The town of Breckenridge Colorado was built on the quest for gold and a great way to learn about that history and the Colorado gold rush, especially with kids, is through a tour of the Country Boy Mine.
The Country Boy Mine is located two miles from Downtown Breckenridge and lets visitors go down into a real mine shaft and learn what it was like for the hard rock miners. Located amidst the beautiful Rocky Mountains, Country Boy Mine was the largest and most famous gold mine in Breckenridge. The mine is only open May – October, so it’s a great summer or fall activity.
What to Expect on the Country Boy Mine Tour
I’d rather be a rancher than a miner. The tunnels are dark, especially when it’s just candlelight. It’s cold, the mine is a constant 45 degrees year round. It’s damp, miners worked with their feet in freezing underground waterways that originated in the snowcapped mountains.
Then there were the rats. Miners introduced rats to the tunnels because the rats would warn the miners of trouble, guiding them out of the mine with their red eyes.
Guest to the Country Boy Mine in Breckenridge, CO can see first hand the working conditions of the miners and get a glimpse of life in a turn of the century mining town by witnessing 1,000 feet of the original mine.
My children, at 8, 12 and 14 were surprised to learn they would have worked as blast monkeys, handling the dynamite and making sure all the blasts went off.
Even in summer, it’s still cold in the mine, so dress appropriately. The good news, guests to the Country Boy Mine walk on boards, so you don’t have to worry about wet feet, and thankfully the only rat we saw was a plastic one.
Life as a Breckenridge Gold Miner
Working in the gold mines of Breckenridge was definitely a tough way to make a living, but I can see how the fraternity of the hard rock miners would be preferable to the solitary life of the early gold panners.
Miners clocked in and out with a brass token. If the token was missing at the end of a shift, they knew which miner to look for in the mine. Miners were given clothes to wear during their shift. The mine operators wanted to make sure workers didn’t sneak any gold home with them.
Miners would sometimes keep the dynamite warm inside their shirts because extreme temperatures could ignite the sticks. Talk about a hazardous job.
Country Boy Mine Grounds
After the underground tour, we spent some time panning in the river for gold, just like the original gold panners. It’s amazing they didn’t freeze their fingers off, that water was very cold and we were gold panning in July, not December. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any real gold.
We also enjoyed touring the grounds looking at the memorabilia; my favorite, a dynamite warming tray so the miners (or more often the blast monkey) didn’t have to keep the dynamite inside their shirt to keep it warm and stable.
I enjoyed the Ore Chute slide just as much as my kids. It’s not graceful getting started, but the trip down the slide is like a gold nugget flying down the ore chute.
While you are Country Boy mine, say hi to the resident donkeys or my buddy Blizzard, the owner’s Newfoundland who is more often than not cooling off on the concrete floor inside the gift shop.
Hike to Another Mine in Breck
If you enjoy learning about mining at the Country Boy Mine, take the Iowa Hill Mine Hike, through the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, or visit on your own. The trailhead is right off Airport Rd. in Breckenridge, so it’s easy to find.
The hike itself is short and has lots of old mine equipment on display to break up the walking. The Iowa Hill Mine Trail was my 8 –year-old’s favorite hike.
If you are in Denver, the Colorado History Museum has a mining display that is very well done and interactive.
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