On the road: Off to St. Elmo | AspenTimes.com

On the road: Off to St. Elmo

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesVisitors wander past the historic buildings of St. Elmo on Saturday.

ST. ELMO, Colo. – Out-and-back road trips, just to look around and then come back home, aren’t generally my thing. It’s not my nature to sit around in a vehicle for too long unless I’m going to spend some quality time at my destination.

Nonetheless, two of us, plus the dog, loaded up early Saturday, bound for St. Elmo, a supposedly well-preserved ghost town outside of Buena Vista. We went simply because we’d never been before.

Is it worth the trip? I’d say yes, but I wish I’d gone there as part of a longer trip to the Buena Vista area. Also, I can’t recommend a weekend visit. If there are any ghosts in St. Elmo, they’d be frightened by the hordes that descend upon it.

The town is easy to get to, which is no doubt part of its appeal. A well-maintained gravel road took us right into the heart of St. Elmo, where the attractions don’t end with a town that looks a little bit like a movie set. There was an operating general store and several outbuildings, all packed with stuff that reminded me of the kind of places those two guys on TV’s “American Pickers” explore.

The store also sells “chipmunk food” – little packages of sunflower seeds. Across the dusty street, a hodgepodge of raised planks were packed with kids feeding the seeds to obese chipmunks tame enough to perch on somebody’s leg to stuff themselves. Parents hovered, snapping photos.

In addition to families with young children, motorcyclists and the ATV crowd flock to St. Elmo and then take the road over Tin Cup Pass to the ghost town of Tin Cup, as well.

The town, like so many in Colorado, is left over from a mining heyday that began in the late 1800s and petered out in the early 20th century. But a lot of the buildings are still nicely intact, perhaps because they’re all privately owned. There are “no trespassing” signs everywhere to remind visitors not to venture off the dirt streets.

We hit St. Elmo with a short window in which to explore before rain pretty much ended the day early, unfortunately. Someday, I’d like to ski up the road for a winter visit, if that’s possible.

To get there, follow U.S. Highway 24 south out of Buena Vista and turn right (west) on County Road 162 at Nathrop. It’s about 16 miles of easy driving along Chalk Creek to St. Elmo.


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