3. Lake City
Lake City was the first town Enos Hotchkiss founded in Colorado. He did so in 1874 after discovering a gold mine that he later named the Golden Fleece. The Golden Fleece was one of the most productive gold mines in the history of Colorado gold mining. As a result of Hotchkiss’s find, Lake City’s population exploded to a town with more than 200 buildings and ten thousand people.
Today, most of the original buildings are gone, though the jail still stands after having been converted into the county museum. Lake City has under 350 permanent residence. Located in Hinsdale County 60 miles southwest of Gunnison, Colorado, Lake City not only has spectacular views within the city limits but offers access to some of the most stunning views in the state.
Just outside of town to the south is Slumgullion Pass, which leads to Creede. To the west are Cinnamon Pass and Engineer Pass, which lead to Silverton. Just outside of town to the north is Crystal Lake, after which the town was named. The base of Uncompahgre peak is a 30-minute drive on a dirt road from Lake City and the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River runs out of the Crystal Lake.
In addition to the historic sites and scenery Lake City has to offer, it also has world-class elk hunting, is one of the few places in Colorado where moose can still be spotted, has a large black bear and mountain lion population and the fishing in the creeks and ponds around Lake City attracts fishermen from all over the world.
Maybe the most interesting historical note about Lake City is that prior to the discovery of gold — and therefore prior to the town being erected — it was the site of America’s first case of cannibalism. A guide named Alfred Packer tried leading a group of men through the mountains in the dead of winter. After a heavy snowstorm hit the area, the party became lost, ran out of provisions and began starving to death.
Two months later, Packer arrived at Gunnison’s Los Pinos Indian Agency with a backpack full of human body parts.