Looking for a fall activity that’s a bit more original than a pumpkin patch? Visit a ghost town. We went away from the traffic for a day trip to Ghost Town Hollow, a ghost town nestled in Pikes Peak. The place is a hidden gem, with artifacts strewn about, an abandoned mining cave, and the remains of log cabins. All of this on top of a scenic fall hike.
Approximate drive time from Denver: 2 hours
Ghost Town Hollow History
With gold discovered throughout the Colorado Rockies in the late 1850s, miners swarmed to the hills of Colorado and Manitou Springs with the motto, “Pikes Peak or Bust.” Ghost Town Hollow was one of the failed attempts to extract gold from Pikes Peak.
At 11,800 feet, miners constructed Oil Creek Tunnel, which travels 1,600 feet inside the mountain. With rough winters and the failure of the mine, the settlement was soon abandoned, leaving strewn artifacts like rusted cans and mining equipment, along with the remains of log cabins that are covered in snow for most of the year.
Distance: 4 miles out-and-back
Elevation: 11,800 feet
Traffic: Low, the trail is fairly remote
Getting there: Start on Pikes Peak Highway. The highway is a toll road and costs $15 per adult and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, but you aren’t able to enter after 3 p.m. Continue up the highway for 14 miles, just past Glen Cove visitor’s center. To the left, you’ll see an unmarked gate that opens to a dirt road where you can park. The trail you see upon entering the gate to the right is the remote Elk Creek Trailhead, which is where you’ll begin your hike.
The Lowdown: Once you start on Elk Creek Trailhead, you’ll hike down and around an alpine bowl. Then the trail drops into a valley, where you’ll pass your first piece of rusted mining equipment. When you come to a fork in the road, there will be a sign that points left to continue on Elk Creek Trail, and right to head towards Oil Creek Tunnel. Go right to the tunnel. You’ll start up an incline and soon pass a cluster of log cabin remains sitting in abandonment and dusted with snow early in fall.
Continue past the cabins along the trail for about another quarter to half mile, until you reach Oil Creek Tunnel. This is the end of the hike and the part that feels the spookiest. There’s a big piece of mining equipment a few feet away from the cave where the cliff drops off and you get a beautiful view of the basin. The cave itself is closed off by a metal gate, but you can hear water dripping and the wind blowing through the tunnel — sounding a whole lot like ghosts.
Weather warning: If you decide to visit Ghost Town Hollow after Halloween, you might need snowshoes and/or microspikes.
What to do Afterwards
As remote as Ghost Town Hollow feels, you are after all on Pike’s Peak Highway. So finish the drive up the mountain, stop at scenic locations, and enjoy popular spots like the North Slope Recreation Area and Summit House.
On your way back, you’ll pass through Manitou Springs, meaning plenty of great grub spots. Our favorites are The Sahara Cafe for incredible middle eastern food, Adam’s Mountain Cafe for some healthier noms, or if you’re craving pizza or a big sandwich, check out Savelli’s before heading back to Denver.