Located in Teller County, Colorado, the city of Cripple Creek was once known as the largest gold digger’s camp in the world. Cripple Creek is home today to almost 1,200 but in the days of the last big gold rush in Colorado, in the 1890s, the town and the neighboring settlement of Victor hosted almost 50,000 adventurers.
Nestled in the shadow of the iconic Pikes Peak, Cripple Creek was a place where the gold diggers made and broke their fortunes. It’s estimated that in the heyday of the gold rush, five hundred million dollars’ worth of gold was extracted from Cripple Creek. The famous Independence Lode, one of the richest gold veins in history, was also discovered nearby.
As the gold ore became scarcer, the adventurers began to move away one by one. By the late ‘60s, Cripple Creek was close to becoming a ghost town, although it was never fully abandoned. The tide of fate turned once more in 1991, when a special law allowed Cripple Creek to host casinos and other gambling establishments. Soon, another breed of gold diggers flocked to the quiet mountain town, this time to look for their fortune at the poker tables or slot machines.
Cripple Creek managed to avoid the fate of so many other miner towns in Colorado and throughout the West. Today, it’s a vibrant place again, with dozens of casinos, hotels, inns, bars and restaurants. People from all over Colorado come to Cripple Creek to play a few hands, to enjoy the strong air of the Rockies or just to relax and watch the beautiful rolling crests of the nearby Pikes Peak.
The Butte Opera House is a special attraction for theater and musical fans, who come to see the yearlong repertoire of the Thin Air Theater Company. The Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Roadway starts in Cripple Creek and passes through the charming surroundings of Pikes Peak, including several ghost towns and abandoned mines. For those who want to relive the bygone times of the gold rush, the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine is available for visiting, and the guide is a real gold miner, who know everything about the region’s history. In fact, Cripple Creek is one of the few places in Colorado where gold is still mined.
Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty of scenic trails to follow in the area of Cripple Creek. For the less adventurous, several museums dedicated to the Western heritage of the area are open year round, such as the Old Homestead Museum or the Jail Museum.
Cripple Creek is a great destination for anybody who is passionate about the old gold rushes, but also for the modern gold rushers who can make fortunes in the town’s many casinos.