If you’re ever in the Breckenridge area and seeking an opportunity to transport yourself back in time and immerse yourself in the rich mining history of the region, look no further than the Country Boy Mine Tour.
From exploring the shadowy depths of a mine tunnel to engaging in the time-honored practice of gold panning, there’s a lot to do at this historic mining site.
Below, I will tell you everything you need to know to fully prepare for your visit so that you’ll be able to just focus on having a great time.
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What is the Country Boy Mine Tour?
The Country Boy Mine in Breckenridge, Colorado, is a historic mine turned tourist attraction. It offers visitors the opportunity to explore a real, former gold mine and learn about the region’s rich mining history.
The mine was originally founded in 1887 during the Colorado Gold Rush, when the area was teeming with prospectors in search of precious metals.
The Country Boy Mine was an active gold and silver mine that operated for several decades, contributing to the growth and development of Breckenridge as a mining town in the late 1880s.
Later on, the mine transitioned to producing large quantities of high grade lead and zinc for use in World War I and World War II.
Today, the Country Boy Mine provides guided tours that take visitors underground to experience what it was like to be a miner during the height of the mining industry.
Visitors can explore the mine shafts, see mining equipment, and learn about the techniques and challenges involved in extracting precious minerals from the earth.
In addition to the underground mine tour, the Country Boy Mine offers various other attractions and activities. These include gold panning, where visitors can try their hand at finding real gold flakes and a number of outdoor museum exhibits that showcase mining artifacts.
The Country Boy Mine is not only a place to learn about the mining industry but also a unique destination to experience the rugged and adventurous spirit of the Colorado mountains.
It offers visitors a glimpse into the lives of the miners who toiled underground in the pursuit of precious metals and is a reminder of how important the mining era was to the prosperity of the country.
How to book a visit to the Country Boy Mine Tour
I’d highly recommend you to book your tickets online because sometimes they go fast.
A lot of the mining attractions shut down for the winter but the Country Boy Mine Tour is available year-round. In addition to the mining tour they also offer other activities like a scavenger hunt, gold panning, extreme sledding, and more.
How to get to the Country Boy Mine Tour
The Country Boy Mine is located at: 0542 French Gulch Road, Breckenridge 80424.
Breckenridge is about an hour and a half west of Denver and about 45 minutes west of Georgetown.
The mine itself is located just outside of the downtown area of Breckenridge and it should only take you about five minutes to get to when driving. As you approach on French Gulch Road, you’ll see the sign for the mine on the side of the road and it’s really hard to miss.
When visiting the area I also recommend checking out the Reiling Gold Dredge, one of nine dredges that operated in Summit County between 1898 and 1942. It’s just a few minutes down the road and accessible via a very short trail.
From 1898 to 1942, miners in the Breckenridge region employed massive dredges to meticulously search the gulches and river valleys, leaving no trace of gold unexplored.
From 1905 to 1922, two dredges operated in French Gulch: the Reliance and Reiling, and they were among the most profitable in Breckenridge, recovering an average of $1,000 in gold per week (approximately $100,000 in today’s dollars).
But the success did not last forever and on November 18, 1922, the Reiling sank in this pond where it remains today.
The massive rock piles it created are far-reaching and these did a lot of damage to the environment, lining the river valleys with long piles of gravel. The Reiling dredge created the rock piles you can see from this site which seem to span for miles toward the west.
This entire valley of French Gulch was a major gold mining area in the 19th century. In fact, it’s where in 1859, a miner named Tom Groves discovered a 13.5-pound piece of crystalline gold, which became known as “Tom’s Baby.”
Tom Groves was so proud of his discovery that he wrapped it in a baby blanket and carried it around town like a baby. Hence the name!
Tom’s Baby is still remembered today as one of the most famous pieces of gold ever found in Colorado and is still the biggest one ever found.
Our experience at the Country Boy Mine Tour
We booked a tour for 11 AM and showed up about 15 minutes early which is the recommended arrival time.
We checked in at the visitor center/gift shop, completed a waiver, and then all we had to do was wait around for a little while.
Killing time is very easy around here because there’s a lot to see and explore, including structures that recreate the old wild west days.
You can explore a variety of impressive machinery at this location, including air compressors and a robust piece of equipment known as the rocker shovel loader.
Discover the pivotal roles these machines played in the mining operations and unravel the secrets behind why they were so perfectly suited for those type of industrial operations.
In addition, be sure not to miss the chance to encounter the absolutely adorable miniature donkeys. Back in the day, these were used to navigate narrow tunnels and transport materials. But today, these lovable creatures add an extra touch of charm to the experience and are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.
