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      Close to Heaven… Down to Earth

 



Frontier Pathways

McKenzie Junction to Westcliffe

From McKenzie Junction, the canyon narrows for a few miles. All along the way are
log cabins: all types. Homestead cabins that have fallen apart and others that have
been extensively refurbed. Big fancy log cabin kit homes and Lincoln Log designs
with frame additions. There’s a lot of water in the creek along here but not much
for big views until you top out at Bear Basin. Right there the country opens up
and you are on top of the spine of the Wet Mountains. And the view west is spectacular.


Silver Cliff Town Museum
Silver Cliff Town Museum

The road winds back and forth as it descends into the Wet Mountain Valley and offers
tantalizing views to the west and northwest. Then you arrive in Silver Cliff. Once
upon a time, Silver Cliff was a major silver mining town full of saloons, casinos
and dance halls with mining and partying going on 24 hours a day. After 10 years
the mines began to peter out and cattle ranching settled in. Today, Silver Cliff
is a quiet and peaceful place with almost no mining going on and eight Centennial
Farms still in operation (a Centennial Farm is a farm owned and operated by the
same family for more than 100 years) in the county.

Westcliffe came into existence because the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad built
their tracks up through Grape Creek Canyon to one mile west of Silver Cliff, and
then they built their town. This was a favorite tactic of the railroad builders
because it gave them a complete new townsite to sell off to those who would do business
with the railroad. And it completely devalued the townsite they were building close
to.

This is how Westcliffe came to be the county seat and the largest town in the county.
At the intersection of State Highways 96 and 69 in Westcliffe, the Frontier Pathways
Scenic and Historic Byway meets up with its’ leg that heads from Walsenburg to Gardner.
Just south of that intersection is the Custer County Courthouse, built in 1929.