Creede – Completely Unexpected!
Have you ever traveled to a town or city, with little prior expectation, and been honestly surprised at what you found? That is exactly what happened to me when I wandered into Creede, Colorado! As I rounded the corner at the base of the San Juan Mountains and drifted into the Rio Grande River Valley off Highway 149, I was entranced by the town almost immediately.
I have talked to many people who have lived in Colorado their entire lives and have never been to Creede. In fact, many had never even heard of it! I lived in Colorado for over 20 years and hadn’t either. It took me moving to Florida and watching a Netflix miniseries called Godless to hear about this town. Godless was based in Creede, Colorado and centered around the mining industry in the 1800s. A few Google searches later and I had summer camping reservations at Mountain Views RV Park, just south of town along the Rio Grande River.
Rich Mining History
I stayed for one week in Creede last summer. The town is nestled against the San Juan Mountains and surrounded by the Rio Grande National Forest along Highway 149, which is part of the Silver Thread Scenic and Historic Byway. The views are beautiful and the mining history of the town is undeniable and celebrated everywhere you turn. Visitors can read all about the silver mining history of the town at several venues from the Creede Visitor Center to Creede’s Historical Museum, which is located in the Historic Rio Grande Railroad Depot behind the town park. The most unique museum though is the Underground Mining Museum, which is at the north end of Main Street. This museum is as it says…underground! It is carved into the mountainside of Willow Creek Canyon and is a popular tourist attraction.
After learning all about the mining of silver that brought this town to life, why not drive the historic Bachelor Mining Loop? This 17-mile loop takes you straight into Willow Creek Canyon and 2,000 feet above Creede to explore its rich mining past. You will drive past countless mine sites with historic buildings and ghost towns that were once bigger than Creede is today. This loop is treacherous in spots and I recommend using a 4-wheel drive vehicle. ATV’s and mountain bikes are also allowed on this loop. I also recommend picking up the guidebook at the Visitor’s Center before heading out on this loop so you don’t get lost.
Creede Hiking Trails
Hiking in the Creede area is also very popular. The most well-known hiking trail is probably the “Up and Over” Trail. The trailhead is at the east end of Seventh Street and is less than a mile up and over. But what makes this trail so popular is the top part of the trail called the “pinnacles”. Take a break on a rock and look over the town of Creede from this unique vantage point before heading “over” on the other side back into town.
Another popular hiking trail in the Creede area is West Willow Creek Trail which is north of Creede in Willow Creek Canyon. Access this trail by following Forest Service Road 503 for about 30 minutes. This trail leads to the Colorado Trail, which closely follows the Continental Divide and gives you views of San Luis Peak, one of Colorado’s many fourteeners at 14,014 feet.
Clear Creek Falls
North Clear Creek Falls is one of the most photographed waterfalls in the State of Colorado. While it doesn’t offer much as far as hiking, the falls are spectacular and have about a 100 foot drop. Go west on Highway 149 for about 26 miles and follow the signs to the parking lot. If you want more of a hiking experience, South Clear Creek Falls is just a couple miles away and can be accessed by a trail behind the Silver Thread Campground. Although the falls aren’t as impressive, it is still worth the hike.
Rio Grande National Forest
This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as hiking trails in Creede. Besides the many other hiking trails, there are also hundreds of miles of off-road vehicle trails. These Forest Roads and trails are there to explore in the Rio Grande National Forest that surround this town. Stop in at the Creede Ranger Station on Main Street for more information and maps of these trails before setting out. They can give you a better idea of what trails are accessible throughout the year.
Colorado State Mining Championships
Since I visited for a week in the summer, I was lucky enough to be in town over the Fourth of July! I not only enjoyed Creede’s parade down Main Street in the morning, but was able to catch some of the Colorado State Mining Championships that were being held at the town park. This is Creede’s biggest festival of the year and brings miners in from all over the region for multiple competitions that culminate in the winner being proclaimed “The Best Overall Miner of the Year”. As if you had any doubt that this is a serious mining town…!
Chute Out Rodeo
My luck didn’t end there though. That night was also the Creede Chute Out Rodeo Summer Bull Riding Series at the local fairgrounds south of town, and just north of the campground I was in. I walked over that evening to enjoy this small town rodeo that is well attended, fast paced and a lot of fun. It runs every Wednesday night for 6-7 weeks every summer and includes bull riding and barrel racing, a rodeo clown and events for small children. If you are in town on a Wednesday, check it out!
Creede Repertory Theatre
Creede is also home to the Creede Repertory Theatre and this year marks its 54th season. This theatre company is top notch and is only one of a few left in the country that is repertory. A repertory theatre produces a small number of plays and repeats them over a period of time. The shows run from the end of May to about mid-September. I enjoyed the Wizard of Oz one night and had an incredible experience. From the moment I walked in the door till the time I walked out, everything was perfect and the cast so incredibly talented! If you EVER have the chance to catch a show…DO! You won’t regret it! The only thing I regret is not living closer so I can go every season. No joke!
Creede’s Main Street
As you can feel, Creede just captures your heart with its authenticity that is palpable as you stroll down Main Street and take in all it has to offer. People are bustling around and every boutique, restaurant, and outdoor shop is unique; both in decor and in product. I have simply never been to a town like this. The main street is filled with art murals and little side gardens that capture your attention. The food scene is idiosyncratic and the restaurants have a loose open/close policy, but everyone is super friendly.
I ate at Miners a few times for breakfast. It’s a little southern gem that is known for both catfish and fried okra as well as breakfast sandwiches and fried breakfast pies. These sandwiches and pies are unlike anything I have ever tasted and since I went back a few times, you can gather that they were pretty darn good!
I also went to Kip’s Grill for dinner a few nights. They have a nice open patio overlooking Main Street and serve great margaritas, Mexican food and yummy jalapeño poppers. They often have live music and is known for their “Sky Bar” which is the highest in Creede. It’s a fun lively place to eat and people watch.
Shops & Market
There are also plenty of stores selling just about anything you may need or didn’t know you needed. I bought a beautiful piece of quartz for a gift from Elk Country and some travel bags at Blue Yak Salon and Boutique. I also checked out San Juan Sports a few times for various things. There is a local grocery store in town, Kentucky Belle Market, that is well stocked.
Camping & Fishing
This was a week well spent! I did so many things that I often don’t get a chance to do on my travels. What is so surprising is I just didn’t expect to do that much in Creede. I thought I would just be hanging out by my camper with Scout the Beagle reading and relaxing. While I did enjoy the Mountain Views RV Park & Resort, there was so many other things to do. The RV Park was first-class though. One section is for campers and RV’s per rental space and the other HUGE section is separate “lots” to purchase and put your RV during season. Again, something I hadn’t seen before really. These lots are pricey and the rules heavily enforced making the resort very nice. Many owners had built elaborate outdoor kitchens on their sites along with outdoor seating areas. Plus the lots are along the Rio Grande River giving fishing fanatics some world-class fishing within walking distance. It is quite the setup!
Creede was so unexpected and I still can’t believe that so many people haven’t even heard of it. Yes, the town sits far from bigger cities, but that’s what gives it such a solitary existence. I feel that the people that live and vacation here want to keep it to themselves, me included. But, if you are looking for a “different” type of Colorado vacation, I would recommend Creede beyond a shadow of a doubt. This town may no longer be mining for silver, but it is rich in its adventures, uniqueness and down home hospitality. Put Creede, Colorado on your summer vacation list. You won’t be disappointed!
For more information about Creede, Colorado, go to their website at https://www.creede.com/.