Colorado State Capitol

The Colorado State Capitol is a gorgeous building located right south of downtown Denver. It's open to the public for visits. You can either tour on your own or join one of their free guided tours.

It's currently home to both the State Senate and House of Representatives. It's also where you will find the Colorado Governor's Office.

State Capitol in Denver

Brief History

The land the capitol sits on was given to the state by Henry C. Brown in 1868. The state eagerly accepted the gift, but it took them until 1886 to break ground on the building.

Construction took almost 15 years and the current Colorado State Capitol building fully opened in 1901. They were able to open a few offices during the construction phase starting around 1894.

Today, only about one third of the space is used for business. The original layout of the building makes it difficult to effectively use all of the space.

What You Will See When You Visit

Your journey begins before you even step inside. The walls of the Colorado State Capitol are made from granite quarried locally from Gunnison, Colorado. All of them are more than 5 feet thick.

Make sure to also visit the stairs facing to the west. Take a look at the second step in the second set of stairs. This is where you will find the marking that shows you are at one mile high. The image below is a picture of me pointing to this special step.

Me at the Mile High Step at the Capitol.

Where is the True Mile High Marker?

A fun fact about the Mile High marker is that there are actually three of them. The first was added in 1909 and is on the 15th step of the building. The emblem was stolen many times, which was when they inscribed the copy on the step them I'm sitting next to above.

The second attempt to find exactly one mile high was made in 1969 by the engineering department at the University of Colorado. This marker is on the 18th step. 

The final attempt was made in 2003. This one is the official "Mile High Marker" and is on the 13th step. 

However, the most camera friendly one is the step inscribed with the words "One Mile Above Sea Level." 

Facts About the Golden Dome

You will also want to spend some time admiring the building's gorgeous dome. It's 272 feet above ground and is covered in real gold. It was originally covered in copper, but locals wanted it covered with a local metal. In 1908, they selected gold and the Colorado miners donated 200 ounces of it to the state.

Golden Dome of the State Capitol in Denver

It looks beautiful on the dome, but the gold is only as thick as a piece of tissue paper. This means they only needed 64.5 ounces to cover it!

What You Will See Inside

Your exploration continues as you step inside the building. You can enter through the North or South Doors.

The interior is as wonderful as the exterior. The columns, walls, and floors were created with a combination of marble, onyx, and brass. 

The Colorado State Capitol building's most notable material is the rose onyx. It was found in Beulah, Colorado and they used all of it to build the capitol. This onyx has never been found anywhere else in the world, so if something happens to any of it, there is no way to replace it.

First Floor Highlights

There are three notable things to see on the first floor.

The first is the Grand Staircase. You will find it in the center of the first floor rotunda and it will give you access to the second floor. It's made from yule marble that was found in Marble, Colorado. It's adored with oak and brass. There are 57 total stairs.

Around the Grand Staircase, you will find 8 murals. They tell the story of water in Colorado, which has been an important topic for years. They were completed in 1940 and were created on canvas that was then attached to the walls.

Marble Staircase in the State Capitol Building

The third notable thing to see on the first floor is a hand-stitched wall hanging. It's called Women's Gold and tells the story of the most notable women throughout Colorado's history.

2nd & 3rd Story Highlights

There are also a number of things to see on the second and third floors. Both offer views of the building's colorful murals. There are sixteen in total with some of the second and some on the third floor. 

My favorite is the stained glass window of Emily Griffith. Born in Nebraska, Griffith moved to Denver to become an educator. She had the dream of opening a school that served all the interests of the community.

She opened her school on 13th and Welton Streets in 1916. Today, you will find several schools in Denver and around the country that carry her name. 

Emily Griffith stained glass window in Denver

This is also where you will find the President's Gallery with photos of all of the president's of the United States.

Mr. Brown's Attic Museum

As you continue up the stairs, you will find a small museum. Mr. Brown's Attic Museum features exhibits about Colorado's history and other facts such as the state bird, flower, and tree. Several of the exhibits are interactive.

Another highlight of the museum is the model of the Colorado State Capitol. It gives you a bird's eye view of the entire building. 

Visiting the Dome

The only way to visit the interior of the dome is by taking the guided tour. The entrance to the dome is on the same level as the museum. There is no elevator to the top. It's an additional 61 stairs to reach the dome.

During the tour, you will have about 20 minutes (as a group) to climb the stairs and visit this section of the Colorado State Capitol.

Your visit includes a close up view of the dome, a view down below to the first floor, and a 360 degree look at Denver from its outside deck. The picture below shows you just part of the view you will get from this deck.

View from the top deck of the state capitol in Denver

More Tips to Visit

You are welcome to visit either on your own or on the guided tour. The benefit of the guided tour is that you will learn more about the Colorado State Capitol as you stroll through it. In addition, you can only visit the dome on the guided tour.

Hours & Address

The state capitol is located at 200 E. Colfax Avenue. It's directly next door to Civic Center Park and just across the park from the Denver City and County Building.

The guided tours are offered Monday through Friday between 10am and 3pm. Tours leave at the top of the hour.

In June and July, the tours leave every 30 minutes.

More Guided Tour Details

The tour lasts around 45 minutes and is limited to only 30 people. It's free of charge.

It starts at the Visitor Desk, which is near the north entrance doors. Simply show up a few minutes before the start to take the tour. Sometimes they will also let you join in if you are just a few minutes late.

Hotels Near the Colorado State Capitol Building

The capitol is just to the south of downtown Denver. Click here to find my recommendations for this district

The four hotels below are also within just a block or two of the capitol. Click the links below them to check for availability and room rates.


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