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The Gold Belt Tour is a Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway as well as a National Scenic Byway. This 131-mile-long byway traverses 2 counties and 5 communities in southern Colorado, located just one hour from Colorado Springs or Pueblo and two hours from Denver.

 

The Gold Belt Tour retraces the historic travel routes connecting Cripple Creek and the Victor Mining District, site of the world’s largest gold rush in 1893. Each of the roads that make up this byway offer distinct experiences, ranging from rolling mountain parklands to deep rocky canyons and unique communities full of character and history, along with convenient services including a variety of restaurants, lodging, and shops.

 

Phantom Canyon Road (State Rd-67) is one of the most scenic and historic drives in the entire state of Colorado! The route increases in elevation from 5,500 to 9,500 feet and offers the chance to see a wide range of plants and wildlife in their natural setting. The gravel road follows the route of the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad built in 1894 as a connection from Florence to the goldfields of Cripple Creek and Victor. The unique bridges and tunnels offer a visual link to the area’s historic past. The road condition and narrow bridges encourage people to slow down and view the scenery. Twelve stations were established along the F&CC Railroad grade to service the trains hauling coal and supplies upgrade and gold ore downgrade to Florence’s smelters. As you drive the route, interpretive displays and signs designate the historic sites along the Gold Belt Line.

 

Shelf Road, which runs down the center of the byway between Cañon Creek and Cripple Creek, transformed an untraveled wilderness into a major route for the stagecoaches and freight wagons traveling between the Arkansas Valley and the Cripple Creek Gold Mining District. The rugged route’s name is ‘THE SHELF’, a five-mile stretch of road that hugs the sheer rock walls of above Fourmile Creek. Two notable stops along Shelf Road include Red Canyon Park where visitors can view unusual eroded red rock formations with spires up to 100 feet high and Window Rock, a landmark eroded by wind and water made up of 1.7-billion-year-old granodiorite. The stream paralleling this portion of the Shelf Road is Cripple Creek; watch for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in this area.

Another interesting site along Shelf Road is the Garden Park Fossil Area. Massive bones were discovered there in 1876, and subsequent excavations discovered more dinosaur bones including Diplodocus, Stegosaurus, and Allosaurus. Specimens from this area are on display at the Smithsonian, Denver Museum of Natural History and other museums across the nation and around the world.

High Park Road and Colorado Highway 9 were originally trails that connected the ranches and farms of the mountain parklands west of Cripple Creek to Cañon City. The Currant Creek Trail followed the route of present-day Colorado Highway 9. Well-traveled by American Indians moving between the Arkansas River and South Park, this trail became an important route for the mountain men, explorers and eventually, people and freight headed for the mining camps of Leadville and South Park. Look north for a postcard view of two of the region’s most famous peaks. The cone shape of Mount Pisgah gives a clue to its volcanic origin. Pikes Peak, one of Colorado’s famous “fourteeners” rises in the background to an elevation of 14,110 ft.

 

Visitors can travel these same routes today and enjoy the fabulous history and numerous historic sites along the way. Travel through old railroad tunnels and over original railroad bridges. Raft down the Arkansas River, walk the trails of the old mining sites, visit museums in every community while enjoying the scenic beauty that the Gold Belt Tour Scenic and Historic Byway is known for.

 

Content and photos courtesy of https://www.goldbeltbyway.com/