If you are looking for an off-the-beaten path outdoor adventure, look no farther than Tin Cup, Colorado. In 1859, placer gold was found in the area north of Almont, Colorado. In 1879, the first big strikes of high grade gold and silver were made up past the Taylor River canyon. One of the prospectors carried his gold dust out in a tin cup, and that’s how the town of Tin Cup got its name.
Within a few years, more mines were discovered and the town grew to about 2,000 citizens, most of them with very lose morals — the town was controlled by the gamblers (what today we might refer to as the Mob). In fact, Tin Cup was one of the top three wildest and unruliest mining camps in Colorado. Sheriffs didn’t last long in Tin Cup, unless they cooperated with the bad element in town — they were told to “hear nothing and see nothing.” Eight sheriffs held the office in the early years of the town. Thanks to the Colorado Historical society, we know the fate of these intrepid law men. The first sheriff quit, the second was fired, the third gunned down, the fourth was shot by a gambler, the fifth quit and became a preacher, the sixth went insane, the seventh was shot and the eighth managed to finish out his term (one has to wonder what compromises he had to make to stay alive).
Sadly, the Tin Cup Cemetery is filled with honest sheriffs and unlucky citizens who ran afoul of the lawless elements. Still, the cemetery is a unique place to visit. It is divided into 4 sections — Protestant Knoll, Catholic Knoll, Jewish Knoll and Boot Hill Knoll. While you can no longer read most of the markers, you can still find a few that reveal the colorful past of the town. For instance, the markers of “Black” Jack Cameron, whose grave is in the Boot Hill section, reads “He drew 5 Aces.” One must suppose his fellow card players didn’t appreciate his skills and shot him dead on the spot.
Today, Tin Cup looks like a ghost town, but isn’t. The citizens of this tiny town (mostly summer residents) have restored the cabins to their original condition — it looks very much like it might have looked 150 years ago. There’s a small general store and gift shop with some rather odd hours, but the sign outside will let you know if the store is open or closed. Camping and lodging is available in nearby Taylor Park and Taylor Park Reservoir.
Frenchy’s Cafe, a small restaurant in one of the log cabins has a very colorful history. French was an old prospector who decided he could make more money selling whisky than looking for gold. The original saloon consisted of a plank set across two barrels. Eventually he moved his operation indoors and began serving food as well. Local legend says that Frenchy enjoyed his grub and grew to enormous size. When he died, residents had to cut out a wall to remove his body for burial.
Located just three miles from the continental divide in a high meadow in the Rocky Mountains, Tin Cup is a great jumping off point for hiking, fishing, camping, siteseeing and other outdoor adventures.