Learn Turn-of-the-Century Mining Ruins Worth the Trek
Named after the periodic table’s element 52, which is found in gold, our resort pays homage to Telluride’s rich past as a mining town—and on your visit, so should you! “Riding in a 4×4 is the best way to traverse bumpy switchbacks up to Bridal Veil Falls, where you start an eight-mile-roundtrip hike to Lewis Mine,” says Lajja Kapoor. Located in a scenic meadow 12,700 feet above sea level, this five-story structure once produced up to 12 tons of ore concentrate a day. Today, it’s one of Colorado’s most well-preserved historic mining sites—and a fascinating place to explore.
On the way to Lewis Mine, you’ll pass by a number of streams, rocky outcrops, hillsides sprinkled with beautiful wildflowers, and waterfalls. “Getting to Bridal Veil Falls is a trek, which is why we recommend doing so with our tour on a four-wheel drive vehicle,” Lajja explains. “But after that, the hike to the mine takes you across an easy, rolling, gorgeous landscape. You’ll know you’re getting close when you spot mining debris scattered around.”
Built in the early 1900s right as Colorado entered a new era in its mining history, Lewis Mine’s remote location helped keep it intact. “During World War II, plenty of metal was salvaged from other mining sites,” Lajja says. “But not from Lewis Mine, since it was so out of the way and difficult to reach. That’s why it’s one of the only remaining mills with its original machinery.” In 2001, the mill was restored (materials were flown to the site by helicopter) and later placed on the National Register of Historic Places. “Go inside and you’ll see exactly what it looked like when it was open for production,” Lajja says. Inside, sunlight spills through the wooden shafts, illuminating steep staircases, a bunkhouse with a bunk bed, and shelves filled with old pots, pans, and utensils.
Once you’ve thoroughly explored the mill, you can continue on to Lewis Lake, which will cost you another half-mile along with an elevation of 250 feet. “You’ll be rewarded with a stunning expanse of water surrounded by towering, 13,000-foot mountain peaks,” Lajja promises. Or you can turn back toward Bridal Veil Falls, satisfied you’ve seen enough for the day. No one will blame you. After all, Element 52 was constructed in the format of an old mining town, featuring seven buildings crafted from rustic metal and stone. And here, you don’t need to hike anywhere to feel like you’re celebrating Telluride’s storied mining history.