In the summer of 1849 a party of seven Georgians were taking a herd of thoroughbred horses across the continent to California. Reaching the mountains too late in the fall to effect a safe crossing with their stock, they established a winter camp at the junction of Cherry Creek and Platte River, on the present site of the city of Denver, and during the fall occupied themselves in prospecting the gravels along Cherry Creek, but they did not penetrate into the mountain canyons for fear of the Indians. Gold in quantities sufficient to awaken their hopes was found at several places, particularly at a point 16 miles upstream.
With the arrival of spring they proceeded to California, where for several years they engaged in mining, but in 1857 they sold out their interests in California and returned to Georgia. Before separating it was agreed among several of them that in the near future they would form a prospecting party to go to the Rocky Mountains and search for gold. In May, 1858, the original seven and four others met in St. Louis, and in August they reached the present site of Denver, where they established a camp and began prospecting. According to Rickard, one of these parties followed Boulder Creek up to the forks, finding small amounts of gold. Another party proceeded across the ridges to Fall River and Spring Gulch. They did not descend into the valley of North Clear Creek at that time but crossed Quartz Hill and found rich gravel at Russell Gulch, named after its discoverer, W. Green Russell. As it was too near winter to begin mining, the prospectors returned to their camp at Cherry Creek. Six of the party went east to obtain provisions, returning in the spring of 1859.
By the fall of 1858 rumors of the gold discoveries had reached eastern Kansas. The East and especially the Middle West was still suffering from the effects of the financial panic of 1857, and this fact undoubtedly accounted in a measure for the enthusiasm with which any plan that promised to revive fallen fortunes was received. Prospectors in large numbers traveled to the new gold field, which became generally known as the Pikes Peak field. The town at the mouth of Cherry Creek, on the present site of Denver, was named Auralia, and there in 1858 wintered a considerable number of people disappointed at the small findings of gold in that vicinity and ready to stampede to any field of new discovery. At the foot of the mountains, where now stands the town of Golden, three prospectors camped for the winter.
One of these men, George A. Jackson, a native of Missouri, penetrated into the mountains during the winter of 1858 and discovered the hot soda springs near the present site of the town of Idaho Springs, and shortly afterward, on January 7, 1859, he washed fine gold from the gravels bordering Chicago Creek near its mouth. A monument now marks the site of his discovery. The news of Jackson's find and the display of his gold at Auralia, where he offered it in payment for tools and supplies, precipitated a rush of prospectors to the mountains and resulted in the spring of 1859 in the discovery of gold at many other places.
Once word spread, people came all over the Rockies in droves. Many of these locations are now popular destinations for Colorado trips. People were willing to brave harsh alpine conditions for gold.
Among those who joined in this rush was John Hamilton Grergory, a native of Georgia, who followed up North Clear Creek. On May 6 Gregory made the first lode discovery in the Rockies, on the lode that bears his name (on Gregory No. 5 claim), between the present sites of Blackhawk and Central City. Other prospectors coming up North Clear Creek soon learned of his discovery, and the news spread and occasioned another rush, many hastening across the hills from Cherry Creek and from the Jackson "diggings," on South Clear Creek. Gregory sold his two claims for $21,000 in the summer of 1859 and soon afterward left the district.
Some of these historical towns are still thriving up in the rockies. Idaho Springs for example is more than just a pit stop up in the mountains. But many towns are now ghost towns. Visiting historical towns is a great way to preserve history during a Colorado vacation.
Source for mining history: http://www.miningbureau.com/