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Surrounded by Kenosha Pass to the North, Wilkerson Pass to the East, Trout Creek Pass to the South and Weston Pass to the West sits the quiet valley of South Park in the Central Colorado Rockies. In the heart of this valley lays Fairplay, one of the many wild mining towns from the time of gold and silver.
10,000 prospectors flocked to Park County in 1860, desperate for easy riches. By 1870, only 500 people remained. Successful mining required lots of capitol, good business sense and luck. Fairplay survived the boom-and-bust cycles as a stable supply center and the Park County seat. The name came from the founders - a group of miners annoyed by the unfair and backstabbing behavior seen in other camps.
The current town population is less than 700, and is dependent on tourism. Fairplay has a recreation center, a variety of local shops and restaurants, and a Forest Service office. It’s half an hour from the Breckenridge ski area with easy access to several fourteeners, trout fishing, hunting, and four-wheeling. Fairplay’s elevation is 9,953.
Fairplay celebrates the spirit of the Old West with Burro Days and a mountain man rendezvous. Front Street has a monument to Prunes, a 63 year-old burro owned by a prospector still hunting gold in 1930.
Now somewhat famous as the suspected model for the South Park series, Fairplay is most known for the open air museum its center boasts. In 1959, 100 years after gold was found and the town sprang to life, South Park City was rebuilt within Fairplay and stands today as a living monument to days gone by. South Park City Museum took a slice of the original town, added additional historically important buildings and opened the restored 1880’s mining town to the public. Each of the 40 building is crammed full of history, historic tools, furnishings, stories and mementos of every-day life. The museum is open May to October. Panning for gold is still a main attraction as well, for those with the fever still in their blood.
As with most of Colorado’s mountain towns, there’s never a lack of things to do here. Hike the fourteeners in the Mosquito Range or take a mountain bike up trails that offer stunning views of the South Park valley. Explore old mining towns along trails via ATV or 4-wheel-drive vehicles near up Mosquito Pass, Weston Pass or Boreas Pass. Camp and fish at the Jefferson Lake Recreation area, a 920-acre lake at 10,700 feet. Come winter, of course, the snow offers up a winter wonderland in which to lose the cares of everyday life.
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