Road Trip

Road trip diary: a day in the highest town in the US

The view from my back porch during my time living in Leadville, CO

Leadville is located in Colorado at 10,152 ft making it the highest town in the state, as well as the country. I’ve spent a lot of time here, including the 5 months I lived here during a ski season to work at a nearby ski resort (that’s a blog post for a later time). After living here and visiting here during different seasons, trust me, Leadville has to be on your list of places to visit. Leadville is such a quirky little town… being completely honest, some might describe it as redneck. That’s why I love it! It’s such an odd place to find in the middle of Colorado. Being above 10,000 ft, this town has some of the greatest views of the Rockies. You can see some of the famous 14ers; Mt. Massive, Mt. Democrat, and the highest mountain in Colorado, Mt. Elbert.

The other great thing about this place is that it’s still not as touristy as some of its neighboring towns like Vail and Breckinridge. This means you can still find housing, Airbnb’s, hotels, etc. at a reasonable price. To any of my real estate people, this is a great place to invest because the costs are a little lower because tourism isn’t insane but it’s still steady so there’s always some people visiting. Unfortunately, since my last visit I did notice more people than usual… I would act fast and visit this place sooner than later before it turns into just another Breckinridge and is beyond overpriced!

What you should do in Leadville

1. Eat at Quincys

This is the greatest deal you will find literally anywhere. Seriously, if you know a better deal you better comment and share your secret!

Quincys is a steakhouse in Colorado. I remember first moving to Leadville and someone telling me to go eat at the steakhouse. I was like what???! I’m a broke snowboard bum… yeah right! But then I actually went and realized how CHEAP this place is (we love cheap, right guys?!).

So the reason this place can be so cheap is because it’s basically a set menu. Your main meal choices are between prime rib, filet mignon, and vegetarian lasagna. The filet is served during the week and the prime rib is on the weekend. The trick is, you order the size and the temperature you want and the rest comes as is. The meals only come with salad (as is, you can’t request any other dressing besides house dressing), bread, and a potato. Because the menu is pretty set, I guess they can buy in bulk and keep the prices so cheap. Not to mention, it’s DELICIOUS!

It’s not just the food either, the drink are also super cheap! I’m talking $3.75 margs and $2.25 well drinks EVERY DAY!

Quincy’s Menu
The salad the meal comes with. It’s so good… you will want a second one!
My plate (bottom) is 6 oz filet and the other is 12 oz.
Quincey’s locations in Colorado

2. Check out Melanzana

Melanzana is a Colorado/Leadville staple! Melanzana hires people to hand make all of their clothes they sell in store. Their most popular items are these micro grid sweatshirts that are the PERFECT base layer! Seriously you can wear them under your jacket for skiing, throw one one when you are hiking, or wear one lounging around the house.

We love our Melly’s! Taken at Twin Lakes

Another reason why these are so popular is that they are so hard to get… even Patagonia tried to buy them out and they said no! They like to keep it small so for awhile they stopped selling online and you could only get them if you physically went to Leadville and bought one.

Unfortunately/fortunately, due to the pandemic they aren’t allowing people inside the store. I say fortunately because they are now opening up their online store again. You have to enter a lottery to be able to shop and they choose 200 people a day. You are only allowed to buy 2 micro grids per link given, but the rest you can buy whatever. Be sure to not enter multiple times, if you enter the same shipping address then you will be canceled out and your name will be removed.

Link to enter your name in the lottery: https://melanzana.com

3. Go hiking/camping (summer)

I say this is more of a summer activity because the roads and paths are covered with snow for longer than you might think due to elevation. But hiking and camping are awesome FREE activities that Leadville has to offer. There are a few campgrounds available if you want amenities, but those you need to pay for. There is plenty of free camping in the area!

For hiking, you have got a ton of easier hikes and also access to some amazing 14ers, including the highest mountain in the state, Mount Elbert!

Mayflower Gulch trail between Leadville and Frisco. Great for all skill levels! Check out this trail on AllTrails.
https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/colorado/mayflower-gulch-grand-traverse

If hiking is something you are interested in, check out the apps All Trails and COtrex for details about hikes in the area! I found the best free camping sites using freecampsites.net

Mayflower Gulch

Free camping options

Like I said, there’s multiple. The two I would suggest are either up above Turquoise lake (best view) or south of Leadville at Twin Lakes.

Turquoise lake spot: https://freecampsites.net/#!123737&query=sitedetails -this site has great reviews! Make sure you have a car with decent clearance to get back here.

Our view from Turquoise lake

Twin Lakes spot: https://freecampsites.net/#!14928&query=sitedetails

4. Go Thrifting

During pandemic times, be sure to double check hours and if they are opened.

You have three options downtown: Mule kick, Matchless Threads, and Community Threads. My personal favorite is Mule Kick! Keep your eyes peeled for mellllyyyy’s 👀

5. Get on the Mineral Belt Trail!

This is a summer and winter friendly option! If it’s summer and the snow is gone, this is a great walking trail to go running or biking on. Take your dogs, take your kids, take whoever!

During the Winter this turns into a great trail to go snow shoeing or cross country skiing on. I’m a snowboarder who has only ever skied once, and I can seriously say cross country skiing is not very hard and is super fun! It’s more like ice skating. You can rent gear at Leadville Outdoors! https://www.leadvilleoutdoors.com

6. Ski at Ski Cooper (winter)

This is a super underrated ski resort in the area! It’s a little smaller than the others but I’ve been out here on a powder day when no one else was on the mountain, truly amazing. This is also going to be your most affordable ski resort in Colorado (as long as their prices don’t go up, which they might). You can get a 2 day ticket for half the price of one day at Vail or Breckenridge.

This resort might also be appealing to more advanced skiiers since they have really great cat skiing off the Chicago Ridge.

My dad and me at Ski Copper 3 years ago!

7. Turquoise Lake (summer)

A free activity for the summer time! You could still go visit and see it during the winter, but I would suggest not trying to get in (it’s usually frozen anyways). This is a great place to kayak or take your paddle board to. I also previously mentioned free camping in this area! See above!

You can technically swim here, but even in the summer it’s going to be pretty chilly so I would stick to the paddle sports.

Fishing is also welcome at Turquoise lake! You can use whatever rod you prefer and are bound to catch multiple kinds of trout stocked by the nearby Leadville Fish Hatchery. Be sure you have your fishing license. Check out https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/psicc/recarea/?recid=12446 for further details about fishing in this area.

8. Twin Lakes

Another option for fishing, paddle boarding, and kayaking near Leadville. This is about 20ish minutes south of Leadville! There is a free camping spot I mentioned previously in the blog. See link https://cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Fishery%20Survey%20Summaries/TwinLakesReservoirs.pdf for details and regulations.

Leadville is such a fun place to visit! I’d love to here from anyone their favorite things to do there or something they are looking forward to doing when they go after reading this blog!

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