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Phantom Canyon Road
Cañon City to Cripple Creek, Colorado

At Cañon City, you have your choice of three scenic highways--all of which lead to the mining towns of Cripple Creek and Victor.  High Park, Shelf, and Phantom Canyon Roads are all part of the Gold Belt Tour Scenic and Historic Byway.  The easiest to drive is High Park Road, which begins as CO Rte. 9 west of Cañon City.  Shelf Road (named for the "shelf" that carries the narrow, one-lane road along the mountainside) begins along CO Rte. 115 east of Cañon City.  Finally, Phantom Canyon Road (my choice) turns off of US Hwy. 50 about 8 miles east of Cañon City.

Phantom Canyon Road follows the old path of the Florence and Cripple Creek railroad, which, in 1894, connected the mining towns of Victor and Cripple Creek with the outside world.

phantom canyon road, canon city to cripple creek colorado

The road climbs gently the entire way, starting off in this small canyon.

tunnel, phantom canyon road, canon city to cripple creek colorado

The route passes through two tunnels, blasted through solid rock...

steel bridge, phantom canyon road

...and over three bridges.  The only original railroad bridge that remains is the Steel Bridge, which is roughly at the halfway point.

steel bridge, phantom canyon road

The bridge has recently been restored.  You'll find interpretive signs and a parking area at the south side.

townsite of glenbrook, phantom canyon road

As you slowly climb through Phantom Canyon into Cripple Creek, road signs mark the locations of old town sites, that sprung up along the route.  Almost nothing remains at any of these town sites, except of course, the occasional herd of cattle.

cow

phantom canyon road near victor colorado

As you approach Victor, the road flattens out and widens, passing through rolling farmland.

ghost shack, phantom canyon road

Here you will find a few old barns and ghost-shacks, all on private property.

Phantom Canyon Road ends just outside Victor.  Cripple Creek is just a few miles up the road.  Use CO Rte. 67 to take you through Cripple Creek, and on to US 24 (which will then lead to Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs).  Because of the foul weather, I decided I would return the next day to explore these fascinating old towns.  If you'd like to skip ahead, click here.

While I decided to drive on to Manitou Springs to spend the night, it probably would have been better to stay at one of Cripple Creek's hotel/casinos.  This would have saved me the extra drive to and from Manitou Springs (which was a waste of time, thanks to the rainy weather).

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Gold Camp Road

Victor, Colorado

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Lara writes: "I have been here before and this place remains my number one SITE to camp and have a nice long walk or hike on this road. Very very spiritual place and full of positive energy from Native Americans. One site through Phantom Canyon, if you are lucky you can find it, has the remains of a Native American."
 


Stan Philbrick writes: "I am now 85 yrs old (2008) & have been around a bit in my life. I have thought for many years that the Phantom Canyon Road is my all-time favorite drive. I would love to drive it one more time, but I'm in Thailand now. I love it here also & have spent nearly 8 years here, on & off beginning in 1961."

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