The first permanent settlers to the area were a group of German colonists who arrived to farm in 1870 and were followed the 1880s by English colonists who came to establish ranches. In 1878, silver was discovered in the area soon to be known as Silver Cliff. The bustling town with its bars and brothels as well as schools, businesses and homes, quickly grew to such a size that it was seriously considered for the State Capital.
In 1881, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad completed a narrow gauge track terminating a mile west of Silver Cliff and the town of Westcliffe grew up around it. The railroad serviced the mines, farms and ranches but in 1882, the mining boom ended and most of the mines closed down. Repeated washouts and accidents eventually forced the railroad to shut down as well.