Sunday, November 8, 2020

Phantom Canyon Road

With gold discovered in the mines near Cripple Creek and Victor, the race was on to connect the mines by rail to the outside world. To the west, Shelf Road, completed in 1892, had already connected Cripple Creek with Canon City with a toll road for horse drawn wagons -- but this didn't prove to be efficient given the tons of gold ore needing to be processed. In May of 1894, the first narrow gauge train from Florence (elevation 5,180 ft) climbed through the canyon and on up to Victor (elevation 9,730 ft.). The railroad ran from 1894 to 1912, when a devastating flood damaged the rail line beyond repair.

Today, the old tracks have long since been removed. The rail line was converted to an automobile road in 1918. The road is now part of the Gold Belt Byway. The 30 mile trip from Florence to Victor takes about an hour to an hour and a half. While this is a dirt road, it's usually in pretty good shape. I recommend going during the week to avoid other motorists.  The views are amazing and the drive, although not really off-roading, is still a lot of fun. 

Directions: Take Colorado Highway 67 north from Florence. 

Be sure to check our my post re: Shelf Road

Before you go...
  • The road is often closed during winter months.
  • While it is a two lane road in many parts, portions of the road are single lane with blind corners. 
  • No vehicles over 25 feet long.
  • There are two single lane tunnels in the southern portion of the road.
  • The impressive steel bridge built in 1897 is the only bridge that remains from the original railway -- the deck of this bridge is wooden (see photo below).
  • Click here to see a photo of a train making its way through the canyon. 
  • Click here for a recent newspaper article about the road's history.

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