There are well-known Colorado mountain towns — for example, Estes Park, Breckenridge, Aspen, Telluride. These are typically popular because they're located near an activity-driven area like a national park or ski resort. And then there are other smaller mountain towns in the Centennial State that I believe still offer a fun (and cheaper) Colorado experience. Georgetown is one of those.
This mountain town isn't big and the population isn't high, but I wouldn't think those things would be top on a person's list when traveling to Colorado anyway; rather, visitors are looking for exploration and the beauty of the outdoors. In Georgetown, located about an hour from Denver, you'll still check off both of those things. You're literally surrounded by a range, which means there's hiking. But in addition to that, there is a lot of history, as the area was a center for mining many years ago.
All of this to say, Georgetown could be called a hidden gem. It's quaint, but there's plenty to do there to create a full day. And that's what you'll find in this post: a complete day trip itinerary detailing potential activities. If you need a break from the big Colorado cities or are now curious about the smaller mountain towns, I suggest adding Georgetown to your list.
What You'll Find In This Post:
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General Tips Before You Go
Visit Georgetown on the weekend for the full experience. A few of the museums aren't open on certain days of the week or during the week at all. So the best time to go would be Saturday or Sunday. That said, you wouldn't miss out on too much if you went to Georgetown during the week, so it's better to go then if that's all the time you have rather than skipping it.
Be on the lookout for historical plaques throughout the town. Georgetown has done a great job of sharing its history with visitors. In addition to preserving important buildings, the town is also covered in plaques that explain key historical facts and events that happened in the area. You can find these signs where the tourist activities are and on random buildings and structures throughout the town, so keep your eyes open.
Stay at a hotel in Georgetown the night before. If you decide to do the first activity on this itinerary (go on a morning hike), then consider staying in Georgetown the night prior. There are several options to choose from: Georgetown Mountain Inn, Georgetown Lodge, Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham, Hotel Chateau Chamonix, Rose Street Bed and Breakfast, and Clear Creek Inn. As a whole, there is a range of prices, and it will all depend on your level of comfort and budget. My husband and I, for example, were looking for something that was more cheaply priced and included helpful and fun amenities, such as a continental breakfast, a pool, etc., and went with a Colorado style room at Georgetown Mountain Inn.
Georgetown Day Trip Itinerary
To me, this packed list is perfect because I like to keep moving when I travel (unless I'm at the beach). But if you're someone who likes to take things a bit slower, consider separating out this itinerary into two days. You'll still have plenty to do.
Get up early and hike nearby.
If you’re visiting during the summer months especially, waking up early to hike pays off, as it can get pretty hot during the day. And there are some pretty, unique trails near Georgetown, including Griffin Memorial Trail, Hells Hole Hike, Rutherford Trail, Silver Dollar Lake Trail and Tom Bennhoff Trail. Some of them don’t start at Georgetown, though; rather, the trailheads are at another small town a few minutes away like Idaho Springs or Silver Plume. The difficulty levels and lengths of these trails vary (2 miles to 8 miles), so research each route before you go.
My husband and I chose the Griffin Memorial Trail, or 7:30 Mine Trail, (about 4 miles) because we didn’t want too easy of a hike as well as wanted to learn about the area’s mining history as we walked. This trail included QR codes along the way and a monument, cave, old cabin and waterfall.
Grab some breakfast or coffee.
After you hike, it's time to replenish your strength. If you don’t have a continental breakfast at your hotel, there are plenty of coffee shops and breakfast cafes in the area. I had "brunch" at the Happy Cooker Restaurant, which is also open for lunch.
Shop for local items on Sixth Street.
The main street in Georgetown, or Sixth Street, is really cute and gives off Hallmark vibes! The shops are fun as well. You'll find a few tourist stores with souvenirs like T-shirts, postcards and key chains, but most of the other ones sell local items, too. There are boutiques with clothing, thrifty stores with antique objects, old west shopping experiences and unique food products. There's even a Christmas store!
Visit the Georgetown Energy Museum.
On one end of Sixth Street is the energy museum, which is located inside a hydroelectric plant from 1900. “This plant is one of Colorado’s oldest alternating-current hydroelectric facilities that is still generating electricity,” according to a plaque at the museum. You can learn about the history of the plant and how the machinery worked/works, interact with some old technologies and ask the volunteer any questions you might have.
The museum is free to visit and open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. This stop likely won’t take up too much of your afternoon. (We probably only spent 30 minutes there, but you could spend more time depending on your interest level.) For more information on the plant’s history and some of the items you’ll see on the tour, visit the museum’s website.
Tour the former French inn, Hotel De Paris.
This was by far one of my favorite things I did in Georgetown, and if you’re into history and architecture, you’ll likely enjoy this as well. The Hotel de Paris is a former French inn that was originally owned by Louis Dupuy, a French chef, and is older than the state of Colorado.
In a 45-minute tour, you’ll learn about Dupuy's life and the lives of the others who were a part of this inn’s story. (The tales of Dupuy and his successors’ are truly fascinating, though most of them died fairly young, and give you a better picture of Colorado back in the day.) You’ll also learn about the historical artifacts within the rooms and the beautiful architecture and design, most of which is still in its original form today — the dining room is my favorite!
