- About 11 miles (18km) south of Aspen, Colorado, is the ghost town of Ashcroft.
- Ashcroft once had hotels, saloons, and 2,000 residents. But 5 years after being built, it was deserted.
- I toured Ashcroft’s eerie abandoned buildings and found history riddled with success and failure.
But by 1885, the silver ran out, its residents left in search of other opportunities, and the town was abandoned.
But behind a forested area, visitors can explore the 10 remaining buildings of Ashcroft, though, three are not part of the original town.
I visited during the winter off-season and couldn’t see inside the museum. But I had access to Ashcroft’s nature trails and could step inside most of the abandoned buildings.
But in 1873, Chief Ouray, the Tabeguache Ute leader, was persuaded to sign an agreement to cede the territory over to the US government, according to the Ouray County Historical Society.
The Ute Indians ceded 3.5 million acres, and in 1881 the Ute Indians were removed from their Colorado land and forced to relocate to a reservation in Utah, the Ouray County Historical Society said.
Two miners, Charles Culver and W.F. Coxhead founded Ashcroft, according to
According to the Aspen Historical Society, the duo and 23 prospective residents moved into the area, which they called the Castle Forks City and later renamed Ashcroft. In just two weeks, the group built a courthouse, paved roads, and created a Miner’s Protective Association.
By 1883, Ashcroft was bigger than the nearby town of Aspen and had two newspapers, hotels, a school, sawmills, a small smelter, and 20 saloons.
By 1912, the US Postal Service ended its mail-delivery service for the remaining 50 residents, who spent their days hunting, fishing, and drinking, according to another plaque I saw.
As I walked through the dirt paths, I imagined popping into saloons and hearing the town’s latest gossip.
The most intact saloon in Ashcroft is what was once the Blue Mirror Saloon, where miners would likely gather to share gossip, exchange stories, and, of course, drink.
Next door was another abandoned saloon.
Paper and other goods were used to insulate the wood cabins, a plaque informed visitors. Today, most of it had decayed away.
The structure collapsed in the winter of 1974, but a year later, it was restored, according to the Aspen Times.
There was some sporadic work at the remaining silver mines, but the residents, who were single men, filled their days by fishing, hunting, reading, and drinking, according to the Aspen Historical Society’s website.
Ashcroft’s last original and remaining resident, “Judge” Jack Leahy, died in 1939, according to the historical society.
But when Fiske died in World War II, Ryan leased the area to the US army, which used the region for mountaineering training, HistoryNet also reported. The plans for a ski town never came to fruition.
Ashcroft’s most recent resident was Stuart Mace, who moved to Ashcroft in 1948, according to the Aspen Historical Society. He brought his dog-sledding operation to the region and spent the rest of his life at the town site, per the Aspen Historical Society.
In 1974, Mace and the Aspen Historical Society helped Ashcroft become a National Register Historic Site.
From Ute Indians to dog sledding operations, Ashcroft’s history is filled with diverse people and riddled with success and failure.
As I hopped back into the car and headed back to the luxury ski town of Aspen, I considered how the region has drastically changed, developed, and expanded over the years.
It’s a simple stop from Aspen and a chance to reconnect with Colorado’s past, so I plan to add Ashcroft to my itinerary each time I visit the ski town.