Colorado City, now known as Old Colorado City, was a productive town decades before the towns of Colorado Springs or Cripple Creek were envisioned. Decades before the gold smelters and railroads. Decades before Colorado became a state. It’s hard to imagine this little village by itself with a dirt road connecting it to Denver, but then Denver wasn’t much of a city, either.
In the early years, the Denver Road ran from Colorado City to, well, Denver. This road followed a creek bed north, curved behind The Mesa and emerged somewhere around the current Garden of the Gods Road to continue on its journey north. What traces are left to be seen? Where did it start? What creek? I’m glad you asked.
We have all heard about Old Colorado City being the state capitol for a short period of time, and it’s fun to speculate the importance of this trail during those formative times. The southern end of the Denver Road began at what is now Colorado Avenue and 28th Street. This intersection was the busy corner of town and the oldest existing building in town is standing on the northeast corner. The approximate route of the start of the Denver Road was the predecessor of what is now 30th Street. Explore the varied walls, additions, repairs and windows on this building that has held many titles. Most notably a lumber yard and now a military surplus store.
Camp Creek originates above Glen Erie and then runs under the Garden of the Gods main entrance and through the historic Rockledge Ranch before draining into Fountain Creek east of the McDonalds Restaurant. It’s course was altered and straightened in the 1950’s for the Pleasant Valley subdivision. The concrete drainage ditch that runs through the middle of 31st Street is the remnant of the lower portion of Camp Creek. Behind the Wendy’s restaurant at 31st Street and Colorado Avenue, there are the remains of the original river bed and small concrete bridge. This is about 100 feet east of the current route of an invisible culvert beneath Colorado Avenue. Explore: Locate this piece of history. There is a builder’s name and the date of 1913 is on a badge in the center of the bridge on Pikes Peak Avenue behind Wendy’s. Now that you know about it, it’s easy now to spot the original bridge and the picturesque piece of riverbed that hasn’t held a river in 70 years.
A fun side note: It ran north through the area that was later to become the town of Ramona. Created in the early 1900’s, Ramona was a suburb of Old Colorado City designed primarily to support the bars when Colorado City was trying to clean up their fair town. Explore the town site of Ramona by visiting the neighborhood behind Thorndale Park. The main street of Ramona was 24th Street between Cache LaPoudre Street and St Vrain Avenue.
The original farmhouse for the valley below Garden of the Gods will surprise you. In the middle of the tidy Pleasant Valley subdivision is an older private residence sitting at an odd angle to the rest of the houses and at a different elevation than the rest of the street. You probably have driven by it many times. This home was in place 75 years before the symmetrical rows of homes were built. The original farm road access was off of what is now 30th Street. An historic neighbor of the houses in the Historic Rock Ledge Ranch, this home was engulfed by progress. The road was designed for it to be perfectly in line with the new subdivision. Explore: From Colorado Avenue, drive north on 31st Street. The farm house is on your right just past the intersection of North 31st Street and West Platte Avenue. (This is when some say, “There’s a WEST Platte Avenue?”) A footbridge on your left will be your landmark to find a retaining wall on your right that is holding up what was the original elevation of the valley. Once you know it’s there, the 1870’s style home stands out. I don’t know about you, but I find these little surprises fascinating.
The Old Denver Road then ran past Glen Erie and curved right along roughly where Garden of the Gods Road is now. The dirt road then veered north around the mesa that currently holds the Sunbird Restaurant, through the town of Pikeview, a coal mining town near Rockrimmon and I-25. From here, it pretty much paralleled the railroad tracks through Palmer Lake and on to Denver. Walk the Santa Fe trail through the Air Force Academy to find historical markers for a town that was on this road.
Explore: You can easily spot a cone shaped coke oven on the hill side north of Garden of the Gods, west of I-25. Other pieces of Pikeview can be found by walking the area.
Once Colorado Springs had replaced Colorado City as the new metropolis, highways 85 & 87 eventually became the Denver Road’s replacement.