Alta Lakes Road/Alta Ghost Town
Alta Lakes Road is located a little over 6 miles south of Telluride, and about a mile south of Forest Service Sunshine Campground on Colorado 145. Alta Lakes Road is 3.8 miles long from its western junction with Colorado 145 to its eastern junction with 64F Road at Alta ghost town. I have seen sedans drive this road, but I recommend a 4-wheel drive vehicle. The road is dirt with gravel in spots. Alta Lakes Road is moderately trafficked, but most of it is wide enough with multiple turnouts so passing oncoming vehicles is not much of a problem.
Start of Trip
Alta Ghost Town
Alta is an old mining town located at the eastern end of Alta Lakes Road. Its elevation is 11,800 feet.
The town served the mines in the Alta-Gold King area from 1877 to 1948. The town had mining offices,
a series of mills, general store, school, recreation hall, and boarding house. Some 20 structures are
still standing today.
In 1898 miners drove the Black Hawk tunnel connecting the Alta, St. Louis and Bessie veins, and providing access to the new 20-stamp Bessie Mill in Alta. A two-mile aerial tramway was constructed in 1909 that dropped more than 1,800 feet to deliver ore concentrate from the Bessie Mill to the Rio Grande Southern Railroad station at Ophir. The Belmont-Wagner mill replaced the Bessie in 1918, but was designed so poorly that production dropped to almost nothing, and it burned down in 1929. The Alta Mill, built in 1937, was the town's last mill and produced more than $2 million in ore over the next decade. A fire burned down the entire mining complex in 1948 and that was the end for Alta.
Alta’s two-story boarding house was built in 1939 out of materials salvaged from the St. Louis mine’s boarding house. It's one of Colorado’s last major intact mining camp boarding houses.
The Alta Lakes Recreation Area is located on 64F Road a little more than a half mile from Alta ghost town. The recreation area includes vault toilets and primitive tent campsites in addition to the three Alta Lakes, Lower, Middle, and Upper. The lakes are at 11,300 feet elevation. Upper Lake Alta was excavated in the 1890s, and a mile-long pipeline installed to supply water to the Gold King Mill. Twenty dispersed campsites are located around Lower Alta Lake, and eight more at Upper Alta Lake. Canoeing, kayaking, and trout fishing are popular Alta Lake activities. (Be sure to bring your fishing license). There is a privately owned log lodge called the Observatory located near the end of 64F Road.
Background information: historynet.com, uncovercolorado.com
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