Hessie and Fourth of July trail heads are two of the most popular portals to hiking in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. What’s not to like. Both have trails leading to beautiful alpine lakes, glowing aspen leaves, and craggy peaks. But I wonder how many of those who make their way into the wilderness take note of a small village they pass through.
The town of Eldora appears nothing more than a hamlet these days, with mostly summer time residents who own cabins there. Lacking even a stop light, you would scarcely notice it, except for the cones put in the middle and along the roads to slow down hikers eager to get to Hessie.
But look more closely, and you’ll notice the history there, especially if you venture off the main road. Go north on block to Klondike Avenue and you might spy a grand white clapboard building with bold lettering. The Goldminer Hotel. That hotel tells the story of a boom town and a grand, yet brief gold mining history.
Well after Nederland was founded due to the Caribou Silver Rush, miners discovered gold in the hillside near Middle Bolder Creek. By 1897, a small mining camp sprang up named Eldorado. However, the U.S. postal system notified the small encampment that an Eldorado already existed. The residents changed the name by lopping off the last two letters, making it Eldora.
Though Eldora started out small, it grew quickly over the next year averaging 50-60 newcomers per day. By early 1898, the population had skyrocketed to 1300 people and over 500 mining claims had been staked.
People anticipated great fortunes being made at Eldora, so much so that plans were made to extend the Switzerland Trail Rail Line to the growing town. But like many boom towns, Eldora’s vision of riches faded quickly.
The initial discovery of gold on the surface led to the rush. But after building the Mogul Tunnel, miners found that the gold ore below the surface wasn’t worth as much because of the inferior grade of the ore. As quickly as the town of Eldora had sprung up, four years later, the little town started to die.
The great irony is that by the time the railway actually opened to Eldora in 1905, the mining boom had pretty much ended. Tourists still came to the town and visited, but over the next decade, miners left the area and businesses closed down.
But one vestige of Eldora’s storied mining history has prevailed through the years — The Goldminer Hotel. Built to originally provide board to weary miners, it now provides a respite to tourists who find their fortune through connecting with nature. The hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and gives you a chance to step back in time and remember Eldora’s history, while enjoying the 21st century hospitality.