Idaho Springs is one of our favorite hidden gems in Colorado because it’s full of wild west history and feels like it belongs in the past. If you are looking for the best things to do in Idaho Springs, Colorado, or are new to the city, this article is for you!
A few miles west of Denver, along Clear Creek Canyon, you can find the town of Idaho Springs nestled in the mountains above Golden. It’s only about an hour’s drive from Boise, making Idaho Springs accessible to tourists. But many tourists drive right by and don’t know that Idaho Springs exists!
150 years ago, Idaho City was the largest city in the Northwest. At the time, it had more than 7,000 inhabitants and was larger than Portland, Oregon. It was primarily an influx of miners seeking gold that caused this. About 3,000,000 ounces of gold were produced, equivalent to almost a billion dollars at current gold prices.
In the years following the mining decline, Idaho City’s population was drastically reduced to approximately 104, making it a ghost town. Although Idaho City no longer technically qualifies as a ghost town, its charm and history still make it special. It has around 485 inhabitants now.
If you want to learn about history and experience natural Colorado, we highly recommend you check out Idaho Springs. Surprisingly, there are a ton of activities to do in this small town. Here are our favorite 22+ things to do in Idaho Springs!
- Must-do activity: Argo Gold Mine & Mill
- Best activities for couples: Indian Hot Spring, Jeep Tours
- Best activities for families: Argo Gold Mine & Mill, Phoenix Gold Mine
- Best adventure activities: Clear Creek Canyon rafting, Hike St. Mary’s Glacier
On the way back from the mountains, Indian Hot Springs provides a relaxing diversion. It is one of the nearest hot springs to Denver, conveniently situated in Idaho Springs, Colorado, off Interstate 70.
The resort has a swimming pool fed by hot springs, private baths, caverns, housing, a gift store, and a café. There is also a comprehensive spa with a variety of treatments.
The indoor swimming pool has a tropical dome filled with hot mineral water. Banana trees, palm trees, and other flowering plants are all around the pool, making it a unique tropical experience in the middle of Colorado. In addition, many of the outdoor jacuzzis are filled with mineral water between 106 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit and enclosed by privacy fences; these jacuzzis are available for rental.
Due to the clothing-optional nature of the caverns, kids and teens under 18 are not allowed to enter.
You can rent one of eleven private indoor rooms if you want a more private hot springs experience. Each features a single 8′ by 4′ by the 3′-deep tub. They are full of hot mineral water and are about 106° F. “Club Mud” has mud baths where you cover your whole body in clay full of minerals. The mud will take the toxins out of your body and make you feel calm and rejuvenated.
If you want to feel like you’re a part of nature while still being pampered then this is by far one of the best things to do in Idaho Springs. But make sure to carve out at least half a day for the mineral springs – this isn’t an experience you want to rush through!
Mount Evans Byway is North America’s highest (in altitude) paved road. Along the 28-mile journey to over 14,000 feet, there are many things to see and do, such as high alpine lakes and beautiful wildlife.
The Mount Goliath Nature Area, Summit Lake Park, and the Crest House at the top are all great places to stop along the byway. It’s also worthwhile to visit Echo Lake Park, near the Mt. Evans Welcome Station. The trip starts at 7,526 feet in Idaho Springs and winds up to 14,130 feet.
South of Idaho Springs, at about 10,600 feet, the second half of the drive-by Echo Lake starts. For the next 14 miles, you can follow the road to the top. Once you get to the top parking lot, it’s a short but worthwhile hike to the 14,271-foot summit.
You must pay a vehicle fee per visit if you plan to park at the top. It’s open from late May to the middle of October.
On the Mt. Evans Recreation Area and Scenic Byway, there are many things to do besides drive. You can go biking, camping, fishing, and hiking.
Lastly, you’ll have access to enjoy Echo Lake Park, the Nature Center, and Summit Lake Park.
