Situated at an elevation of 10,152 feet, Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the United States. It is located in the heart of the Colorado Rockies about 100 miles west of Denver. For our visit to Leadville, we parked at Sugar Loafin’ Campground. From the streets of Leadville, looking west you will see the two tallest of Colorado’s “fourteeners”: Mount Elbert which peaks at 14,440 feet and Mount Massive at 14,428 feet. After California’s Mount Whitney, Mount Elbert is the second highest peak in the contiguous United States.
The Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway runs through Leadville. We took this drive south through Twin Lakes and on to Independence Pass which tops out at 12,095 feet. Along the way we were treated to nature’s fireworks show in the form of the fall colors, particularly the blazing yellow and gold of the Aspens. We learned that aspens grow in large clonal colonies, propagating by way of their root systems. So when you see a large group of aspens, they all share the same roots and therefore are genetically identical. The individual tress in the colony may live for 40 to 150 years but the root system could be thousands of years old.
On another day, we took a ride on the Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad. This was a three hour train ride north from Leadville, gaining an additional 1,000 feet in elevation with beautiful views of the nearby mountain peaks, the Arkansas River Valley and, of course, the beautiful aspens.
Next stop: Glenwood Springs, CO