2020 Travel: Visit the Other Interlaken, at Twin LakesAugust 13, 2020
If you’re looking for a version of Switzerland without the flight, visit the other Interlaken. No passport is needed when you travel to Twin Lakes, Colorado, and nearby Leadville!
Colorado’s Lake County has glacial lakes, trains, boats, and immense peaks like the Swiss Interlaken, plus a taste of the wild west. You can hike, bike, fish, snowshoe, nordic ski, camp, and glamp – all in front of a majestic background. Here are some things to do that make these two towns so similar.
Awe-inspiring Peaks and Lakes
Nestled at the foot of Mt. Elbert (14,421’), Colorado’s highest peak, the Twin Lakes area bursts with picture-perfect views of soaring peaks and lavish foliage around some of the state’s largest glacial lakes. Unique natural beauty and rich history are showcased beautifully in this landscape. There’s even a historic site named Interlaken that you can only reach by boat or by foot.
Just 20 miles away, the genuine mountain town of Leadville boasts the highest elevation of any city in North America (10,152’), surrounded by alpine lakes, aspen and pine, and lofty peaks.
All around Twin Lakes and Leadville are jaw-dropping views of Mt. Elbert, Mt. Massive (at 14,421′, the state’s second-highest peak), and several other 14ers. The Mosquito Range rises above treeline to the east.
Twin Lakes Interlaken Boat Tours
Feel like an explorer while crossing Twin Lakes in a motor boat bound for the Interlaken Resort, a ghost resort on the lakes’ far shore. On this narrated two-hour tour, enjoy the sparkling water and warm sun on some of Colorado’s largest glacial lakes. Once the boat lands, roam the buildings where the wealthy once made their summer escape. Tours run daily, May through September. Please call ahead for reservations. You can also access the Interlaken Resort via hiking or, in winter, snowshoeing along the Interlaken Trail.
Adventure on Twin Lakes
Discover a picture-perfect view: two large, sparkling glacial lakes reflecting some of the nation’s highest peaks. Rent a kayak, canoe, or standup paddleboard (SUP) to float on the lake. For a faster ride, explore the lakes on a pedal-assist or full electric bike.
Scenic Byway Drives
Twin Lakes’ outdoorsy answer to Harder Klum? Drive along the airy hairpin turns of Top of the Rockies National Scenic and Historic Byway from Twin Lakes to 12,095′ Independence Pass, for breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks. Pick up a picnic lunch at Twin Lakes Inn or grab a quick bite to-go from Punky’s Food Truck or the Perkolated Peaks VW bus while feasting your eyes on the area’s surrounding peaks.
Scenic Train Rides
Take a ride back in time on the historic Leadville Train. Hear about the fascinating history of the railroads, ghost stories, and tales of the wild as you ride the scenic railroad throughout the unnamed wilderness of the San Isabel National Forest. This trip raises up 1,000 feet off the valley floor into an alpine environment with spectacular views of Colorado’s highest peaks, wildflowers, and sometimes even wildlife.
Switzerland has caves; we have mines. Learn about what it would be like to work in an underground mine at the National Mining Museum and Hall of Fame. Tour replicas of caves and mines, check out the masks past miners wore to breathe and the carbide lamps that lit their way, and see photos of the people who’ve run American mines for decades.
Legends swirl around the Matchless Mine, the place where one of Leadville’s most notorious silver kings, Horace Tabor, struck it rich and where his mistress-turned-wife died alone and penniless in 1935. The Matchless Mine will reopen in spring 2021, after rehabilitation of the historic hoist house. Visit next year, and you can peer down the original mining shaft and headframe used to pull Tabor’s extraordinary wealth from the ground.
With the arrival of warm springtime temperatures, Colorado’s snow trickles into streams, flows into creeks, and finally joins a mighty river where it becomes whitewater. It’s during this time of year that rafting season gets into full swing. The water is high, the flow is fast, and the thrills are endless. Raft the Arkansas River, where thousands of visitors come every year to experience the country’s best rafting and kayaking.
Nature Reserves for Summer Hiking and Winter Sports
Leadville is surrounded by miles and miles of national forest with access to pristine hiking trails, including the Mount Massive wilderness, which contains over 30,000 acres. The Colorado Trail and Continental Divide Trail give you easy access to sage-studded day hikes or rolling paths through aspen groves. Several 14ers are nearby, including Mt. Elbert, Mt. Massive, La Plata, and Mt. Sherman . If you’re traveling during the snowier months, you’ll love 100 miles of groomed winter trails to nordic ski, snowshoe, fat bike, or snowmobile.
Skiing and Ice Skating
Winter means snow, ice, and fun. At 30,000 square feet, the Huck Finn Ice Rink in Leadville is one of the largest man-made rinks in Colorado. The facility features skate rentals, a snack bar, a warming hut, and a great sound system.
If you like to ski, head to Ski Cooper, only 10 miles from Leadville. With a total 60 trails, five lifts, and terrain variety to choose from, groups of all ability levels will find something to love at Cooper.