12. Winter Park
The region around Winter Park, where mountains squeeze in tight beside the Fraser River and Rte. 40, has seen major changes since pioneers arrived here in the late 1800s. Ranching and timber were the first lures. Later on, railroad workers moved in to build the famed Moffat Tunnel, which runs for more than six miles under the Continental Divide. (Completed in 1927, it is one of the longest railroad tunnels in the world. Rail fans and other curious travelers can see its western portal from an overlook in Winter Park.)
Now, as the interweaving trails on the mountainside to the west attest, Winter Park is one of Colorado’s more popular ski resorts. Today’s luxurious lodges and high-tech lifts could hardly have been envisioned when Denver inaugurated the ski area. On that day in January 1940, lift tickets cost the grand sum of $1 each.
13. Berthoud Pass
Taking a serpentine course up the steep mountain slopes, Rte. 40 once again crosses the Continental Divide (back to the Atlantic side) at 11,307-foot Berthoud Pass. Renowned mountain man Jim Bridger was a member of the survey party that charted this route over the highlands in 1861. Pause a moment here to relax and savor the celestial view, for another series of white-knuckled roller-coaster curves awaits you on the way down to I-70.
No time capsule could have preserved the historic mining village of Georgetown as well as did a single turn of economic fate: silver, which built the town in the 1870s, plunged in value when America adopted the gold standard in 1893. The boomtown went bust, and its fine Queen Anne, Gothic Revival, and Italianate buildings were saved from the wrecking ball of modernization. More than 200 of Georgetown’s original structures remain intact today, many beautifully and authentically restored. The Hamill House, built by the town’s richest silver miner and now a museum, dazzles the eye with ornate walnut woodwork, gleaming gaslights, original wall coverings, and Renaissance Revival furnishings.
A ride on the nearby Georgetown Loop Railroad affords breathtaking views down the narrow, rugged valley-especially from Devils Gate Bridge, perched on stilts 100 feet above Clear Creek. The chugging steam locomotive and open-air excursion cars recall the days when miners sought and made their fortunes here. Nestled against the wooded mountainside in the distance sits Georgetown, where the legacy of another era lives on in the city still known as the Silver Queen of the Rockies.