Visitors and Breckenridge residents are excited that Isak Heartstone, the giant troll made of recycled materials, has found a new home in Breckenridge. At the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, we’re especially happy that his new home is just steps away from some of the best historic sites in Breckenridge. Here’s our advice on planning your visit to see Isak.
Take the Trolley
The Breckenridge Trolley (two of them actually) travels up and down Breckenridge’s historic main street. Taking a loop on the trolley is an activity in and of itself. There are several stops, with the Ice Rink and City Market book-ending the trolley route. If you have time, stop at the Breckenridge Welcome Center Museum, which has exhibits all about the history of Breckenridge. Then go across the street into the Barney Ford House Museum and you’ll be amazed and inspired by Barney Ford’s story of survival and strength during the mining era. Once the trolley gets to the Ice Rink, hop off and look for footprints to the new Trollstigen Trail, in the southeast corner of the parking lot.
Visit the High Line Railroad Park
Once you’ve seen Isak, make sure you carve out some time to visit the High Line Railroad Park, which is adjacent to the Ice Arena and on the other side of the parking lot from where the Trollstigen Trail begins. If you have kids, there’s a railroad themed playground, a caboose (you can go inside it when the park is staffed) and a button that children (and adults!) can press to hear the train whistle. Railroad buffs also love
the park for the small museum and original Engine No. 9 locomotive that served Breckenridge for more than 40 years. It’s hard to believe the original rail line that served Breckenridge ran right down the middle of today’s Boreas Pass Road, just steps from today’s railroad equipment and Isak! Wondering where the name “High Line Railroad Park” came from? The High Line traveled over two 11,000+ foot mountain passes on its way to Breckenridge and on to Leadville, its final destination – for more than 50 years during the mining era. If you think winter travel along the I-70 corridor is a pain now, consider how the rotary snowplows – giant snowblowing engines that cleared the tracks – worked days on end clearing the tracks of snow so rail service could continue year round. We have some great historic photographs in the park’s museum showing the trials and tribulations (lots of snow, also derailments) of life on the High Line.
Walk or Drive to the Breckenridge Sawmill Museum
Before or after visiting the troll, we recommend taking a short hike up the Illinois Gulch Trail to the Breckenridge Sawmill Museum. It’s about a 25-minute walk (one way) through the woods that ends with beautiful views and a free, self-guided exhibit dedicated to early day sawmills that served Western mining towns. Sawmills were often made to be portable; they moved around to serve communities. Without them, town’s like Breckenridge would only have log buildings. None of the Victorian-era false fronted downtown buildings and charming 1800s homes in our National Historic District would have been built. At the Breckenridge Sawmill Museum, you’ll see original blades, belts, boilers and engines.
Take a Mine Tour and Pan for Gold
Just up the road (about a half mile) from Breckenridge Sawmill Museum is the Washington Gold & Silver Mine. This is an affordable and fun way to get to know how miners dug deep underground to extract gold and other precious minerals. The tour (reservations recommended) is only offered in the summer months and includes gold panning. We provide vials and you get to keep what you find! Ever heard of a Tommyknocker? Miners were very superstitious and believed little creatures – sort of like leprechauns – inhabited the mines and wore a tiny version of the miner’s outfit. Tommyknockers were mischievous and could cause damage, like mine cave ins, if not appeased. Therefore, miners often left small pieces of food for Tommyknockers to keep them from causing trouble. If you’re inspired by the folklore of Isak the Troll, you’ll also enjoy hearing more about the legend of the Tommyknockers on the Washington Mine Tour.
Find out more about all that we offer at the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance!
written by Larissa O'Neil