Hotel de Paris is located on Sixth Street, and its gift shop is open Tuesday-Saturday (10 a.m. - 4 p.m.) and Sunday (12 - 4 p.m. ). Tours cost $10 per person and occur at the top of the hour from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. You also have an option to go on a free 3D virtual tour on the hotel's website, which also includes a look at the wine cellar, a room you’re not able to enter when visiting in person for safety reasons.
Take a look inside Hamill House.
Just a few blocks away from sixth street is Hamill House, a restored historic home built in 1867. Not too long after it was constructed, the home was sold to a mine owner-operator, who remodeled it into the way it looks today. Now, the house is a local museum and is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 - 4 p.m.
Eat lunch near Sixth Street.
Since you’re spending most of the afternoon on Sixth Street, I suggest sticking around for lunch. There are cafes, taverns, brewing companies and other restaurants, so take your pick! And if you’re interested in dessert afterward, there is a 1901 soda fountain in End of the Line or Georgetown Valley Candy Co., which has candies, fudge and ice cream.
Go on a train ride through the mountains.
I know, a train ride through the mountain sounds fun. And it is! But I do have to give a word of caution about the Georgetown Loop Railroad experience: it's pretty pricey for what you get out of it. The ride itself is short. The website says it's an hour, which it's probably close, but at least 15 minutes of that hour is making a stop so that people can go to the bathroom and see a tiny railroad museum in Silver Plume. The train also travels back the same way it comes, so you get the same views for the final 20 minutes.
That said, if you don't mind spending the money to go ($30 for adults and $25 for children), it's a relaxing trip with pretty views. And if you have a child who is obsessed with trains, they'll love the ride! Additionally, for a higher cost, you can stop and do a mine tour on the train route, so that would extend your experience, too.
Learn about Georgetown's mining history.
There are several ways you can go about seeing and learning about some of the mines in Georgetown. As noted above, there is a hiking trail called Griffin Memorial Trail, on which you can read about the 7:30 Mine. The mine was given its name because the workdays there started at 7:30 a.m., an hour later than the other mines; it took the workers more time to hike up to it. This hiking trail is the free, self-guided tour option.
Next, you can stop for the Lebanon Mine tour during your train ride with the Georgetown Loop Railroad. The train ride alone is about $30 for adults and $25 for children, so adding the mine tour makes the price about $53 for adults and $45 for children. (Note: Children four years old or younger cannot do the mine tour.)
Lastly, Capital Prize Gold Mine offers tours in a mine that is still working and producing along with the option to mine your own gold. The experience lasts about an hour and costs $28 for adults and $19 for children.
Drive to the Guanella Pass summit.
On one end of Georgetown is a paved road that travels up Guanella Pass, a scenic route through the Rocky Mountains. Be sure to stop and snap photos at the various viewing areas, and if you want to hike, there are trails at the summit and along the way. (If you do plan to hike here, consider going up Guanella Pass in the morning during the hiking time in this itinerary.) And just FYI, the summit isn’t the camping area or the first parking lot you come to after that. It will be the parking lot following that one and should include a sign about the summit.
It’s not a long way up the pass, but please make sure you drive slowly and carefully as well as have plenty of gas before making this journey because you won’t be able to fill up until you come all the way back down. You can drive all the way through, from Georgetown to Grant. Or, if you’re going to finish out this itinerary, you can drive up to the summit and head back down to Georgetown. Guanella Pass is a little more than 20 miles altogether.
Pick a restaurant for dinner.
Similar to breakfast and lunch, take a look at your options in Georgetown and decide what you’re feeling that day: Vietnamese, Italian, American, Mexican, etc. My husband and I had dinner at The Alpine Restaurant and Bar, which was yummy! It offers Italian foods, including pasta dishes, pizzas, calzones, etc., and everything is homemade in house. The restaurant also looked like a good place to bring kids, as there are some bigger family tables, too.
Look for bighorn sheep in the mountains.
For a hopefully perfect ending to your day, head to the Georgetown Bighorn Sheep Viewing Area in the evening. You should be able to look up that phrase in Apple Maps, or whatever GPS map you have, and that specific spot will pop up for you. There will be a small lake on one side of the viewing area and a road and the highway on the other below the mountains where you’ll look for the sheep.
According to the town, which has an annual bighorn sheep festival, one of the biggest and oldest bighorn sheep herds roams near the area. You can learn more about these animals at the viewing area platform, which includes educational posters. And to help with your search, there you’ll also find three stationary binoculars that you can use to see the sheep living in the Rocky Mountains. However, my advice would be to also bring your own binoculars if you have them, as they’ll be easier to operate and more comfortable.
The best times to look for the bighorn sheep are in the morning and the late evening and in the spring, fall or winter, but you could still get lucky at a different time throughout the day or year. It’s also important not to give up too quickly! The sheep can be hard to see, since they often blend in with the cliffs.
Well, there you have it! A very full day in Georgetown, Colorado. And once you’ve looked for bighorn sheep, you can decide whether or not you want to stay one more night there or drive to your next destination.
I found Georgetown to be a good stop particularly between Denver and Colorado Springs. It made for an enjoyable change of pace and atmosphere. So, don't disregard the small Colorado mountain towns; they could surprise you!