Past bustling Frisco, Colorado, through the ski town of Breckenridge and over 11,542′ Hoosier Pass lies the little town of Fairplay, Colorado. Situated on a high grassland basin known as South Park (yes, the South Park… more on this later), you definitely get the feeling that John Denver must have visited Fairplay before he wrote his famous ballad, Rocky Mountain High. There are the “cathedral mountains” and the “silver clouds”, there’s the starlight sky, and the streams. But most of all I found the “quiet solitude.”
Perhaps the solitude was unique to when I visited, I can’t be sure, but this small town of less than 700 people, situated in the thin air of 10,000′ feet felt like something out of an old western flick from the 1950’s. Front Street (one street off Highway 9/Main Street) boasts wooden sidewalks, an old fashioned creamery and quaint western shops.
At the end of the road is South Park Historical Foundation, a small open air museum with a recreated mining town depicting what life was like in South Park during the Colorado Gold Rush and Colorado Silver Boom in the late 1850’s through 1880’s. The buildings are all authentic from the area, but have been relocated to this central spot.
When we visited on a relatively mild June afternoon, the wind howled over Hoosier Pass and into the South Park basin. I can only imagine what this must have felt like in the dead of winter… especially being at high altitude. Mining life was not easy.
Beyond the mining museum and back into town, I noticed an artsy air to Fairplay. Apparently the town hosts an annual Bead and Fiber show in August. Another lively looking event in Fairplay is the annual Burro Days – a celebration of the mining days and the role of the burro.
So is Fairplay really the town basis for the animated series South Park? Clearly when you visit, you notice Fairplay is a much smaller, more rustic town than in the show. Both the co-creators are Colorado natives, but neither grew up in there. The do make several references to the area in specific episodes but it’s pretty clear that Fairplay is just loosely related to the South Park in the series.
So if you’re needing a little break from it all, I would highly recommend a road trip to Fairplay. You can get a little taste of mining history, a few artsy trinkets, and most of all a little taste of that Rocky Mountain High John Denver sang about.