A Sunday Drive in the Colorado Gold Belt

We unexpectedly had to buy a new car. We were not happy about having to do it, but wanted to get happy about it! So, we decided to take our new babe out into the wild for her first road trip. 

As a side note, we are still trying to name our babe…how does Twilight sit with you? Cas wants to name her Grey Fox but that seems SO weird to me given that I call Cas my Silver Fox. I cannot have the same nickname for my boyfriend AND car. 

I digress. 

In any case, we set off on our scenic drive from Colorado Springs. We aimed to follow the Gold Belt Scenic Byway with a few stops along the way!

The Byway took us past Pikes Peak, Phantom Canyon, Cañon, Cripple Creek and so much more!

We used this site to plan our route and suggest the same for you! 

We drove a bit out of Colorado Springs to reach Floissant, Colorado, and made that our stop for lunch, at the Costello Street Coffee Shop, and a beer at the Funky Town Brewery. We decided to split our stop like that because we couldn’t tell which would be better. Well, we can save you the indecisiveness and offer some guidance. 

The Costello Street Coffee Shop is in an old house and the seating is arranged in such a way as I expected someone’s grandma to come and ask me to play bridge. The food was ok. Just ok. We actually overheard a conversation between one of the staff and a customer where she essentially told the customer to not bother with the deserts because her mom made better. If a server is telling you that you could make better food at home, the restaurant might not be worth the stop. 

Funky Town Brewery

We popped across the street to the Funky Town brewery. We sat at the bar next to the owner of the building whose kids run the business. He and his wife help out on busy days like the beautiful weekend day we were there. Since we had lunch, we just popped in for a beer. The building owner said that the brewery was the biggest brewery in the smallest town (Florrisant has a population of 100). Now, Cas and I do love beer, as you may have noticed. We may be slightly picky but will try and drink just about anything. Well, we left our flights unfinished.  

It might be best to grab some food before leaving Colorado Springs or pack a lunch. We weren’t impressed with either establishment. 

From lunch in Florissant, we headed right to the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Fossils from an ancient ecosystem dating back 34 million years ago are preserved in the rocks. Beyond that, petrified redwoods, fossilized palms and images of strange insects etched in stone captivated us for our short visit. The Monument is not a very big park, so completely do-able as a pit stop during other Colorado travels. We took an easy stroll along the main trail that took us by the most prominent petrified redwoods. The trails we took had interpretive signs that highlighted both the geologic history of the area and the human history (much of it cringe worthy!). 

The area, of course, has a deep history with the mining industry. We drove right by some present-day strip mining operations, saw some old wooden structures built to pull up the goods from inside of the mines, and towns that were clearly boom-and-bust towns. 

Interestingly, the town of Cripple Creek has revived itself with casinos and a huge hotel. Gambling is not an interest of ours, so we drove through. What are your thoughts on reviving a town with gaming? Pros? Cons? We’ve thought about this issue as it relates to Native Americans and reservations, but never in a ghost town. 

And now, for the good bits…

We were in jaw-dropping awe along the entire stretch of Phantom Canyon Road. The mostly unpaved road winds through the canyon, takes you through several tunnels, over a few narrow, wooden bridges, and though some of the most amazing scenery this country offers. It is recommended that you make the drive with 4-wheel drive. If you are hauling a camper or something particularly tall, you may not make it through some of the super tight tunnels and some of the passes are quite narrow.  It is also said to be one of the most haunted roads in the US as a result of the deadly mining industry, the old train that ran through, and apparently a bus full of children haunt the area since they were hit by a train. The canyon was named “Phantom Canyon” after an 1890’s event: The story goes…in the 1890’s a railway crew was headed to Cripple Creek at the end of their work shift. They came across a man in a prison uniform, prison numbers legible, walking alongside the tracks. The crew reported this to the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City. The prisoner the crew saw had been executed a few days before. And thus, as the years went by, the canyon was known as Phantom Canyon.  

We stopped in Florence for another beer at the Florence Brewery. All we will say is that we could have skipped it. 

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