Cripple Creek is a small town in Colorado. It is a town steeped in gold mining history, still very much in evidence from the old mine ruins dotted about everywhere. In fact, it promotes itself as "the world's greatest gold camp". In addition, the town is now a major casino destination, as 57% of the residents of Colorado voted to permit this town to have casinos ("controlled gambling") in order to breathe back life into it after it declined in tourism value from the 80s. Today it is a bustling, lively and exciting town that begs exploration of its turn-of-the-20th-century buildings which have been immaculately maintained and makes for brilliant photo opportunities. Watch out though - burros (wild donkeys) roam the streets at large, with the blessing of the townsfolk (except, of course, when the burros are munching up a local garden).
A good time to visit is summer, as the weather is going to be lovely but also expect a high ratio of tourists. The town, however, offers plenty to see and do at any time of year.
The best way to reach Cripple Creek is via your own car or motorcycle. There are, however, bus alternatives. The drive from Colorado Springs to Woodland Park and then on through to Cripple Creek is windy but probably offers the easiest entry point. It is bitumen all the way.
Parking can be a bit of an issue, as many areas are 20 minutes or 2 hours only. Casino car parking is strictly regulated and fines and tow-aways occur for illegitimate parking. Look for one of the public parking lots or move your car around. However, the town is so small, that as long as you find a good park, walking is not going to be a major issue and is the best way to get around.
- Late nineteenth century buildings which have been carefully maintained. In spite of the casino glitziness, the old world charm still manages to shine through and enthrall.
- Pikes Peak Heritage Center at Cripple Creek, Hwy 67 across from the Mollie Kathleen Mine, ☏ . 9PM-5PM. Free.
- 1 Cripple Creek District Museum, ☏ .
You could easily spend an activity-packed weekend at Cripple Creek and still wish for more time to do the activities.
- 1 Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad, 520 E Carr Ave, ☏ . Take a ride on the old gold trains. This includes detailed commentary on the gold mines in the region. Adults $15, Seniors (65+) $14, Children (3-12) $10.
- District Museums - there are three museums to visit.
- Casinos - these are situated down Bennett Street.
- Take a walk down the old time main street, Bennett Avenue.
- Take photos of the renewed late 19th century signs painted on the sides of buildings.
- 2 Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine, ☏ . A must for mining and history buffs, tour and gold sample
- Butte Opera House. Attend a feature.
- Look for the donkeys roaming the streets at large.
- Visit Victor, which is nearby and not the slightest bit commercialized - it looks as a mining town would have done 100 years ago. It retains old world charm and has some great antique shops, a broom making workshop (the old-fashioned way) and old-fashioned yarn-making. There is also a small amount of accommodation available here.
- Burro or train souvenirs
- Good reference books on gold, the Wild West and high altitude cooking.
There are many places to eat standard fare. There are approximately 12 fine dining restaurants.
There are many bars in the casinos, or you can visit hometown cafés.
Options include staying in the casino lodgings where relevant, in bed and breakfasts and in hotels.
- The Lost Burro. There is a superb camping ground nestled in a snug little valley about 4 miles west of the town called The Lost Burro. It is privately run and is in excellent condition, with RV space at one end and large campsites at the other end. Those staying in tents will not even be aware of RV users. The camping property is extremely large and the views are fantastic.
- Cripple Creek KOA, 2576 County Road 81, ☏ (info), toll-free: (reservations). Check-in: 2PM, check-out: Noon.
- If you are adventurous, take Highway 67 south from Cripple Creek through Victor and down to Highway 50, where you can turn east toward Pueblo or west toward Cañon City. Victor remains an authentic old gold mining town with many historic structures. The road through Phantom Canyon is an old railroad route that requires dirt road skills and at points the road is only wide enough for a single car, so be aware of others coming the other way, but this drive is not to be missed. It encompasses the top of the mountain and the base of canyons and has varied vegetation, including cacti. The rock formations have to be seen to be believed and there are two fabulous rock tunnels that were originally blasted out for the railway that created this road initially.