Historic mining towns are scattered all over Colorado; some are easily accessible and only a short drive from Denver, but others take a few hours of driving. Ouray and Silverton are located in southwestern Colorado, tucked in the San Juan mountains. These towns were built during the mining boom in the 1800’s, which put Colorado on the map. Some mining towns became "ghost towns", but Ouray and Silverton are not among those forgotten towns. This area is a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts – hiking, climbing, biking, fishing, Jeeping and ATVs. A favorite starting point for anyone seeking nature.
Silverton is a designated National Historic Landmark District. The town is a former silver mining camp, and one of the highest towns in Colorado. As you approach the town, stop at the Christ of the Mines Shrine located on the slopes of Anvil Mountain.
The shrine, with a 16-foot-tall statue of Jesus Christ, is a symbol of miracles among the locals. It was created during a depressing time in the 1950's when the mining industry came to a halt. According to the locals, miracles have happened in town after the shrine was erected. Soon after, the most profitable mining period in Silverton happened.
The town looks like a movie set, but actually it is not. These buildings here are authentic and just well-preserved. That is probably due to the towns isolation where, during wintertime, it was cut off for days from the outside world. It was once a thriving mining town with mills, smelters, saloons and brothels of course, as well as a jail, courthouse, miner’s cabins and Victorian houses.
The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway
The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway has its northern stop here. We were there in time when it unloaded the tourists. Though the railroad serves tourist today, it began in 1887 to serve the mines of the Red Mountain Mining District. Otto Mears, the “Pathfinder of the San Juans“ who was also behind the original construction of the Million Dollar Highway, developed a railroad to tap the riches of the mines of northern San Juan County, south of Red Mountain Pass.
So, my husband, Hermann, is a train enthusiast. In fact, he's got a collection of model trains that he plays once in a while. So, it was a thrill for him, and for me, to be able to investigate this train at leisure. We once rode the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad and that was fun; we would love to ride this train as well. The train provides year round service so even in winter you can take a ride.
If you don't want to drive from Durango to Silverton, then taking the train is a great alternative for you. One option is to take the train from Durango to Silverton, and then take a bus back. But the stretch from Silverton to Ouray is only possible via the Million Dollar Highway (Check this link Ouray to Silverton).
WHERE TO EAT?
Exploring the town will get you craving for some chow. There are good restaurants in Silverton. We had a great lunch in one of them, at the Shady Lady Restaurant, an old brothel that was closed in 1947. Do I have to say more? Just look at the pictures. If that does not make you salivate then....
If you are looking for jewelry, I found the stores here have reasonable prices. Just saying. At least when we went there.
PREVIOUS... OURAY TO SILVERTON
A MAP TO GUIDE YOU
Christ of the Mines Shrine
The Wyman Hotel
Grand Imperial Hotel
Silverton Train Station
Old Town Square
Silverton Visitor Center
Shady Lady on Blare