By Charlene & Richard Mixa
From Gold Mines to Mountain Golf and More!
It’s not just about gold. In 1859 prospectors discovered gold and founded the town of Breckenridge, Colorado. Initially a mining town rich with veins of gold and silver, today its treasures lie in tourism with scenic mountains, summer activities, and fantastic winter sportsAs one of the nation’s premier year-round destinations, Breckenridge offers an incredible selection of activities that help unleash a sense of adventure or unwind from a hectic schedule. A welcoming town, Breckenridge offers visitors a wide range of options on a summer visit.
Perched at over 9,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains, Breckenridge is a “cool get-a-way”. Recapturing its early roots the town has over 350 buildings on the National Historic Register that creates a wonderful historic charm. At the Breckenridge Welcome Center, in the heart of downtown, we learn the wonders of Breckenridge’s past and future. Along the streets is a unique blend of varied and eclectic shops. Views of high mountain peaks are easily available from several outdoor eateries. After strolling Main Street, we return along the Riverwalk, a gentle path following the Blue River with blooming wildflowers, benches to enjoy the peaceful mountain setting and listen to the bubbling stream. Boarding the Breck Connect Gondola, it is a fun ride to see Breckenridge and majestic panoramic vistas from the Peaks, all over 12,600 feet. We can see for miles!
Boasting a vibrant “made-in-Breck” food and beverage scene there are over 70 independently-owned and operated restaurants and bars. We have a special toast to “the enduring and independent spirit” at Breckenridge Brewery, one of Colorado’s and the nation’s first microbreweries. For a different taste, we tour the Breckenridge Distillery enjoying smooth samples of single-malt whiskey, vodka, infusions and bourbon whiskey.
There’s gold in them hills! In fact the largest gold nugget ever found in North America was discovered in Breckenridge. At the Washington Gold Mine, breckheritage.com, we get an in depth tour of mining in this former gold and silver mine. Beginning with the details of the early mining process and inventions for getting more gold/silver out of the mines, our guide gives us a real sense of the challenges of mining and its impact on Breckenridge. He shares how Tom Groves found the world’s largest nugget which weighed 151 ounce. Nicknamed “Tom’s Baby” as he paraded around town with his huge gold nugget like a proud dad, eerie that no one knows what became of it.
It’s all downhill! It’s Vail Pass, a 12 mile coasting bike trip on a paved trail from the top of Vail Pass through Copper Mountain Resort and ending in the town of Frisco. At Rebel Sports, www.rebelsportsrentals.com, in Frisco, (a few miles from Breckenridge) we are properly fitted with sturdy mountain bikes and helmets. On the shuttle ride our driver offers suggestions of sites to along the trail. It’s awesome! The scenery is terrific as the bike trail winds through the mountains and along streams. At Copper Mountain we take the scenic chairlift ride and enjoy a tasty lunch at an outdoor café at the top of the mountain. Great views from the lift and at the top! Back on Vail Pass we ride through the incredible Ten Mile Canyon stopping by beautiful mountain lakes and streams.
Thanks to our driver’s directions we locate the Rock Garden and wonder through this enchanting site. A couple on their first anniversary created a heart shape out of rocks along the stream. Each year they add a new artful rock creation. Today it’s a whimsical Rock Garden with imaginative paths, spiritual cairns, animals and various formations made by stacking and placing rocks. Coasting into Frisco, we return our bikes to Rebel Sports and then stroll this quaint western town. It has some great eateries, too.
Golf is definitely a summer sport in the Rockies! The Breckenridge area has several great mountain golf courses. The town of Breckenridge is the only municipality to own a Jack Nicklaus designed, 27-hole golf course with three championship nines, the BEAR, the BEAVER and the ELK. Set in the Breckenridge Valley at 9300 feet the Breckenridge Golf Course, (http://www.townofbreckenridge.com/index.aspx?page=44) offers a mountain golf experience and a panoramic of the snowcapped Colorado Rockies from every hole. We play the BEAVER and ELK which are two totally different courses. The BEAVER follows the valley with the narrowest fairways of any of the nine. Plenty of water comes into play as well as real beaver ponds, hence the name. Accuracy is a must to score well on these nine holes. Playing the ELK we are rewarded with the widest panoramic views of the Ten-Mile mountain range. A more demanding nine holes, on the ELK accuracy is paramount with numerous hazards, hillside terrain, and elevation changes. Add golfing at 9,000 ft. elevation which brings a new twist of adjusting club selection and the physical demands at this altitude. It is a wonderful day of golf on this challenging and well maintained course. Visitors will definitely enjoy playing the Breckenridge Golf Course.