Clear Creek provides exciting rafting adventures near Denver and right near Idaho Springs. As the creek travels downstream from Idaho Springs, it follows a bunch of dramatic twists and turns, making it perfect for white water rafting. Clear Creek has the most rapids per mile of any professionally rafted river in Colorado!
This tiny river offers beginner, intermediate, and expert excursions. The season typically lasts from mid-May through the end of August. If you’re searching for tricky and adrenaline-packed rapids, Clear Creek is definitely the place! There are quarter, half, and full-day excursions available.
The Dumont section is the first popular whitewater rafting part of the Clear Creek River. Before reaching the hamlet of Idaho Springs, the route runs over 5.5 miles of Class III-IV whitewater rapids. The Dumont section is fun and exciting but not too complex, making it perfect for novice rafters.
Black Rock is the most challenging portion of Clear Creek, and even professional rafting companies seldom choose to navigate it. Black Rock is exceedingly difficult, with Class IV – V rapids covering a total of 6.5 miles of steep and narrow streams. This part is for experienced riders only.
White water rafting in Clear Creek is definitely one of the best things to do in Idaho Springs for adrenaline junkies! We highly recommend booking an excursion with a professional company – Clear Creek Rafting Co. is great.
Echo Lake Park, located right near Mt. Evans, is a fantastic destination if you’re searching for a spot to appreciate nature and have a good time. The park has several trails for hiking and biking and a lake for swimming and fishing.
The 0.8-mile-long, out-and-back Echo Lake Trail traverses Echo Lake. The simple trek to Echo Lake Lodge offers views of the lake and Mount Evans as it winds through the forest. Dogs are permitted but must be on a leash.
There are some really gorgeous views at Echo Lake! We definitely recommend it if you’re looking for an easier but picturesque hike.
The trip to St. Mary’s Glacier offers breathtaking panoramic views, just what you’d expect from the perfect short hike in Colorado. You can get stunning views of the Rocky Mountains to the west by walking around St. Mary’s Lake and climbing up the glacier, too.
If you hike to the top, it is a short journey—1.5 miles round trip—but if you only walk to the lake and back, it is just about a mile. Since there is always snow above the lake, the St. Mary’s Glacier Trailhead, approximately an hour from Denver, is a terrific place to escape the summer heat. It gets seriously cool up there, even in the hottest months!
St. Mary’s Lake is stunning, particularly in the early morning stillness when the glacier is reflected in the lake’s mirror surface. Before starting the climb back down the mountain, it’s a great area to enjoy a picnic.
It only takes around three-quarters of a mile to reach the top of St. Mary’s Glacier, but the path is shockingly steep and rough. Smaller kids find it challenging to clamber over some more immense boulders along the way. We recommend going to the top if you’re an intermediate-advanced hiker. Otherwise, the hike to the lake is plenty!
The path is mostly dry in the bottom part, but as you get to the glacier, you have to cross a lot of wet, thick snow. We advise wearing hiking boots or, at the absolute least, wearing traction-enhancing, water-resistant shoes.
The Argo Gold Mine & Mill is a national historic monument approximately 45 minutes outside Denver. The tunnel, the mine, and the mill focus on year-round excursions guided by seasoned guides. There is a live demonstration of how to crush, grind, and drill rocks.
It all began in 1893 when the Argo Tunnel was constructed. The tunnel reached Central City, about 4.5 miles distant, after 17 years. The tunnel enabled the delivery of gold from several mines along the route, making it a really important area during the gold rush.
Argo’s Mill processed mined gold ore. When finished, the Argo Mill was the biggest of its type in the world. It processed more than $100 million of gold ore at prices between $18 and $35 per ounce.
Gold Mine tours run for one hour, so wear comfortable footwear and a light jacket: it can get chilly in the mines. You’ll learn about the history of the mines, take the tour, and get the opportunity to try gold panning. Plus, you can keep any jewels you discover. You can even purchase bags of soil guaranteed to contain placer gold and gems.
We LOVE any history about the Gold Rush so this was right up our alley. It’s definitely one of our favorite things to do in Idaho Springs!
