If you want to get high, the place to go is Silverton, Colorado, and I’m not talking about anything you smoke. I visited this gorgeous very high-altitude Rocky Mountain town in June 2015. John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” song would be an appropriate soundtrack to this post.
Silverton is a former silver mining town that now mines tourists, who visit the charming historic town with its Wild West and Victorian ambiance in a spectacular mountain setting.
With a mean elevation of 11,240 feet (3426 meters), Silverton is in San Juan County, which is the highest county in the United States. It’s also the county with the smallest population in Colorado. Most or all of Silverton is now included in a federally designated National Historic Landmark District, the Silverton Historic District. Silverton is linked to Durango by the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a National Historic Landmark. Tourism provides the gold and silver in Silverton, not mining. Also supporting the population is maintenance of US 550 (which links Montrose with Durango via Silverton), mine pollution remediation, and retirees. In 2002 an extreme ski mountain, Silverton Mountain, opened near the town.
Tourists arrive by car, motorcycle, bus and train. I drove, trying to keep my car on the road while peeking at the scenery as we climbed the steep narrow highway from Durango. It also rained from time to time, adding to the thrill of mountain adventure. This trip I skipped traveling the section of the highway north of Silverton, called the Million Dollar Highway, which I like to call the Million HOLLER highway, because it truly is scary. I’m sure I screamed a lot on that trip, something I almost never do, not very helpful to the nerves of the driver, my husband. Even though it was years ago, when we traveled on the Million Holler Highway in the dark, in the rain, my heart still hammers thinking about it.
I first heard the quote “There’s gold in them thar hills” years ago, and never knew where it came from. Now, I’ve learned that the saying is associated with the first major gold rush, which was in the United States was in Dahlonega, Georgia, in 1828.