If you’re a Colorado resident, chances are you’ve been there—stuck in bumper to bumper traffic heading east on the I-70 corridor—angrily staring at the “Free Tibet” sticker on the back of the Subaru in front of you. The drive back to the Front Range of Colorado after an epic powder day in the high county is not for the faint of heart. Nothing kills that post-ride high quite like spending hours inching your way home. But instead of wasting time stuck in spirit-breaking traffic, ditch the highway and explore the charming historic towns that fall along the route home.
Clear Creek County is home to some pretty adorable mountain communities like Idaho Springs, Georgetown, Silver Plume, and a handful of other smaller towns seeped in rich history with a preserved charm, all melted together with the convenience of modern day attractions. The vast stretch of mountainous land serves as the welcoming wagon and the farewell brigade for travelers venturing west into Colorado’s playground of a high country. It’s home to the Loveland Ski Area, which serves as a popular winter destination for snow sports seekers. The food and beverage scene in the county has spawned restaurants and breweries that have garnered recognition throughout the state of Colorado and across state lines. The county is also home to well-preserved and celebrated icons of the Centennial State’s early mining days. With the addition of a few quaint lodges and hotels, exploring Clear Creek County beats sitting in gridlock traffic any day.
In the summer, outdoor adventurers flock to Clear Creek County to climb one of the area’s four fourteeners. But in the winter, visitors don’t have to travel too far from one of the county’s towns to explore the area.
Cross County Skiing or Snowshoeing on Leavenworth/Pavillion Point Trail (Silver Plume): Just outside of Silver Plume is a gem of a trail that cross country skiers and snowshoers enjoy every winter. The trail starts a half a mile from the railroad yard in Silver Plume and runs along connects with Waldorf Road. Take Exit 226 south under the interstate and make a left to arrive at the parking area.
Tour the Argo Mine & Mill (Idaho Springs): Get a first hand look at the mining roots that founded Idaho Springs and spread far and wide throughout the state. The mine, that serves as more than just a backdrop for the small town is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the last tour running at 3:30 p.m. Admission for adults is $16, $8 for children and includes a guided tour of the mine plus instructions and demonstration for panning for gold.
Indian Hot Springs (Idaho Springs): The Indian Hot Springs date back to 1863 and feature a mineral water swimming pool under a translucent dome complete with tropical plants and palm trees that create a relaxing environment perfect for resting your muscles in after a day of exploring.
Hotel Chateau Chamonix (Georgetown): This two-story bed & breakfast built in the style of a Swiss Chalet has ten private rooms that offer the charm of a historic inn paired with the modern day amenities expected from lodging providers these days. The Hotel Chateau Chamonix is located just short walk from downtown Georgetown and guests receive a welcome glass of wine upon arrival. Nightly rates start at $155.
Miner’s Pick Bed & Breakfast (Idaho Springs): Located in the heart of Idaho Springs, the Miner’s Pick B&B was built in 1895 and initially served as a home. Today, the B&B offers a quiet place to lay your head. Only three rooms are offered. The B&B is currently offering a package deal that includes a one night stay plus two adult ski passes to Loveland Ski Resort for $89.
The Historic Windsor Bed & Breakfast (Silver Plume): Step back in time in Silver Plume for a stay at a historic hotel with only a few rooms, but a lot of loyal and returning guests. A reservation at the Historic Windsor B&B also includes free WiFi and a free continental breakfast. Rates being at $60 per night.
Beau Jo’s (Idaho Springs): Beau Jo’s Colorado Style Pizza originally opened in downtown Idaho Springs in 1973 and has since expanded to several additional locations in the cities of Boulder, Fort Collins, Denver, Arvada and Evergreen. The pizzas are hearty, and the menu includes a handful of healthy items as well as a giant cheesecake cookie skillet that the whole crew will likely devour after a day on the mountain.
Tommy Knocker Brewery (Idaho Springs): Twenty years ago Tommy Knocker Brewery brought craft beer to Clear Creek County and has since accumulated an impressive collection of medals from some of the most prestigious craft beer competitions around. Aside from a well-stocked draft line-up and non-alcoholic craft sodas, the pub at Tommy Knocker serves huge portions of a wide variety of pub fare.
A Whistle Stop Cafe (Georgetown): Breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day—and a lot of shredders fuel up at A Whistle Stop Cafe before hitting the slopes. Open seven days a week, A Whistle Stop Cafe’s breakfast menu is full of the best of the best of cafe breakfast dishes, all ringing up at under $10 per plate. The cafe also serves a lunch menu stacked with sandwiches, burgers, wraps, and other entrees.