For an outing full of Colorado history and scenery, there's a steep little dirt road that snakes its way up and over one of the richest mountains in the world. Room enough for (BARELY) two cars to pass (SLOWLY) THISCLOSE! This is the OH MY GOD ROAD. Drive it for yourself, through some video magic at the bottom of this post.
This old nine-mile road connects the two former Boom Towns of Idaho Springs and Central City, Colorado. Officially named the Virginia Canyon Road, with the locals referring to it as the Oh My God Road, it climbs at about a 7% grade, to an elevation of 9,400 feet. Paved at the top of the switchbacks, you need to be a little cautious of the narrower stretches of the loose gravel road (no guardrails on this one), slowing for any oncoming cars and/or bicyclists.
Dad and I spied this mine from the road, hidden in the trees, and decided to do a little photo exploring. We climbed up a treacherous shale hill (one step forward and three slides back), before hitting the top and realizing there was a really nice trail leading up, further back behind us. This had been a pretty big operation at one time, as evidenced by the tailings left behind.
Be mindful of private property signage; otherwise, you're free to explore. The old mines have shafts that drop down hundreds of feet, with tunnels that branch out at several levels. This creates a very real danger of cave-ins. When in doubt about what is underfoot, PLEASE check out the old mines and buildings from well-worn trails or roads - use that zoom lens and play it safe.
Up, over, and down the other side, through the ghost town of Nevadaville (there are a few modern day houses sprinkled in this little valley); this road takes you through the heart of another old mining operation from days gone by.
Spy something like this old mine opening? DEFINITELY do not enter - take that picture from afar. This one has been sealed off with a grate, but there are plenty more in these mountains where these precautions have not been taken. Gases inside are another hazard, in addition to deep drop offs. Play it safe!
The Lace House at the top of Central City - and views from the neighboring hills (I have no idea about the golden calf in the two right side photos, but I liked it) - the amount of gold tailings dotting the hills is incredible in "this neck of the woods".
"And now for something completely different"...I found this time-lapse video someone made of driving the OMG Road from Idaho Springs, down through Central City and over the mountains to Nederland and beyond (another gorgeous drive). No need to watch the entire thing, unless you're so inclined. A few minutes and you've got the idea (the OMG Road/Central City portion will take you halfway through the video, plus, I get sick motion sick watching these things)...the gravel road starts at about 38 seconds in.
How do I GET to the Oh My God Road, you might ask? Located about an hour west of Denver, take I-70 to exit 241 in Idaho Springs. You'll follow Colorado Blvd. into town. At the fork in the road, stay to the right, and take the second right you come to, onto Virginia Canyon Road. That's where the pavement ends and the fun begins!