Off the Beaten Path: Colorado’s Quirky Roadside Attractions

January 15, 2013

While Colorado is generally known for it's killer ski slopes and craft beer, there are countless off-the-beaten-path adventures that even natives might not know about. Here's the best we found.

May Natural History Museum (710 Rock Canyon Rd. , Colorado Springs)

If you have an affinity for large bugs, this is the place to go. The May History Museum is supposedly home to the world’s largest Herculean Beetle – a monstrosity built in the 1950s that greets guests at the entrance to this roadside attraction.

Inside the museum, built by John M. May in 1929, is an impressive collection of over 100,000 bugs – although these are much smaller in stature. Included in the collection is a 17 inch stick insect from New Guinea, the world’s largest purple Tarantulas, and Colombian Beetles large enough to knock a grown man off his feet.

The Cannibal Trail (Several locations)

The crimes of Alfred Packer – namely manslaughter and cannibalism – may have occurred over 100 years ago, but his legend lives on in a series of Colorado attractions dubbed the “Cannibal Trail.”

Situated just a few minutes from the Lake City miniature golf course is the Alfred Packer Massacre Site (Hwy  149, Lake City) that includes plaques with the names of Packer’s victims and a marker indicating the very spot that the crime occurred.  A few miles away is the Hinsdale County Museum (130 Silver St, Lake City) where most of the Packer memorabilia can be found.

Alferd Packer’s grave is located in the Littleton Cemetery (6155 S. Prince St. Littleton) where his original tombstone is still intact.

The Old Homestead House Museum (353 Myers Ave., Cripple Creek)

Part of Colorado’s not-so-savory past, the Old Homestead House Museum recounts a time when this Cripple Creek spot was a bustling brothel filled with miners willing to pay top dollar for beautiful madams.

In 1896 this house, owned and managed by Pearl DeVere, was considered to be the “finest and most expensive house in the settlement.”  Let this put it into perspective for you – at the time a respectable wage was $3 a day, but The Old Homestead was asking $250 per night and easily raking it in.

Museum of Colorado Prisons (201 N. 1st St., Cañon City)

Who knew that the history of Colorado prisons had been documented so thoroughly?

This lesser known attraction is in Cañon City next to the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility. The home of the original women’s prison, the bungalow now houses several cells, a gas chamber, the original hangman’s noose, confiscated inmate weapons, and historic photographs.

In addition, the museum documents the two famous riots that occurred there and the Hollywood movies that were created about them. If ghost tours are more your thing, they provide that daily as well.

The museum website boasts that it “serves as a reminder to the public that crime has a consequence.”

Bishop Castle (12705 CO-165, Wetmore)

The result of one man’s dedication to hard, physical labor, Bishop Castle was built over a 40-year time period and consists of over 1,000 tons of rock.

It was constructed single-handedly by Jim Bishop – a man known for his combative nature and tendency to drum up controversy. He has fought continuously with Washington bureaucrats who wanted to charge him for the rocks he was using from the neighboring San Isabel National Forest and with the Colorado Chamber of Commerce over their refusal to list Bishop Castle as a tourist attraction.

Nevertheless, this attraction – one Bishop hopes to complete before he dies – is quite popular for those who know about it.

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Colorado's Lesser-Known State Parks