Lake City, Colorado

Lake City Museum

Lake City began as a mining camp in 1874 after the Enos Hotchkiss road building party found gold in the nearby hills. The town flourished in the 1880's with two banks, two breweries, seven saloons, and the first church and first newspaper on Colorado's Western Slope. Then the US Congress changed the rules: the "Gold Bugs" were in and the silver boom ran out.

Early in 1874 (before Enos Hotchkiss was hired to build the road), Alfred "Alferd" Packer, the "Colorado Cannibal," had his most infamous meal just two miles upstream from where Lake City is now. When he was eventually caught in Wyoming in 1883 and brought back to face justice, his first trial took place in the Hinsdale County Courthouse in Lake City.

Today, Lake City is primarily a tourist attraction, surrounded as it is by numerous ghost towns and some of the most scenic countryside in America. There are 5 peaks over 14,000' nearby: Uncompahgre, Wetterhorn, Sunshine, Handies, and Redcloud, and another 26-13er's in the area. Lake San Cristobal, second largest natural lake in Colorado, is just up the road, as is the Slumgullion Earthflow. East of Lake City is the La Garita Wilderness, north is the Powderhorn Wilderness, west is the Uncompahgre Wilderness, south is the Weminuche Wilderness. If you're looking for a beautiful place with nice folks where you can just get away from it all, climb some big mountains, hike some big wilderness, catch some big fish, spend a lazy day just listening to the wind in the pines and still have access to modern amenities, this is one of the best ones I've found.

Some scenes from around the historic downtown of Lake City:
Fall colors in Lake City
Fall in Lake City
Refurbed mercantiles in downtown Lake City
A couple old mercantiles in downtown
A winter scene at a restaurant in Lake City
Winter comes to the restaurant business
A dressmaker's shop in Lake City used to be a bank
Originally a bank, now a millinery shop
Formerly a mine owner's home in Lake City
Formerly a mine owner's home
The Back Country Navigator shop in the summer
The Back Country Navigator shop in the winter

Lake City is a very well preserved town full of turn-of-the-century Victorian architecture. It's easy to see that once upon a time, this was a bustling and very prosperous place. The location is remote and beautiful. The Alpine Loop Back Country Byway starts here, and the the Silver Thread Scenic Byway passes through on its journey between Gunnison and Creede.

Lake City, Colorado
Other Data:
  • Average annual precipitation: 16.6 inches
  • Terrain: High mountains, alpine valleys
  • January temperature: High: 48 Low: 0
  • July temperature: High: 91 Low 52
  • Days of Sunshine per year: 300+

In the summertime, the population rises with all the folks coming here to escape the cities, the modern world and the heat (but I've never seen a crowd - except maybe at the Mocha Moose Coffee House on a beautiful Saturday morning).

As you can see from some of these photos, I've passed through Lake City in the heart of summer, in the height of the fall colors and again in the "heat" of winter. How many of the summer refugees hang around long enough to enjoy all this?

Lake Fork of the Gunnison River, just north of Lake City
Lake Fork of the Gunnison River, just north of Lake City
Photos are courtesy of TheArmchairExplorer, CCA-by-SA 4.0 License