To see why Leadville is the most historically rich mountain town in Colorado, bike, walk, ski or snowshoe on the free Mineral Belt Trail high above the historic mining town. You will be rewarded with stunning views of two 14-thousand-foot peaks in the Swatch and Mosquito mountain ranges, a diversity of forests, and interesting facts about Colorado history as you navigate the trail that reaches an altitude of 10,643 feet. The path is paved and well maintained. You don't need a mountain bike.

Leadville's story

Leadville rose to prominence in 1860 when the ’59 Gold Rush brought thousands of prospectors to the town high in the Rocky Mountains where gold was discovered. In its glory days, Leadville’s population swelled to more than 30,000 residents, and the town had plenty of saloons, gambling houses and dance halls—even an opera house—to keep the miners happy. Among its most notable citizens are Horace, Augusta and Baby Doe Tabor whose rags-to-riches-to-rags story is told in the opera The Ballad of Baby Doe and the “unsinkable” Margaret (Molly) Brown of Titanic fame.

Today, the town looks much the same as when it was the second largest city in Colorado.

History on the trail

Going clockwise, the first six miles Travel through “The Route of the Silver Kings,” mine tailings of where the world’s richest motherload of ore was discovered. Text and drawings on historical markers on the side of the trail tell the fascinating story of the boom (California Gulch) and bust (Poverty Flats) days and the men and women who braved harsh conditions in their quest for gold and silver.

The famous Matchless Mine, where Baby Doe Tabor kept watch for 35 years until her frozen body was found in her cabin, is one of the sites. Old mining machinery, structures and cabins dot the landscape all the way to town.

Getting on the trail

Several points in town intersect the trail. Head east for a steady, fairly easy climb to the highest point. At about mile marker 5, the trail begins to descend for a fun and exhilarating ride to town.

If you go counterclockwise, the push to the high point is harder. You can explore the ruins closer on a few dirt roads that intersect with the paved path. The trail is groomed in winter for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

High altitude precautions

With 95 percent of the trail higher than 10,000 feet, exercise takes more effort, so be sure to pace yourself and drink lots of water. Smear on sunscreen and carry a cellphone.

Bike rentals in town

Cycles of Life is the only bike shop in Leadville. You can rent a 21-speed and helmet for $25 per day for adults and kids. They have maps, information about other trails and portable oxygen if you need it.

Don't miss our page on Facebook!