Texas Creek Recreation Area

Once a wild western cornerstone in the heyday of Colorado high country railroads, today the Texas Creek area is a cornerstone for classic Colorado outdoor recreation along the lower Arkansas River mountain corridor.

Texas Creek Recreation Area is a popular area for offroading, located just a few miles east of Cotopaxi on U.S. Highway 50. The area is named after the unincorporated settlement of Texas Creek, which is centered on the intersection of Fremont County Road 27 into the Bureau of Land Management recreation area, north, and U.S. Highway 50. The area of Texas Creek Recreation Area was historically used by the Ute Native Americans, before European exploration and settlement in the late 19th century.

Texas Creek Recreation Area is basically a network of offroad trails, some accessible only by ATVs, some accessible by both ATVs and high-clearance vehicles. See the BLM map:

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Texas Creek: A Tale of the Wild West

Plot twist: it’s not actually a “tale” because it actually happened. The Texas Creek area was relatively untouched by European explorers until the 1800s, and in 1880 the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad built a station at what’s now known as the small community of Texas Creek. The first settlement was known as “Ford”, which was not much more than a stagecoach stop for the railroad. There was also a small store, saloon, and boarding house. Ranchers who settled in the area raised cattle, and a small schoolhouse was opened for children living in the area. To this day, ranchers still maintain herds of cattle in the Texas Creek area.

Texas Creek got its name from two cattlemen who were traveling through the area destined for Leadville, bringing a herd of longhorn Texas steers to sell for meat. They camped in the area next to a creek, and in the night the cattle were startled by a mountain lion, scattered, some never to be retrieved. After this ordeal, they named the creek Texas Creek.

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Vicksburg, Colorado

Once a thriving mining settlement, the ghost town of Vicksburg is a testament to the industries that built the west.

A Hidden Ghost Town Off the Beaten Path

Vicksburg is off the beaten path. There aren’t any fancy signs pointing travelers in the direction of the once 700-resident strong mining settlement. At its peak, there were some 40 buildings, including a post office, school, blacksmith, a general store, two hotels, two billiard halls, an assay office, a livery stable, and a handful of saloons. There was a daily stagecoach transporting people to and from Granite and beyond. In current times, Vicksburg is effectively a ghost town, even through there are several cabins which remain seasonally occupied by residents who are descendants of some of the original settlers.

Vicksburg is on the National Register of Historic Sites. A small museum facility is maintained by the Clear Creek Canyon Historical Society, with a couple preserved buildings and old equipment which was used in the heyday of the small settlement. The museum is only staffed by volunteers in the warm months, but as early as April, it was accessible.

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A welcome sign informing visitors about the site and that some of the cabins are still privately owned and occupied.

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Twin Lakes, Colorado

Just south of Leadville, the historic Twin Lakes area offers plenty of camping, hiking, and fishing in the majestic setting of the Colorado Sawatch mountain range.

First County Seat of the 17 Original Counties of Colorado

What is now known as Twin Lakes was once the site of Lake County’s first county seat, Dayton. Lake County was one of Colorado’s original 17 counties, established by the Colorado Legislature in 1861. Twin Lakes has been a tourist attraction since as early as the 1870s, when it became an important stop along the route to the gold and silver mines of Aspen. The Interlaken Hotel, located on the south side of Twin Lakes, was founded in 1879 and had some of the best amenities available of the time.

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Wide panorama of the Twin Lakes area from the hills just north of Twin Lakes. Far right is the Mount Elbert Forebay reservoir, an excellent reservoir for fishing.

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Aspen Ridge

Aspen Ridge features open meadows, dense forests, and wide views of the Collegiate Peaks. An extensive aspen forest gives this area its name, and is a beautiful area in all seasons.

They call it Aspen Ridge because it’s a ridge that’s covered in aspen trees. Who would’ve guessed? Aspen Ridge is traversed by Forest Road 185, which provides a fun little offroad route from the Fourmile Area/U.S. 285/24 to Salida. Aspen Ridge is passable by stock SUVs in dry conditions, and features open meadows, dense forests, old mines, wide views of the Collegiate Peaks and plenty of dispersed campsites.