Dr. James Underhill arrived in Idaho Springs in 1897 and was a notable surveyor and mining engineer in Colorado. He left behind several books on surveying as a significant part of his legacy.
Dr. Underhill attended the University of Colorado in Boulder and was the first person in Colorado to get a Ph.D. in geology. He became a professor at the Colorado School of Mines later on.
In the Underhill Museum, you can view fine furniture from the period, nineteenth- and twentieth-century images of Idaho Springs, and rare Underhill family antiques. It’s basically a museum of all things relating to Idaho Springs, Dr. Underhill, and the mines.
Lucy Underhill’s Victorian Garden and Courtyard sit in the residence’s backyard. She was a passionate gardener who cultivated delphiniums considerably taller than herself. She delighted in hosting her visitors in the courtyard.
If you’re interested in more specific town history, this is one of the most unique things to do in Idaho Springs. It’s really niche but you’ll learn some info you won’t find anywhere else.
Tommyknocker Brewery & Pub, founded in 1994, has become a mainstay in Idaho Springs thanks to its award-winning craft beer and cuisine. Since its inception, Tommyknocker Brewery & Pub has received more than 100 medals in various local, national, and international contests.
This place is a must for everyone wanting the authentic Colorado dining experience. German Bocks, Cocoa/Honey Winter Blend, Pumpkin Harvest Ales, Own Custom Line of Sodas, and a lengthy list of craft beers are among their award-winning selection!
With their American-style cuisine, everybody can choose a meal that pairs well with their beer. You’ll find salads, sandwiches, shakes, burgers, classic pub fare, regional specialties, and local food on the menu.
If you’re going to indulge in food and drinks, why not do it at Tommyknocker Brewery & Pub? It’s a local favorite for a reason!
Visiting in winter? Echo Mountain Park, the nearest ski resort to Denver, is between Idaho Springs and Evergreen and is a must-do if you’re a skier.
This site is an ideal mountain for night skiing close to the capital city. It is also suitable for freestylers and those seeking to improve their racing technique. In addition, a newbie learning their sport will find a home here.
The mountain boasts several intermediate runs. There are rails, jumps, a black diamond tree run, and a double chairlift to return to the summit. It’s a little ski resort, but it’s nearer to the city, more affordably priced, and offers breathtaking views of the Front Range. Several routes are devoid of jumps and rails, making them ideal for cruising, too.
In addition, Echo Mountain Park is a large winter playground for beginner/intermediate skiers and snowboarders, as well as freestyle skiers and riders wanting to have fun. It is constantly developing new features to enhance the freestyle experience. In the Westside Glades, Echo even provides tree skiing.
On certain nights, night skiing is one of the most popular activities at Echo. Night skiing is available until 9 p.m. after other Colorado ski resorts have shut down.
Phoenix Gold Mine is a working gold mine located close to Idaho Springs that offers tours led by qualified and experienced personnel. The journey is around an hour long and ascends 750 feet into the mountain.
The price of your excursion includes gold panning. Try your luck and take some genuine gold with you! Next to the mine is a creek where panning takes place; this stream brings gold from the mountains to the mine, where teachers teach gold panning.
The annual average temperature within the mine is 45 degrees Fahrenheit, so dress correctly. Bring suitable footwear, water, and a packed lunch, since none are given at the mine. There are scenic picnic places nearby but you’ll have to have all of your own food and supplies.
With more than 35 years of experience in the culinary industry, this three-brother-run barbecue restaurant has helped bring authentic flames, taste, and warmth to Idaho Springs.
Smokin Yard’s BBQ has made a name for itself by being one of the most incredible barbecue restaurants in the Rockies — a must-visit establishment for everyone traveling through this region.
It provides barbecue staples like pork, chicken, brisket, Sloppy Joe, and Po’ Boy. In addition to these barbecue basics, Smokin Yard’s BBQ offers a variety of traditional side dishes. There is a complete bar with unique brews and local beers. Relax and enjoy the authentic BBQ atmosphere and experience!
