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St. Elmo's Fire: The tragic story of an enchanted ghost town

Trapped in time, and nestled in the mountains...

  • 3
  • 00:00
  • $0
  • 0 mi

Created by Tatiana Danger - September 12th 2016

St. Elmo, Colorado is one of America's best-preserved ghost towns. It's a town that's frozen in time. Located 10,000 feet deep in the Sawatch Range, 20 miles southwest of Buena Vista. It's probably one of the coolest abandoned places to visit, right up there with Bodie Ghost Town, Elkmont ghost town in Tennessee and the ghost town at Bannack State Park.

Old wooden houses line the main street of ghost town of St Elmo in Colorado.

Old wooden houses line the main street of ghost town of St Elmo in Colorado.

St. Elmo was founded in 1880, and quickly swelled to a population of 2,000 people. The draw: Gold and silver mining. Within just 10 years the town had reached its peak, with the establishment of a telegraph office, General Store, a town hall, five hotels, a local newspaper, school, and of course the obligatory Wild West saloons and dancing halls.


"The majority of the people who lived in St. Elmo worked at the Mary Murphy, Teresa C., The Molly or the Pioneer Mines. The Mary Murphy Mine was the largest and most successful mine in the area. The Mary Murphy Mine recovered over $60,000,000 worth of gold while it was in operation. While the other mines eventually shut down, the Mary Murphy Mine continued to operate until the railroad was abandoned in 1922." - Wikipedia

At its peak, the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad line ran through the town, and there were over 150 patented mine claims. Unfortunately within just 4 decades the mining industry began to decline, and once the railroad stopped running in 1922, the town was abandoned. First the miners left, to search for gold elsewhere. Then the rest of the people slowly trickled away, until finally St. Elmo's postmaster died in 1952. That was the final nail in the coffin of St. Elmo's Main Street. Today St. Elmo Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But the story doesn't end there...

Though it's technically considered a ghost town, people still live in St. Elmo, and tourism to the town brings in loads of people every year. There are ATV trails, fishing, and the general store is open all summer long. In 2002, the town hall burned down...as prophesied in the 1985 John Parr classic "St. Elmo's Fire". Today when you visit St. Elmo you can spend the night in an authentic cabin, for just $79. Or rent it for the week for less than $500.

Old wooden windows and flowers in ghost town of St Elmo in Colorado.

Old wooden windows and flowers in ghost town of St Elmo in Colorado.

Tatiana Danger

Roadtrippers co-founder. When I grow up I'm going to be Indiana Jones. Current Status: Mom to Bruce. Hit me up on Facebook & Twitters for crazy, awesome, weird stuff.