Updated May 29th 2021
We live smack in the middle of where the gold rush started in Colorado. Remnants of abandoned gold mines still litter the mountainsides. Eli has been fascinated with mines ever since his first mine sighting. Lucky for us, there are all kinds of kid-friendly ways to learn more about mines and the mining way-of-life right in our backyard. The long-abandoned gold mines of Colorado leave a rich history of how the early miners lived.
The Best Colorado Gold Mine Tours In Colorado For Families
Here are our favorite family-friendly mining adventures in Colorado that are both fun and educational.
*All of the following mining adventures are within a two-hour drive from Denver.
Country Boy Mine Tour Breckenridge
The Country Boy Mine is one of the many restored gold mines of Colorado that is now open for tours. It is located only a few miles from downtown Breckenridge.
Before entering the mine everyone is provided with hard hats, or bike helmets for the kids. Safety first. The tour into the mine is an easy, level walk 1,000 feet deep into the mountain. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgable but also fun and full of personality. She explained all about the mining process, the tools the miners used, why the mine isn’t in operation today, and how oxygen was brought into the mine to prevent suffocation.
- Don’t forget to bring a jacket, even on a warm summer day, it’s cold deep in the mine.
Before or after your mine tour you can pan for gold at a nearby stream and pond. You can pan for gold all day until the mine closes if you want. We found a lot of fools gold (the mineral pyrite that looks a lot like gold flakes) but no real gold.
The Country Boy Mine has a gift shop and a huge mining tunnel that has been converted into a slide. You can take the slide all the way down to the parking lot.
The price for the mine tour and gold panning is $35. It is expensive but was the most informative and interesting mining tour we’ve experienced so far. Options for free activities in a ski resort town are limited. But, there are some available you can read about in this post.
For more tour information visit The Country Boy Mine’s website.
Georgetown Loop Railroad With Everett Mine Tour
Mine tours are a lot of fun. A mine tour plus a train ride = AWESOME!
Things to Know Before You Go-
- Kids under five years old aren’t allowed in the Everett mine.
- The mine tours do sell out, especially on the weekends. Advanced reservations are recommended.
- The majority of train cars don’t have a roof. Book your tour first thing in the morning for the best chance of good weather.
The Georgetown Loop Train is an old steam locomotive that chugs up the mountainside and through the woods. It journeys from Georgetown to the nearby town of Silver Plume. The Everett mine tour is halfway between the two towns. The mine is a short walk from the tracks. When the tour is done you catch the train back to Georgetown.
The tour begins with gold panning. The gold panning experience is completely different from the Country Boy Mine in Breckenridge. Instead of panning in a real river, you pan in a gold panning station. Instead of finding fool’s gold, everyone finds a few real gold flakes to keep. Although this method of gold panning isn’t authentic, it’s definitely more fun for the kids.
The mine tour is also completely different. The Country Boy Mine tour was much more informative. The Everett Mine tour focuses on the ghost story of the Tommyknocker (the term for a miner who dies in a mine and then returns to haunt it). Again, the focus on Tommyknocker makes the experience more fun for kids. What kid doesn’t love a ghost story?
After the tour, everyone gets a hot dog, chips, and lemonade for lunch. The kids have time to pet the burro and play in the sandbox before the train returns to take you back to Georgetown.
The price for the mine tour and train ride for an adult is $47.95 and $39.95 for children ages three to fifteen. It’s a reasonable price considering it includes a train ride, mine tour, gold flakes in a jar (one of Eli’s treasured possessions), and lunch. The whole adventure is about two and a half hours long.
For more information go to Georgetown Loop Railroad’s website.
Argo Mill and Tunnel – Idaho Springs
Just 45 minutes from Denver, the Argo Mill and Tunnel in Idaho Springs is a must-see if you are interested in the history of Colorado gold Mining.
Construction on the Argo Mill began way back in 1893. The 4.2-mile-long tunnel soon became the center of milling for the gold mines in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Most of the original milling equipment is still in place and the tour of the gigantic mill is fascinating.
*To explore the Argo Mill you must be physically able to climb up five stories (one hundred feet in elevation). Definitely not stroller-friendly but safe for young children to walk or be carried in a front or backpack carrier.
The tour is mainly focused on the mill and the equipment used to extract the gold. Part of the tour is through a service tunnel that accessed the 4.2-mile tunnel that gave all of the nearby mines access to the mill. There is also a very interesting mining museum complete with mining equipment, payroll documents, and photographs.
Gold mining similar to the Everett mine tour is available at the end of the Argo Mill tour.
The tour price for adults is $25, $20 for kids 5-16, and kids 1-4 are $4.
Restored Mining Town – South Park City
To experience what life was really like in the small mountain towns surrounding the gold mines of Colorado, check out South Park City. South Park City is a restored mining city open to visitors in the mountain town of Fairplay. Fairplay isn’t far from where we live but we’d never heard about South Park City. We were pleasantly surprised on our first visit.
History of South Park City
The South Park Historical Foundation was formed in 1957 to preserve some of the neglected mining cabins and historical buildings around Fairplay. The Foundation bought a small parcel of land in town with several old buildings still standing. Other old buildings were either donated or purchased and moved to what was to be called South Park City. Through the work of volunteers, the buildings were restored. People in the nearby towns searched their property and found over 40,000 artifacts that were donated to the South Park Historical Foundation.
Today South Park City consists of 43 buildings that are all restored and chock full of interesting artifacts from the mining days. They have done a great job to make you feel like you have just stepped into a thriving mining town 150 years ago.
No detail has been overlooked from the newspaper used as wallpaper still lining the walls, to the schoolhouse complete with desks, chalkboards, and old books.
The cost to enter is only ten dollars per adult. Children under twelve are free. It is a self-guided tour and a detailed map is provided. South Park City can’t be missed if you are interested in Colorado’s mining history.
Mining Museums –
If you want to learn even more about the gold mines of Colorado, visit one of the wonderful mining museums in the state. Two of my favorites are the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum in Leadville and the Western Museum of Mining and Industry in Colorado Springs.
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