Travel essay: Leadville’s luster |

Travel essay: Leadville’s luster

Jon Sheppard
Avon CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily/Jon Sheppard

I love to travel, take pictures and do photo safari trips around Colorado, the west and the world. A most fascinating place to visit is Leadville and the Arkansas River Valley.

While only about 40 miles southeast of Vail, Leadville is a most interesting historic mining town. At 10,152 feet in elevation it is the highest incorporated city in North America. This is where the unsinkable Molly Brown, a famous survivor of the sinking of the Titanic, came into great wealth. In the 1960s there was a very popular song out titled, “Ballad of the Green Berets.” It was sung by Leadville native Barry Sadler.

In the summer months, you can carefully drive up into the old abandoned mine area and photograph what is left of these neat old buildings. I do caution you against going inside, as no one knows just how safe they are. Over the years I have seen several buildings that were once upright wind up flat on the ground.

During the winter you can rent snowmobiles and zoom around Turquoise Lake. That is, you can ride around the lake on the snow-covered roads, not on the lake itself. Snowshoeing and cross country skiing are other options around the area.

For photography the views down through the Arkansas valley are just wonderful. There is a road right out of town that remains plowed and provides views across the valley right into Mount Elbert. At 14,433-feet, it is the highest mountain in the state. The street is called Toledo Street. Ask locals for exact directions.

On down the Arkansas River Valley you will come to Twin Lakes, so named because they connect by a very narrow channel. Above there, Highway 82 leads to other beautiful vistas and deep canyons carved out by the uniquely beautiful Lake Creek. This road also goes over 12,095 feet, crossing through Independence Pass and on to Aspen and Glenwood Springs. The pass is closed in the winter and usually opens Memorial Day weekend.

Travel on down valley on Highway 24 and you will find 14 mountains over 14,000 feet high. Some are hidden from the highway, but they are there. As you round a curve in the road and come up over a small hill, the valley suddenly opens up and the view is just wonderful. Just beyond is Buena Vista. A most unique quiet little town with lots of charm. During the summer it’s a Mecca for whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River. Now travel just a short ways south and you will see a sign reading: “Mt. Princeton Hot Springs and St. Elmo turn right.” St. Elmo is on the National Register of Historic Places. Visit and see how people lived more than 100 years ago.

Jon Sheppard is an Avon photographer who leads photo safari trips around Colorado, the West and around the world. For more information, visit or call 970-949-9131.

The Vail Daily wants to publish your travel essay. Are you an Eagle County resident who recently jetsetted somewhere? Or maybe you took a road trip. Tell us about your journey in 700 words or less. We also want to hear from tourists about their experiences in the Vail area. Send at least one high resolution photograph. E-mail entries to

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