If you’re going to hike up one hill in Glenwood Springs, you should probably hike up to Hanging Lake, in the canyon nearby. But, if you’ve already done that, and you’re determined to find another excuse to huff and puff your way uphill, you might want to check out the gravesite of a wild west legend.
Doc Holliday, the famous dentist, gambler, and gunslinger, met his match in Glenwood Springs, back in 1887. It wasn’t a gunfight that did him in, it was tuberculosis. Doc Holliday came to Glenwood Springs, hoping the waters would help cure him. They didn’t, and Doc passed away at the Hotel Glenwood. Supposedly, his final words were, “Damn, this is funny,” spoken on his death bed as he looked down at his feet. He, nor anyone else, ever imagined this western legend would die in bed, with his boots off.
I didn’t know all of this as I drove into Glenwood Springs. I wasn’t even sure if Doc Holliday was a good guy or a bad guy (a fact that’s still a little murky — Doc Holliday was a gambler with a fiery temper, and was arrested many times, but he also teamed up with Wyatt Earp to fight some really bad guys). I knew he played a part in the O. K. Corral shoot-out in Tombstone, Arizona. But I didn’t have a clue how he ended up here.
So, when I saw a sign pointing to his burial place, I figured it was time for a little history lesson.
I found the Pioneer Cemetery on Bennett Avenue, about 3 blocks east of Grand Avenue (CO 82). Or at least, I found the trailhead to the cemetery. I didn’t realize that to satisfy my passing curiosity, I’d have to climb a hill.
The truth is, the trail isn’t terribly long — perhaps 1/2 mile — and it isn’t extremely steep. Maybe I was just tired from a week of hiking, or simply feeling lazy. But at least this climb…
… lifted me up over Glenwood Springs, providing a great view of the surroundings. On the west side of town, Red Mountain is topped with a cross, that’s illuminated at night on a few occasions throughout the year, including Christmas and Easter.
As you get close to the cemetery, there are a few signs to point you in the right direction.
The area devoted to Doc Holliday occupies a nice patch of land, perched on the mountainside with an excellent view.
The tombstone is nice… but there’s just one problem.
Technically, this is a memorial, not a gravesite. Nobody knows exactly where Doc Holliday was buried.
It’s very possible he ended up here, in the potter’s field. Most of the graves in this section aren’t marked at all, and those that are, received only a simple headstone. Oh, and no great view of the valley.
You might not be able to pay your respects to Doc directly, but there are other ancient graves that are quite interesting…
… old tombstones that are crumbling…
… and some impressive ironwork.
The hike back down the hill seemed much shorter than the hike up. After driving around downtown for a few minutes (see it at the end of the Drivelapse video on the previous page), I hopped onto Interstate 70, for the drive through scenic Glenwood Canyon.