“I’m going down to South Park
Gonna leave my woes behind”
Driving back from Aspen, my son and I took the awe-inspiring Independence Pass route that serpentines through the Sawatch Mountain Range of the Continental Divide, dropping down into Twin Lakes, the Upper Arkansas River Valley, then winding into the South Park Basin. My son wanted to stop in Fairplay to get a picture of the iconic “South Park” sign. Looking for it, we happily stumbled upon the South Park City Museum. It was raining, but we took a self-guided walking tour through the outdoor museum.
There are 44 original and reconstructed buildings and over 60,000 artifacts, each notating a unique view of the bygone days. The meticulously restored structures range from living quarters, including log cabins and a trapper’s cabin, to operational facets of an old town like the blacksmith’s shop, a schoolhouse, a saloon, and even an undertaker’s building. We were in awe, transported back in time, walking through history as we went from one building to another. There is a unique connection to history as each building provides a glimpse of what it was like in the lives of the miners, settlers, and families who once carved out an existence in the rugged terrain of the surrounding mountains and the colorful basin of South Park.
Fairplay often falls under the radar, usually as a pit stop for fuel and snacks before venturing to other destinations. Surrounded by 14,000-foot peaks and the vast river basin of South Park, Fairplay offers so much more, as it is the gateway to stunning hiking trails and off-roading trails that meander through some of Colorado’s most beautiful and challenging landscapes. Moderate hiking trails such as Boreas Pass and Mount Buckskin offer stunning vistas. Weston Pass, a historic mining route linking South Park to the historic gold-mining town of Leadville, is popular for off-road vehicles. Being the fishing capital of Colorado, the picturesque South Platte River and nearby reservoirs are sure to delight anglers. As fall turns to winter, recreation will turn soon to ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling.
Whether you’re a history buff or an outdoor enthusiast, Fairplay promises an enriching and immersive adventure for anyone who wants to get out and engage in Colorado’s vibrant scenery and storied past. Take the time to visit the charming shops and restaurants in Fairplay and visit the quaint Mr. Burro’s Café on Main Street for a delectable sandwich and a cup of coffee to fuel you before your journey.
For more information on the South Park City Museum, visit https://www.southparkcity.org/. The Community provides events and educational programs celebrating the region’s rich gold mining heritage for all to enjoy!