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Phantom Canyon Road

Phantom Canyon Road goes to Victor and Cripple Creek, Colorado from a turnoff about 5 miles east of Canon City, Colorado on Highway US 115.

It starts out paved, but before long it becomes a narrow gravel road through this historic route of the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad built back in 1894.

It was built during the heyday of the gold mining era as a connection from Florence to the goldfields of Cripple Creek and Victor.

The road increases in elevation from 5,500 to 9,500 feet and offers the chance to see a wide range of plants and wildlife in their natural setting.

The gravel road follows the route of the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad built in 1894 as a connection from Florence to the goldfields of Cripple Creek and Victor.

Although the road is actually quite good - the narrow roadway, bridges and a few tunnels tend to encourage travelers to slow down and view the scenery.

Driving it at night is not recommended as you would miss out on far to much incredible scenery.

Phantom Canyon Road

During it's hayday twelve stations were established along the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad grade to service the trains hauling coal and supplies upgrade and gold ore downgrade to Florence's smelters.

Between Cripple Creek and Victor are the remnants of hundreds of historic mines and a modern gold mine is currently operating.

Over 500 mines once operated in the district, each with its own colorful past and many interesting tales surrounding them.

At the Cresson Mine on November 24, 1914, miners uncovered a large chamber with walls completely covered in gold crystals as large as thumbnails.

The owners quickly installed vault doors and hired armed guards to escort the ore from the mine to the mills.

The current gold mining operation focuses on removing and concentrating gold from low grade ore that was not able to be processed efficiently with historic mining methods.

Vast amounts of rock are crushed and treated with a dilute cyanide solution to remove any remaining gold - a process known as heap leaching.

Phantom Canyon Road

The remnants of the ghost towns of Wilbur, Adelaide and Glenbrook - just to name a few, were washed away in flashfloods or disappeared as a result of the slowing economy after the railroad closed in 1912 are often present throughout.

Another sight to keep your eyes open for is the Adelaide Bridge, that spans Eightmile Creek, which is a steel architectural landmark.

It is an official site in the National Register of Historic Places and is the only remaining bridge from the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad.

Some believe the canyon was named after an 1890's ghost sighting of a man wearing a prison uniform was allegedly seen walking along the railroad tracks.

The passengers who spotted the man claim he was the same man that had been executed at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canyon City just a few days before.

This is not a road that requires a 4-wheel drive vehicle - almost any passenger car can easily negotiate it.

But, large motorhomes may feel a bit dodgy traversing the really narrow sections, so caution is the keyword.

It is well worth a visit to Phantom Canyon and on to Victor and Cripple Creek. Going on around back to Canon City can be via Highway 9 that takes you back past the Royal Gorge Bridge just west of Canon City.

Phantom Canyon Road

Or to head north towards Colorado Springs Highway 67 to the north will take you to Manitoba Springs just outside Colorado Springs.

Since 1996, Phantom Canyon has been designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Information on camping in the canyon's undeveloped campsites and other recreational activities is available from the BLM Field Office in Cañon City by email at the following email address: blm_co_rg_visitorinfo@blm.gov or by phone at: 719-269-8500

I have noticed numerous sources on the internet calling Phantom Canyon Road a 47.6 mile hiking trail.

Although it could be hiked and wild camped, to call it a hiking trail is a little absurd as a hiker would have to walk the dirt road that provides access to cars and trucks. Not what I would call an optimum hiking experience.

But, actually Phantom Canyon Road is a 47.5 kilometer lightly trafficked point-to-point road located between Canon City and Penrose, Colorado that offers scenic views and is good for drivers of all skill levels.

The trail is primarily used for scenic driving and ohv/off road driving and is best used from March until November.

Phantom Canyon Road

If you should decide to walk it then pack in a tent, wild camp and be cautious with your fire at night. Dogs are allowed, but remember to pack out your own rubbish and bring plastic bags for removing any dog feces.

But I still contend that calling it a trail is a stretch - it is a one lane mountain road that goes to Silverton and Cripple Creek.

Located between Fremont and Teller counties, the drive will take around 2 hours. It is one of the most scenic and historic drives in Colorado.

This scenic byway is quite enjoyable and offers plenty of photography opportunities.

Before the big gold rush, this area was used to graze livestock by homesteaders. Cripple Creek got its name from drovers when a frightened calf jumped over a fence, landed in a gully and broke its leg - or so it is said.

Cripple Creek was deemed a ghost town in the mid-1970s, after most of the unemployed miners and their families left the community.

Despite this, the town gained momentum once again in 1991, when Colorado voted that gambling be legalized in the area.

Cripple Creek, Colorado has 11 casinos in which you'll find more than 4,044 slots and gaming machines. There are a total of 55 table games.

Phantom Canyon Road

Most large casinos in the Cripple Creek area opened their table games, including blackjack, poker, roulette and even craps recently.

This marks the first time since March 17, 2020 that table games were allowed to operate locally. (as of February 16, 2021)

Since Cripple Creek's early days as a small mining camp, theater has always been a part of the rich heritage of Cripple Creek.

The Butte Concert and Beer Hall premiered in 1896, when proprietors Halbekann & Hertz featured nightly entertainment, including a Ladies’ Vienna Orchestra.

Today the Butte Theater is one of only a handful of theaters in the country still consistently producing Classic melodramas.

In this type of theater the audience participates by hissing and booing the "bad guys" and cheering and applauding the "good guys".

A night at the theater consists of dinner, drinks and an evening of participatory theater where you cheer on the good guys and boo the bad ones.

Cripple Creek has other attractions like mine tours, museums and attractions such as The Homestead House, build in 189 - once the most famous brothel in Cripple Creek.

Phantom Canyon Road

Originally owned and operated by Pearl DeVere, the opulent parlor bustled with activity and became known for impeccable service for high powered customers and glamorous ladies of the evening.

At a time when $3 a day was considered a good wage for a miner, Pearl charged $250 a night for the girls in her house, and she got it.

Today, the Homestead House is a museum that has been lovingly restored with historically accurate furniture, artifacts, wall coverings and even the original “viewing room.”

The railroad that served the mining operation used locomotives that had been shipped there from other mining operations around the world.

One of the locomotives had been used on a sugar plantation in South Africa. The locomotives are now on display in Cripple Creek.





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