It is the perfect location for your next dinner since it offers enough portions to satisfy even the most ravenous diners, complimentary boiled peanuts, a variety of sauces, and outdoor seating. If you’re looking for the best things to do in Idaho Springs for the full local experience, you definitely need to stop into Smokin Yard!
Every day in Colorado has the potential to be an adventure, and Beau Jo’s believes that your pizza should be as spectacular. Beau Jo’s, originators of Colorado’s most fabulous pie, is your local hangout and the go-to destination for truly excellent Colorado-style pizza.
So, what exactly is Colorado-style pizza? It’s the type of pizza you need after a day of visiting our beautiful state; it’s sold by the pound and meant to provide an unfathomable quantity of cheese, toppings, and sauce.
Named after the crust mountains that provide a one-of-a-kind confinement system for your preferred pizza toppings, the restaurant’s distinctive mountain pies are a substantial dinner that will fill just about anyone. Beau Jo’s pizzas are legendary in Colorado for a reason!
Our Mountain pie features a hand-rolled edge of daily-made dough to satisfy an adventurous appetite that acts as a barrier to hold in a mountain of fresh toppings. The Mountain pie sizes are one, two, and five in pounds. The crust provides a built-in dessert for honey dipping. When ordering sizes, we recommend one pound per hungry individual.
The prairie pie lacks a hand-rolled edge and has fewer quality ingredients. The prairie pie is available in small, medium, large, and extra-large sizes. The pizzas match Colorado’s varied topography, from mountains to plains.
If you love pizza, this is the place to visit when you are in Idaho Springs!
This down-to-earth and welcoming pub debuted in 2009 and has since been a popular place for residents and tourists to unwind and drink with friends. Everyone is welcome at Vintage Moose, renowned for its friendly and knowledgable employees that provide delicious drinks and fast food. They were voted 2019’s Best Nightlife for a reason!
According to the Vintage Moose’s owners, “When you’re here, you’re a local.” And it’s true: the Moose really gives off the feeling that you live in Idaho Springs. If you want to go back in time and experience life in a Colorado small town, this is the place ot be.
The food is kept light and essential so that you can enjoy their extensive range of booze and drinks! Local, domestic, and international beers are available, plus the Moose serves food until closing time, so it’s a great place for late-night bites.
Regardless of where you’re from, The Vintage Moose is your neighborhood dive bar in Idaho Springs.
Miner Street shopping is a must-do among the activities to do in Idaho Springs. Of course, you must take something with you when leaving one of Colorado’s most excellent mountain communities!
Idaho Springs shopping provides more than simply souvenirs and trinkets. Find lovely antiques at Annie’s Gold, trendy tie-dye clothing at A Vivid Earth, and aromatic mixes at the Spice and Tea Exchange.
Or visit Feral Mountain Co., which is also one of the favorite shops in Idaho Springs. This reasonably priced company offers new and pre-owned outdoor equipment suitable for various outdoor activities.
Don’t miss The Hospice Shop and Heartisan Boutique, housed in historic structures in lovely downtown Yreka of the street! This shop provides a superb selection of hand-made, one-of-a-kind, and gently worn quality things. You can find some serious treasures here, especially since many wealthy travelers stop off on their way to some of Colorado’s top mountain towns and donate designer pieces.
The Westbound & Down Brewing Company is another fantastic place to enjoy delicious cuisine and drinks!
It is referred to as a “brew-pub,” but they provide more than chicken wings and celery sticks. As it should be, its cuisine is prepared with as much attention as its beer.
Find some of your favorite foods and spend some time having fun here with your friends! Again, the Westbound is a great place to try some local brews and experience true Idaho Springs culture.
Sit N Chill Ice Cream is a family-owned business that serves the unique ice cream flavors in town! They have ice cream, fudge, sundaes, shakes, and even a store where you can buy souvenirs.
