The Rocky Mountains were once considered an insurmountable obstacle to the West. Traversing the United States took months, not hours or days, due to the necessity of crossing these mountains. If the difficult travel didn’t kill you, it was sure to be indians or disease.
The history of The Rockies is rife with miners and travelers who stopped where they were, either because they were out of money or didn’t have the strength to go on. Bravely, though, these pioneers helped to expand a nation bursting at the seams.
Hidden amongst the Rocky Mountains are a group of hotels working to help preserve the history of the people who saw the mountains not as an obstacle to be overcome but as a piece of our country that deserved the love they gave them. None of the stories told at these hotels, stories of land and cattle barons, innocent miners seeking a better life and the itinerant farmer who saw a need for a place to stay and created one, will be found in any of the history books. The people responsible for taming the west are usually little known outside the towns and cities where they made their mark. However, to the places where they stayed and helped create a town, their contribution has been immeasurable.
Collectively calling themselves “The Historic Hotels of the Rockies”, this group of establishments joined together to combine their marketing dollars in order to maximize exposure for lodging that is a little off the beaten track, most of the time. The criteria to belong is simple: be at least 50 years old, meet the requirements to be considered a part of the National Registry of Historic Places (not necessarily belonging, just be eligible), be historically significant by their standards, offer unique and memorable accomodation and be located inside the Rocky Mountain Time Zone.
Divided by state boundaries, the website for this hotel group shares a bit of their history with their online visitors. However, to truly appreciate the beauty and realize the magnitude of these hotels and their contribution to shaping the West, one needs to visit them all. Whether you do it over one trip or several, the owners of these hotels (most are privately owned and operated) will be thrilled to see you!
Recently, I and another Examiner, Debe Branning (Arizona Haunted Sites and Haunted Places Examiner) had the opportunity to visit nearly all of these hotels, either for the night or just passing through, and were enthralled by all we had seen and heard. After nearly 4,500 miles and some pretty hot brakes, we could say we had seen the best of the West and we still wanted more. This is a group that adds or subtracts members so visiting the website when making plans to visit is a must.
On the primary website, the hotels are broken down by state:
Izaak Walton Hotel – Essex
Grand Union Hotel – Ft. Benton
Pollard Hotel – Red Lodge
Sacajawea – Three Forks
Calvert Hotel – Lewistown
Hotel Alex Johnson – Rapid City
Irma Hotel – Cody
The Occidental Hotel – Buffalo
Plains Hotel – Cheyenne
Nagle Warren Mansion B&B – Cheyenne
Castle Marne B&B – Denver
Peck House – Empire
Delaware Hotel – Leadville
New Sheridan Hotel – Telluride
Strater Hotel – Durango
Plaza Hotel – Las Vegas