Alta Lakes & Alta Ghost Town
Start/End: Junction of CO 145 S & Alta Lakes Rd.
Ghost Towns: Alta Colorado
Skill Level: 85% Easy, 15% Moderate
Distance: 4.3 miles (8.6 mile out and back)
Season: April 1 – October 31
Vehicles Allowed: 4×4, ATV, SxS, motorcycles. High clearance
How To Reach The Trailhead From Telluride
To reach the trailhead from Telluride, head west on CO 145 and turn south on CO 145 S. It’s 6 miles from town to the start of Alta Lakes Road (FR #632 / CR 64F). Follow this road to Alta Ghost Town.
Just past Alta, you take a right at the junction to reach Alta Lakes. A left takes you to Turkey Creek where the road dead ends.
Alta Lakes Road Conditions
Road is not recommended for trailers or RVs and high clearance is advised.
The road is fairly easy all the way to the ghost town, but it is narrow, with some limited drop offs. It may also have some bumpy washboard sections, but on the whole it’s very easy.
However, the road does deteriorate a bit just past the ghost town. You may have to drive through a shallow standing pool of water (not too deep) and navigate some rocks and ledges. Nothing too bad, but you should be comfortable off-roading.
Road is open April 1 – October 31 and is closed to traffic in the winter.
Alta Ghost Town History
This scenic mining town was home to a few hundred people in it heyday. Serving the Alta-Gold King mine, the town had a fairly long history from 1877-1948. Considering the harsh living/working conditions in most mining camps and the speculative nature of mining, this is a very long time for a mining camp to be in operation.
Mine operation hit a snag in the late 1800s when the cost of coal got so high that it caused the mine to close. However, the mine manager was an outside the box thinker who commissioned a hydroelectric plant that reduced operating costs and kept the plant in operation.
In fact, this is the first mine ever to operate on AC power using the world’s first commercial alternating-current power plant.
An impressive claim to fame!
Unfortunately, in 1948, the town was done in by a massive fire that engulfed the entire mine complex.
Related Post: 10 Best ATV Trails In Colorado
Camping At Alta Lakes
Free dry camping with a 7 day maximum stay. No services. Pack it in/pack it out. But, they do move in some vault toilets in the summer.
Although this is a dispersed camping area, you are only allowed to camp in one of the 20 designated campsites. Campsites open in June. No reservations – it’s all first come, first serve.
This is a fairly popular area, so plan your visit accordingly. Avoid holidays and three day weekends for best results.
Other Activities At Alta Lakes
The lakes are popular for paddle boarding and kayaking. Although they’re fairly small lakes, the backdrop is pretty spectacular.
Fishing is another popular option.
There are some short trails to explore the lakes and the area above the lakes. This high elevation area is a must to snap some beautiful photos looking down over the lakes and mountains.
For biking or a longer hike, it’s actually possible to ride/hike from Alta Lakes to Telluride ski area using the Prospect Trail (single-track trail) or the Basin Trail and link up with the Boomerang Road (doubletrack trail).
Boomerang Road is also sometimes called the Boomerang Trail. From the junction of Prospect/Boomerang to the lakes is about 2 miles one way.
Mountain biking the Alta Lakes main road is also popular, so keep an eye out as you’re driving.