When there are a dozen kinds of ice cream, deciding which one you want can be hard because they’re all delicious. Sit N Chill also has Colorado-made drinks like the Jack Daniels, which is coffee ice cream with Jack Daniels® and chocolate chips mixed in, and the Sleepless (coffee ice cream mixed with chocolate-covered coffee beans).
The ice cream shop can also provide a variety of delectable fudge. If you want a chewy, chocolatey treat, you can choose from flavors like Red Velvet, Peanut Butter, or Mint. Stop by and see what new flavors they have this week.
At Sit N Chill, you can get a dessert and enjoy the view of historic Miner Street. This is the best dessert in Idaho Springs!
If you are a hiking enthusiast residing near Idaho Springs or planning a trip there, you should include this location in your list of hiking destinations. Summit Lake Park, a 40-acre park purchased by Denver in 1924, is regarded as Denver’s highest mountain park at roughly 12,800 feet.
Summit Lake is a prime example of the contiguous United States Arctic tundra. It is between the villages of Evergreen and Idaho Springs on Mount Evans.
This national natural landmark is 3,836 feet above sea level and visually displays the alpine tundra environment. Because of the extreme cold, wind, and poor soil conditions, there are no trees at this height, making it a really unique spot.
Summit Lake originates from Bear Creek, which runs through Mt. Evans Wilderness. This vast wilderness region borders the Arapaho National Forest and the Mt. Evans Special Wildlife Area.
The park is accessible through Mt. Evans Road along Mt. Evans Scenic Byway. You have the option to ascend Mount Evans via the Mt. Evans Trail. Or, if you prefer a shorter trip, two short paths are available inside Summit Lake Park, where the Summit Lake Loop also provides access to the lake beach and Chicago Lakes Overlook Trail.
In addition to hiking, Summit Lake Park will provide you with a spot to reflect and enjoy a stroll through nature in Denver’s highest mountain park. Their amenities for hikers include parking, paths, a shelter, and trail signs and markers.
Want something to do for the whole family that’s right downtown? If so, then this is one of the best things to do in Idaho Springs by far.
Frozen Fire Rink provides year-round entertainment for families and friends who want fun on the ice, no matter the season. Spend the day outside skating, chasing your friends in the ice bumper cars, or running around the baseball fields.
The rink is in the picturesque mountain town of Idaho Springs and offers some pretty views. Since the ice rink is synthetic, you can experience skating on ice outside all year round which is just so cool!
Glice is a fantastic alternative for actual ice and goes great with ice bumper cars.
Their 4×4 tours are less than 45 minutes west of Denver’s city center.
From May to October, tours run every day, and you can choose from different trails and tour lengths. If you’re a new 4×4 owner, you can use their tough and capable Jeeps and also choose to be shown how to drive on the trails in your vehicle. Experts can tell you how to stay safe on Colorado’s backcountry roads.
Argentine Pass, Spring Creek, Saxon Mountain, Bill Moore Lake, and Red Elephant Hill are some of their 4×4 routes.
For the Four-Wheel Drive instruction for new Jeep or 4WD owners, learn how your vehicle works safely by following the guides through the network of trails so you can concentrate on having fun and getting better.
The half-day tour lasts 3 hours, while the full-day tour takes 5–6 hours.
This true gold mine in Central City provides a rare opportunity to tour a real, operational gold mine.
The mine sits in the center of the Virginia Canyon-Glory Hole Area, which is regarded as the “richest square mile.” Since 1859, the region’s mines have generated more than 5 billion dollars.
Patented in 1896, the Hidee Gold Mine was first accessed through a shaft atop the mountain. From its inception until the present, it has been used intermittently. Longtime local miner Charles “Choppo” Fetterhoff opened the mine in the 1980s for instructional tours for schools and mineralogists through a walk-in entrance.
He continued to work the vein until he died in 1996. The mine was transferred to his acquaintance Mr. Lewandowski, with whom he had worked. Today, the vein continues to be mined, and tours are still available.