For awesome mountain golf it is definitely Raven at Three Peaks www.ravenatthreepeaks.com. Wow! It’s a fantastic golf course! Winding along the mountainside it offers plenty of challenge for golfers of all levels. Ranked by Avid Golfer as the #1 golf experience in Colorado, we definitely agree it is a “must play” for any golfer to the area. Each hole has its own personality! The scenery is breathtaking and the layout is spectacular. The Raven has it all with dramatic elevation changes, major uphill downhill fairways, water hazards and marshes to cross. On top of that is the numerous bunkers strategically placed along the fairways and around the large greens. Club selection can be as much as 3 clubs less due to the altitude, the huge elevation drop and the unpredictable wind. A breathtaking view and shot is on #9 with a tee box that sits 300 feet or more above the green on this monster par-4. Amazing, we launch our drives and watch as the balls drop from the sky to the downward sloping fairway. The back nine is even more mountainous and difficult than the front. Just driving the golf cart up and down the steep cart path is a thrill in itself. Be sure to take a camera to capture some of the fantastic views.
Seeking entertainment on our Rocky Mountain trip, we attend the Backstage Theatre’s (www.backstagetheatre.org) production of “THE NERD”. It is terrific! A zany and funny comedy with an excellent cast. Backstage Theatre offers a variety of plays and is well worth a visit. The productions are held at the Breckenridge Theater in a relaxed setting that truly brings the audience close to the stage.
Getting into the flavor of the old west, we climb aboard a wagon for our Two Below Zero’s Chuckwagon Dinner (www.dinnersleighrides.com). The mules pulling the wagon are Bonnie and Belle and they give us an easy ride to the cookout area. Before dinner, we are busy playing games with other guests of corn bag toss, yard golf, horseshoes and learning to lasso. Dirty Dawg, a cowboy, has the kids laughing as he shows them how to lasso. At large picnic tables under a shelter, we chow down on some good ol’ Chuckwagon vittles. Soon the Sheriff and Dirty Dawg are on stage entertaining us with their antics. A two-man show, we are all in stitches with their hilarious skits. It is a “hoot!” Everyone has a fun time and the children are all going crazy for pictures with Dirty Dawg.
A reminder on any visit to the Breckenridge area is high altitude precautions. Breckenridge’s base elevation is over 9,000 feet elevation brings new challenges to many visitors. Being from Florida, basically at sea level we definitely feel the impact of this higher elevation. Another clue is the numerous “oxygen” bars where visitors stop for an “oxygen” boost. Don’t panic the majority of visitors notice only minimal affects from the altitude but it is always a good reminder to be alert and not overdo. Be sure to wear sunscreen (you are closer to the sun here), drink plenty of water and limit consumption of alcohol and caffeine. Take a day or two to acclimate before doing any strenuous activities.
Visitors will enjoy a summer visit to the Breckenridge and the Summit County area with the beautiful mountains, charming town, and numerous summer sports. Our visit gave us just a sampling of the varied recreational activities available in this area of the Rocky Mountains.
Accommodation: Our Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO # 264858) definitely lived up to its claims as being serene with a great deck for sitting outside with woodsy views. The cabin was very well decorated and had lots of space. As just a couple, we spent most of our time on the main level with the living room, the full kitchen. dining area, bedroom and bathroom. The upstairs loft was great for relaxing and watching TV. There is a large family area downstairs as well as more bedrooms and another bath. The mountain luxuries included heated bathroom floors and even heated towel racks. It would be terrific for a family or group. Note: The cabin is at an elevation of over 11,000 feet. For us flatlanders from Florida, it did cause some issues for my husband with this high an altitude. Check it out if you are planning a visit to the Breckenridge area: http://www.vrbo.com/264858.
If you go:
Breckenridge Resort Chamber, 111 Ski Hill Road, Breckenridge, CO 80424; 970.453.2913; www.GoBreck.com