Renegade Roads

Hanging Your Hat in Colorado’s Historic Hotels

From the Cliff House at Pikes Peak to a Denver brewmaster’s Creede Hotel.


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Sure, you can find historic hotels across the West, but I don’t know if any state offers a better selection than Colorado. Don’t believe me? Well, try this road trip on for size.

From the Cliff House at Pikes Peak to a Denver brewmaster’s Creede Hotel.
Sure, you can find historic hotels across the West, but I don’t know if any state offers a better selection than Colorado. Don’t believe me? Well, try this road trip on for size.

Cliff House at Pikes Peak
Built in 1873, this hotel in Manitou Springs started out as a stagecoach stop on the trail from Colorado Springs to Leadville. In 1886, Edward Nichols bought the 20-room building known as an inn and turned it into a hifalutin resort.

Today, after a $10.5 million renovation, this remarkable 4½-story building features 200 rooms, including suites named after former celebrity guests such as Buffalo Bill, Gen. John Pershing, Charles Dickens, Clark Gable and Teddy Roosevelt among others. If that 4-Diamond restaurant can’t entice you, the wine list tops 700; the  six certified sommeliers won’t steer you wrong.

This Colorado Springs hotel is not a dairy farm.

That’s right, this resort of 744 rooms, 18 eateries, a spa and three golf courses started out as the Broadmoor Dairy Farm in 1880. Actually, before that, the land owners grew corn to make brooms.

The hotel business came after Count Pourtales bought the property and built a casino in 1891. In 1916, mining magnate Spencer Penrose turned the property into the five-star getaway that has charmed presidents, rock stars, baseball players and actors.

Armstrong Hotel
Originally opened in 1923—then the tallest building in town—the Armstrong in Fort Collins had fallen into serious disrepair when Missy and Steve Levinger bought the vacant building “on a whim” in 2002.

Rooms vary from eclectic modern to unique vintage looks at this 43-room boutique hotel, but Missy points out, “We tried to keep as much historical integrity as we could.”

Those vintage rooms might have you recall early 20th-century Fort Collins, but that downstairs bar, Ace Gillett’s, looks like something you’d find in New York or Chicago.

Stanley Hotel
“Here’s Johnny!”

Sorry. I couldn’t help myself, but I should point out that while Stephen King found his inspiration for his novel The Shining while staying in Room 217, the 1980 movie starring Jack Nicholson wasn’t filmed at this hotel in Estes Park.

Many visitors are captivated by that novel and movie, but the history dates much earlier. F.O. Stanley arrived in Estes Park in 1903 and soon decided to build a place for his friends. “He had a lot of friends,” my guide, Jesse Freitas, tells me. Opened in 1909, the Georgian-style hotel keeps bringing in overnight guests. The hotel and the 40-room boutique lodge also attract thousands of tourists, who come for various tours or to look around.

Hotel Boulderado
The five-story hotel got its start from a subscription drive to build a luxury hotel for all the tourists coming to Boulder. Construction began in 1906, and the Hotel Boulderado—the name came from combining “Boulder” with “Colorado”—opened in 1909.

They built this from subscriptions? You gotta love Boulder.

The hotel’s 160 rooms are spectacular, but what really grabs your attention is that stained-glass canopy ceiling. A Halloween snowstorm in 1959 cracked part of the ceiling, which got replaced with Plexiglas. Decades passed before new ownership restored the property—and its ceiling—to its original elegance.

Brown Palace Hotel & Spa
Don’t mess with Henry Cordes Brown. When the Windsor Hotel refused Brown entrance because he was wearing cowboy boots, he decided to build the Brown Palace in Denver.

Although it took him four years and $1.6 million, when the Richardsonian Romanesque hotel opened in 1892, it was considered “unprecedented.”

It still is. From its elegant rooms to the time-honored afternoon tea to its perfect restaurants and exceptional staff, the Brown Palace is the place to get pampered. Little wonder every president (except Calvin Coolidge, who didn’t get out much) has stayed here since 1905.

As far as the Windsor goes, it was torn down in the 1950s.


Oxford Hotel

Designed by Brown Palace visionary Frank Edbrooke, the Oxford opened in 1891, and it is Denver’s oldest historic hotel in existence. Brewer Adolph Zang envisioned a grand hotel across the street from Union...

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