A rustic central Rockies railroad town entices in wintertime

WHERE: From I-70 just 4 miles east of Vail, take exit 171and head south 2 miles on U.S. 24 to Minturn.

CONTACT: Minturn Town Office, (970) 827-5645.


Dogsled tour of Camp Hale. Reserve half-day trips with NovaGuides. From $240 per sled (fits two adults). www.novaguides.com or(888) 949-6682.

Meadow Mountain Trail. This strenuous 4-mile one-way routeclimbs 2,000 feet. We hiked in boots, but snowshoes may benecessary (bring your own). Park and pick up maps at the Holy CrossRanger District visitor center of the White River National Forest.8-5 Mon-Fri. 24747 U.S. 24; www.fs.fed.us/r2/whiteriveror (970) 827-5715.


The Minturn Inn. Eighteen sunny, bright rooms by the river(some with fireplaces) and one cabin. From $119 (includesbreakfast). 442 Main St.; www.minturninn.com, (800)646-8876, or (970) 827-9647.

By Lora J. Finnegan

Next to the glitz of neighbors like Vail and Beaver Creek,the down-home spirit of Minturn, Colorado, is refreshing. Minturn'srough-hewn charm shines in a smattering of quaint downtown shopsand galleries.

The town's lack of pretension springs from a working-classheritage. "Unlike Vail, Minturn was a mining and railroad town. Areal town," town manager Alan Lanning says. "And we're working hardto maintain its character."

Into the early 1900s, steam trains stopped here to change crewsand switch direction at the end of the track - some even say thetown's name derived from "men-turn," after the railroad men whoturned the locomotives around.

The pufferbelly trains are long gone, but U.S. 24, a ColoradoScenic Byway, still travels the winding route to Minturn. Thehighway passes through the White River National Forest, where youcan tackle the challenging 4-mile one-way Meadow Mountain Trail andscan the valley for herds of wintering elk.

During World War II, the Camp Hale area just outside town hostedU.S. Army troops from the 10th Mountain Division. Today you canvisit this historic site on a half-day dogsled tour with NovaGuides.

When you're ready to come in out of the cold, the shops ofMinturn offer a warm respite. Many original board-and-battenbuildings now house gift and antiques shops. One standout isAntique Accents (155 Main St.; 970/827-9070), with Old West artifacts likesaddles, chaps, and spurs. Next door is the Eagle River Trading Co.(161 Main; 970/827-9262), where you can find that perfectfinishing touch - elk antlers, a vintage ski poster - for yourmountain cabin. And nearby at Minturn Cellars (noon-8 Tue-Sat; behind a Mexican restaurant, 107 Williams St.;970/827-4065), you can warm up by the fire with a taste ofMerlot made from Colorado-grown grapes ($4 for tasting).

Try the burger loaded with green chili sauce at the laid-back,diner-style Turntable Restaurant (160 Railroad Ave.; 970/827-4164). Or join the formerrailroad men hunched over whiskeys at the Minturn Saloon (146 N. Main; 970/827-5954). It's the town's oldest bar andbest restaurant - a perfect spot to enjoy a cold beer, a plate ofribs, and the simple pleasures that Minturn serves up so well.

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