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Heading up Aspen Ridge, traveling southbound towards Salida

For a several miles you’re pretty much driving through a forest consisting exclusively of aspen trees. Unfortunately, when we did this trail, it was too late in the fall for the leaves to still be the magnificent yellow/orange/red they become. But it was still a fun trail and certainly a place on the bucket list to return to next September during the peak color season for aspens. It’s a great trail to run right after doing Lenhardy Cutoff or Sevenmile Creek Rd., just to the north in the Fourmile Recreation Area.

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Old Flowers

Sometimes you’re on a backcountry road and wonder, “why does this road even exist?” The industries which built the West are often the reason, and Old Flowers Rd. is no exception.

Today, Old Flowers Road is simply another forest access road, and alternate (offroad) route from Stove Prairie & Rist Canyon to Pingree Park. Old Flowers Road actually consists of two parts, East Old Flowers, between Stove Prairie and Pingree Park, and West Old Flowers, from Pingree to the the trailhead for Flowers Trail, a hiking trail.

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Cripple Creek & Victor, CO

There’s nothing like having a cold one at a saloon which once served the same to miners over 100 years ago. New ownership, new patrons, but one thing is timeless throughout history: booze.

Mining history. Mining history is something which Colorado has plenty of. This visit to Cripple Creek and then Victor was another spur of the moment shindig. Instead of going straight from Salida back to Denver via US 285, we decided to take a slight detour and go via US 50 to Cripple Creek, and then via Rampart Range back to the Denver metro area.

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Mt. of the Holy Cross

The Halo Ridge route is challenging but rewarding. It offers the best views a hike on the Mt. of the Holy Cross can offer.

One of the lowest 14ers in elevation, at 14,011 ft (USGS), Mt. of the Holy Cross is a challenge as well as a spectacle. It is such named due to the cross-shaped snowfield on the northeast face. The first recorded ascent of the mountain was in 1873, but it is very likely to have been previously ascended by Native Americans or mining prospectors. Holy Cross is the highest peak in the northern Sawatch Range.

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Mt. of the Holy Cross (rightmost peak), viewed from Notch Mountain. The snow which forms the cross is clearly visible.

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St. Elmo

Today, Hancock pass and sister passes nearby are still passable to Gunnison by offroad vehicles, hiking, or biking.

This was a winter time snowshoeing trip, in which we followed the old road towards Hancock pass.

The St. Elmo general store is closed in winter

St. Elmo has a ton of history, in fact that is its main attraction today. It was originally a mining town and a stop for the Denver, South Park, and Pacific railway. At its peak in the late 1890’s, there were five hotels, several saloons and dance halls, a telegraph office, post office, general store, a school, and a local newspaper.

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Deadman Fire Tower

On a clear day, you can see Laramie Peak some 102 miles to the north, and traffic along Interstate 80 in Wyoming.

Deadman fire lookout tower is one of the few remaining fire towers in Colorado. It sits approximately 15 miles west of Red Feather Lakes along Deadman Road (County Road 86) at an elevation of 10,700ft. The original tower was a wooden structure constructed in 1939 by the Civilian Conservation Corps based in Red Feather Lakes. It was replaced with a modern steel tower in 1961. The site of the original wooden tower is still evident, with its concrete anchors located just north of the current tower. The current tower stands at 55ft tall, the original tower was 40ft tall.

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Visible in this picture is one of the concrete feet from the original tower. Current tower in background.
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Laramie, Hahn’s Peak & Pacific Railroad

For many years, the 111-mile railroad transported coal, lumber, and livestock to Laramie.

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The original route of the L, HP & P.

The Laramie, Hahn’s Peak and Pacific Railroad operated from 1911 until 1996. Construction began in 1901 from Laramie west to Centennial, Wyoming, and then south to Walden and Coalmont, Colorado. Isaac Van Horn was the man behind the L, HP & P, and made the money to fund the construction of the railroad as a grocer in Nebraska. According to records from the Securities and Exchange Commission Reports, Vol. 116, p.352 (1921), Van Horn received $2,750,000 in stock from the railroad. The original premise behind the construction of the railroad was to serve the Acme Mine, owned by the Acme Gold & Copper Mining Co. The Acme Gold & Copper Mining Company had an interlocking board of directors with the L, HP & P and the Northern Colorado Coal Company, and this served extremely influential in materializing the railroad. All three companies were incorporated under Wyoming law with main offices in Laramie, WY.

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