Then there’s the 55-foot ore chute slide which you don’t want to miss. Take a plunge down the slide and feel the rush of excitement as you make your grand exit.
Just a week prior we had explored the Argo Mill in nearby Idaho Springs which takes you inside of a historic mill and allows you to walk a bit inside of the Argo Tunnel which was used to drain a lot of the mines in the area.
The tour was very interesting but did not actually take us inside of a mine so this tour offered us a distinct experience.
When it was time for the tour, we were greeted by a very charismatic and energetic tour guide who did a good job of keeping things interesting. You’ll get a short introduction with your tour guide and then it will be time to make your way inside the mine.
The first stop is the dry room where you will pick up your hard hat and also get a good overview of the mine’s design.
From the beginning, it was clear that the focus was on making the most of the experience for the kids so this is a very kid focused experience.
I do want to note that during the tour, there were a couple of instances where small children became a bit frightened and started crying, possibly due to the darkness, unfamiliar sounds, or just the slightly creepy nature of the mine.
However, the guide mentioned that this is not a widespread occurrence, so the majority of children will likely handle the experience well.
It’s also worth pointing out that inside of the mine, it’s very chilly, probably somewhere between the 40s and 50s.
You definitely want to bring a jacket or sweatshirt to keep you warm but they did have jackets on the wall which I’m assuming they issue for people who don’t come prepared.
You might also consider having an outer shell that’s water resistant because there was a steady drip-drip situation from the ceiling at times.
In this particular mine, the ceiling is not excessively low, so you never feel uncomfortably cramped like in those mines you might have seen on TV. Even as someone who experiences a bit of claustrophobia, I felt perfectly at ease.
The mine is relatively well lit so you don’t need to fix a headlamp to your helmet or carry around your own light torch.
With that said, you still want to keep an eye on where you’re stepping because some parts are a tad slippery and the ground is sometimes a little uneven. But overall, it’s not a problem, especially if you stay on the narrow tracks.
You make a couple of different stops along the way and during the stops you’ll be able to learn a lot about the infrastructure of the mine and some of the day to day challenges that miners faced dealing with things like explosives and loud noises.
During our tour, our guide maintained a G-rated narrative, so we didn’t delve into many explicit details. However, learning about the arduous working conditions always amplifies my admiration for the resilience and dedication of miners, both in the past and present.
One of the highlights of the Country Boy Mine tour is the opportunity to witness the widowmaker in action. The widowmaker, with its deafening metallic clanging and impressive hydraulic force, creates quite the display as it drills into the rock, showcasing the sheer power and intensity involved in the mining process. Just don’t forget to cover your ears!
When we finally reached our deepest point in the mine which was about 1,000 feet in, our guide decided to go old school and lit a candle after turning off the lights so that we could see just how miners back in the old days navigated these dark corridors.
It was at this point that we were given a talk on the enduring urban legends and folklore that miners have handed down through generations, ranging from avoiding extinguishing candles to avoiding the final shift. Given the constant peril they faced, one can understand their inclination for giving into a bit of superstition.
With our mine tour adventure complete, the time had come to bid farewell to the chilly depths of the mine and embrace the warmth of sunlight once again.
As you venture out of the mine, get ready to immerse your hands in the shimmering stream of possibility as you learn the age-old skill of separating precious gold from the surrounding sediment.
With expert guidance and a little practice, you’ll discover the thrill of uncovering glimmers of gold, making your visit even more unforgettable.
You’ll also have the opportunity to switch out your shoes for some rain boots and step into the shallow waters to try out the experience.
This felt a lot more authentic than the gold panning we did at the Argo Mill, as there’s a genuine sense of connection to the mining heritage as you roll up your sleeves and engage in the physical act of pulling out the earth yourself.
Furthermore, the location itself is a sight to behold, offering a breathtaking backdrop of majestic mountains that elevate the gold panning experience to new heights. The scenic beauty surrounding you adds an extra touch of wonder and serenity to the activity.
I’d highly recommend the Country Boy Mine Tour.
The only negative I have to say about the experience is how kid-centric it was. I totally understand why it’s that way and if you are visiting as a family it’s obviously a plus.
But if you are an adult with no children, the kid-centric, rated “G” experience may have you feeling a little out of place during the tour — at least I did compared to the Argo Mill experience.
Still, overall, it was a worthwhile experience being able to go so deep into a historic mine and learn a good deal about the mine.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC.