. If you prefer to keep your feet on dry land, a multitude of hiking trails can be found throughout the Rio Grande National Forest and La Garita Wilderness Area, including the 14,014-foot San Luis Peak. The Wheeler Geographic Area, home to Colorado’s first national monument, which encompasses unique geological formations, has trails popular with experienced hikers and off-road drivers. For an easy stroll, stretch your legs at North Clear Creek Falls, located along the Silver Thread Scenic Byway.

Eat & Drink

The majority of Creede’s dining and drinking destinations are located on and around Main Street, although some of the area’s ranches have dining options, too. Get your morning caffeine fix and enjoy some people watching from the porch at Coffee on the Fly, an all-in-one coffee, ice cream, and fly shop. Dominating a corner location on Main, Kip’s Grille was born in a caboose on the side of the road in Del Norte and maintains its southwestern roots with dishes laced with spicy green chiles and fresh-squeezed margaritas by the pitcher. A spacious patio, game room, and live music schedule make Kip’s a favorite of both locals and visitors alike. The local watering hole, Tommyknocker Tavern, named after the mythical mine gnomes as a tribute to local mine workers (and with no relation to Tommyknocker Brewery), is housed in a historic brick building in partnership with the BBQ Bistro, offering ample outdoor seating and a daily schedule of live music and entertainment.

Creede’s Main Street is a hub for those gearing up for adventurous pursuits, and a thoroughfare for those heading into the canyon for a history lesson about mining and geology. Photo by Katie Hearsum

Shop

The jagged rock cliffs of Willow Creek Canyon create a dramatic background for the historic storefronts lining Creede’s Main Street, many of which are still intact from the late 1800s. Here, a collection of locally owned boutiques showcasing items like housewares, artwork, and mountain-style clothing are found alongside bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and ice cream parlors. Find quirky souvenirs at Mines & Memories General Store, an eclectic funhouse full of interesting knick-knacks—from locally sourced gems and books to rustic mining equipment and artwork. In the summer, a farmer’s market displays local produce and artisan products in a parking lot next to San Juan Sports, a sporting goods shop that rents outdoor gear from full backpacking setups to equipment like paddleboards and mountain bikes.

Stay

A stay at one of the area’s guest ranches ensures direct access to private land for one-of-a-kind adventures. Owned and operated by the same family who homesteaded here in the 1800s, Soward Ranch offers 10 cabins on 1,200 acres of private land featuring five stocked trout lakes and miles of Rio Grande tributary streams, access to which is reserved for ranch guests only. The cabins are basic yet fully equipped with kitchen supplies and bedding, and can sleep up to 10 people. Alternatively, the 4UR Ranch is one of Colorado’s most luxurious all-inclusive dude ranches offering five-star amenities like horseback riding, guided fishing expeditions, and on-site gourmet dining. Prefer to stay in town? The Creede Hotel has been in operation at its original Main Street location since 1892, offering four quaint guest rooms and a full-service bar and restaurant known for its hearty breakfast (included with accommodation) and fresh steaks and seafood.

Advertisement

If You Do One Thing…

Experience the vast, remote landscape surrounding Creede by driving a portion of the Silver Thread Scenic Byway. This 117-mile road trip showcases some of the state’s most spectacular views (especially when the fall colors come alive) and natural attractions, including North Clear Creek Falls, a favorite of photographers.

5280 Longreads

Newsletter Signup

Keep me up to date on the latest trends and happenings around Denver. 5280 has a newsletter for everyone. Sign Up