Now that the school year is starting back up, I am starting to think about family trips we can take close to home. This means mostly staying in Colorado, but still getting to explore areas of our state we haven’t had a chance to learn about yet. I would love to share some of the sites I’m considering with you, in hopes that you might want to learn more about Colorado’s history as well! These are some of the historic tours in Colorado I have been putting together.
Historic Tours in Colorado
Colorado’s Early Years
Did you know Colorado didn’t become a state in the US until 1876? Before that, it was owned by Mexico, and Native American Tribes even before that! There is so much history to be found, especially in the SouthWest corner of the state. If you’re planning a trip, try to fit in some of these sites; Mesa Verde National Park could be a multi-day trip by itself. The Ancestral Pueblo (or Anasazi) people who lived there created their homes in the protected caves, and many of those homes are still standing today. The “Cliff Dwellings” can be toured with a group guided by a park ranger. “Cliff Palace” and “Balcony House” are two of the most stunning examples of Pueblo life, while “Spruce Tree House” is closed due to safety concerns, and only viewable from the museum overlooks.
Hovenweep National Monument is another example of work that is still standing after centuries – mostly from 1200 to 1300 AD. The hiking trails in this monument are designed specifically around the ruins, and offer spectacular views of other rock formations.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument offers not only the “highest known archeological site density in the United States”, but also boasts a museum and visitor center to help you plan your trip through all the sites! Be sure to take a map with you, or you might miss an excavated hunting shelter or camp site. As always, stick to well-worn trails to avoid damaging fragile ancient artifacts. On your way out of the area, make sure to stop by the Lowry Ruins National Historic Landmark. It is one of the most significant finds of the last century, and was excavated in 1931.
Outdoor Adventures Begin
One of the first groups of Europeans to move into the territory now called Colorado were trappers and traders. As travelers moved in, forts were built around the state to house people and goods. The same thing then happened again in the Colorado (Pikes Peak) Gold Rush in the mid-1800s. Lucky for us, some of those buildings are still around today!
Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site is probably one of the oldest and best preserved trading forts in Colorado. With a hiking trail, an adobe structure and many opportunities to explore the land around the fort, there are many ways to stay busy and learning!
Rock Ledge Ranch is a gem of a site to visit! With activities from Native American culture up through the early 1900s, you can learn about and experience over a decade of Colorado history in one place!
Capital Prize Gold Mine Tours is the place to go if you want to see real mining in action. You can book a tour to visit real gold, silver and other types of mines that use both original and more modern mining techniques. If you have a little rock hound in your family, this is the place for you!
Living in the Lap of Luxury
After the hardships of the 1800’s, Coloradoans started to focus on constructing beautiful buildings. Many of these have been lost to time,but a few have been kept up or restored to their original beauty. The real gems are the buildings that are not only gorgeous, but also have been turned into a museum. Luxurious AND educational? Sign me up!
Rosemount Museum is one of the best examples of turn-of-the-century luxury. Almost everything in it is original to the home. All tours are guided, but they start every half-hour, so you won’t have a problem finding a time that works for you! Molly Brown House Museum is a testament to not only the “Unsinkable Molly Brown”, but to the dedication of a group of hard-working people. This home has been lovingly restored back to its original glory. Docents lead your through the 30+ rooms, teaching you about the Titanic, Molly Brown, and the history of the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Denver.
The Rail Goes Over The Mountain
If you have a little train lover like I do(did), you can’t forget about the historic railroads that connect Colorado. These trains even still run! Check out one of them on a day trip, or hit them all if you’re lucky and close enough!
Georgetown Loop Railroad is about as cool as you can get for a five-year-old boy. They offer two depots to choose from, so make sure you know which station to go to! Some of the trains are led by the original steam engines, so make sure to look for those! If you just want to ride the train, plan on about 1.5 hours. If you want to do old mine tours as well, plan on about 2.5 hours, but know that children under 5 are not allowed underground. If they’re anything like mine, they won’t want to leave sight of the train anyway!
Royal Gorge Route Railroad is a better fit for those of us looking for traveling in luxury! This is the more modern option, with the choice between several types of travel. If you want gourmet food and wine pairings with your amazing scenery, this is the route for you!
Colorado has so much history hidden in plain sight, it’s amazing! From ancient history to more modern railroad routes, there is literally something for every history buff. Who says learning can only happen in school? I can’t wait to for my family to learn some new things, make some new memories, and see new sights! Happy traveling!