The Hidee Gold Mine offers tours 365 days per year, seven days per week. This family-friendly attraction has been accessible to the public since 1988. Everyone on tour receives samples of gold ore.
Learn both historical and modern mining techniques. Tour includes an opportunity to slice gold ore samples from a 5-foot vertical gold vein using a single jackhammer and chisel. The piece is yours to keep!
Go panning for gold and other precious minerals, and keep everything you uncover. Gold and gem ore help teach panning. This seasonal activity is unavailable during the winter months.
Observe experienced panners to learn skills. Practice with actual mineral specimens to understand how to wash away the lighter stuff while allowing the more prominent gold particles to sink to the bottom.
If you’re looking to visit an actually operational gold mine and learn more about today’s mechanics rather than the history of the mine, this is one of the best things to do in Idaho Springs, Colorado.
Mount Evans, another of Colorado’s fifty-eight Fourteeners, may be reached by a short but somewhat scenic climb along Mount Evans Trail. 1979 saw the designation of Mount Evans Trail as a National Recreation Trail.
It has been a favorite of Denverites and Coloradans for decades, especially for hiking, nature watching, and close-up animal observation. It ascends 14,271-foot Mount Evans.
Mount Evans National Recreation Trail is near the midpoint between Idaho Springs, Clear Creek County, and Evergreen. Mount Evans’ 14,265-foot peak is reachable through a 0.17-mile, one-way ascent from the end of Mount Evans Road.
Due to the trail’s short length, low degree of difficulty, and breathtaking vistas, it is famous from June through September. The trip up the Mount Evans Byway to the trailhead is free; however, parking at the top requires payment. This route is available seasonally from late May until mid-October, if the weather permits.
The ascent will take between 15 and 20 minutes and include an elevation gain of 82 feet. You may believe this is a moderate trek, but you should never underestimate its difficulty. Keeping in mind that you are still rising above 14,000 feet might make this simple terrain a bit tougher. The summit is 4,400 meters above sea level.
Now, before you attempt your first fourteener, consider the following advice. Prepare yourself for the altitude. Consider the weather, including dramatic temperature fluctuations, wind, and storms. Bring plenty of water and keep your pets on a leash.
In unauthorized locations, you cant do camping and open a fire. Mount Evans Road may be blocked even in July if winter-like conditions occur, so do your research in advance.
This is definitely one of the best things to do in Idaho Springs, CO for adrenaline junkies!
What is the most recent trend in Colorado outdoor activities? Almost certainly, you have heard of Via Ferrata by now.
When translated from Italian, “Via Ferrata” means “iron route” and is super popular among outdoor enthusiasts seeking an adrenaline rush. A Via Ferrata path is ideal for individuals who crave the excitement of rock climbing or mountaineering but lack the necessary skills or equipment.
Via Ferrata dates back to the early 20th century when troops in World War I required assistance traversing the Dolomites area of Italy. There are presently more than one thousand Via Ferrata paths throughout the European Alps, with the majority located in Austria and Italy.
A standard course consists of steel cables and ladders (or rungs) fastened to a rock face, with two ropes tied to the protected path and harnesses for climbers. It lets the climbers secure themselves as they traverse the route, preventing potential falls. Other attachments, such as stairs, bridges, and ladders, offer safe footing and handholds for climbers.
Most routes demand a minimum age of 12 to participate in this enjoyable family activity. There are several options, from the original Via Ferrata in Telluride to one of the most recent routes developed with the ropes course in Idaho Springs.
Favorite Hotels In Idaho Springs:
There aren’t a ton of hotel options in Idaho Springs. But there are some GORGEOUS Airbnbs, including many cozy and upscale cabins situated on nearby lakes. If you really want the full local experience and want a nice place to stay, we recommend checking out Airbnb first.
Hopefully, this list of the best things to do in Idaho Springs, Colorado, will help you plan your trip, whether you’re just passing through or are staying in the area for multiple nights.