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Alta Colorado Townsite - Ghost town

Photos courtesy of Joan Sinnwell 2003

These pictures were taken in September of 2003 at the Alta Colorado ghost town. They show some of the cabins, boardinghouse and outhouse buildings that remain at the Alta Colorado ghost town site. This is a mining camp not far from Telluride. A beautiful lake sits just a short distance up the road.

Gold was discovered here by Jack Mann in 1878.This townsite is located at about 11,800 ft and an aerial tramway was used to move the ore to the mill below. The most interesting feature was the fact that this was the first mine to use AC current. Some famous people, like George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla, helped make it possible.


In September of 2007 I meet up with an individual on top of Hurricane Pass. He lives in Telluride. We discussed the demise of Alta. The land has been purchased by a developer that plans to build a paved road into the area and sell lots in and around Alta Lakes. I can understand why someone would want to live there but it saddens me to see the historic area destroyed. Last time I was there I wandered thru the forest and discovered all types of remnants of this once great area.

A viewer writes -  Pictures of Alta lakes are beautiful. Came all the way from upstate New York and stayed at the observatory in late July of 2007 for the wild flower season of pictures and electrical boxes are already in place. I literally cried. Can't believe it's not being fought.

A viewer writes August 2008 - I lived in Alta during WWII - I was four or five years old at the time.  The snow fall was unbelievable.  We (my stepdad, mother, uncle Eppie and my uncle Orly, his wife son, and daughter lived in a small three room cabin. One winter morning I opened the cabin door and the doorway was filled with snow up over the top of the door sill. Cabin heat made the snow wet and packed so it didn't spill into the cabin. I loved the place.  But we soon had to move to the "big city"(Ophir).

A viewer writes - (9/2008) This is a great site that I was introduced to this week by my son, Kyle, from Ft. Collins, CO who was running in the Imogene Pass Run and, after staying in Telluride, they visited Alta Mine Ghost Town. His five-year-old daughter, Sarah, was assigned to investigate her grandparent's school history by her kindergarten teacher. Thus they visited and explored around Alta. My father, Bill Mertz, was Supt. of Alta Mine in 1946-47, my mother was the secretary in the office located over the general store, and our family lived there during that school year. My brother, Ronnie (13 then) and I (11) attended the one room schoolhouse in the mining camp. I was the only girl of school age, but, being a tomboy, fit right in. It truly was a trip down memory lane to see the pictures of the remains of the buildings and the absolutely spectacular scenery. I finished my schooling in Silverton, CO graduating from there in 1953. Lynda Fanning

A viewer writes - April 19, 2009 - I am from Wisconsin ,and lived in colorado during the 90s. i made a solo trip from durango to telluride over ophir pass. i decided to take a shortcut over the area between the two----looked easy on the map---ha!  anyway, much to my surprise was a ghost town named Alta--wow!  i explored the town with nobody else around.  what a memory.  i then climbed a mt. goat trail above the lakes to reach a plateau that would pop me out on top of the ski hill at telluride. epic.

A viewer writes - Sunday, January 10, 2010 - My Husband & I lived in Durango for 10 yrs and camped the SW mtns with joy. Had to move for family reasons, but now he does so in spirit and his son and I have been back several times. There is a delightful, highly researched, "time travel" novel written about Alta & Telluride by Marlys Millhiser "The Threshold". I read it often because I remember Telluride from the early 70's before it boomed. Ophir was a place "hippies" lived and guarded from outsiders! I cannot begrudge city folk a consciousness raising experience of outstanding beauty!  Maggie ( 1/10/2010

A viewer writes - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 -- I'm a Colorado native, born & bred in Denver, lived in Florissant, Manitou Springs & now reside in Grand Junction. I inherited an explorer's nature from my parents, but I hadn't seen much of the Western Slope despite living in the state my whole life, until my mom & I moved here in '97. My husband & I spent our honeymoon in Telluride & Gunnison in the fall, which was the first time I visited Alta Lakes. The area was absolutely breathtaking! It was so wonderful just hanging out around the lakes, relaxing after all the stress of the wedding, enjoying the fall colors, with just my new hubby for company. The memory's like having my own little world to go to when life gets to be too much to handle! -Jinx, Grand Junction, CO

A viewer writes - Sunday May 13th, 2012 -- Alta Mine -- My grandfather ran the Alta Mines and my mother and her 8 siblings were raised in the mining camp.  My aunt Susan ran the boarding house.  I was very sad to go up there to show my children their heritage and find that the land had all been fenced off.

A viewer writes -  Monday, May 28, 2012 -- I took my children ages 4 and 10, to Alta lakes town site in 1983. We drove up there in an old Land Cruiser. We camped several days, never saw another soul. The buildings were open and full of artifacts. So sad to hear it is to be developed. We have great memories. I wish it could have been saved as a historic site.

A viewer writes - Thursday, October 11, 2012 -- Alta Ghost Town - I first visited the summer of 1982.  Back then, you could wander through the buildings.  Was just there on 09 OCT 2012.  As other folks have mentioned, the town has been bought and fenced off.  Still, it was worth a trip.  And you have a great view of Lizard Head from the townsite (where the creek crosses the road).  Was surprised that so much of the land downhill from Alta was fenced off and marked no trespassing, but that's progress.  By the way, drive a few more miles south and take the road to Dunton.  That is an awesome drive for that any car can make.  Thank you.  Jim, Colorado Springs.

A viewer writes - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 -- Just visited the Alta ghost town a few weeks ago. It is still ruggedly beautiful, even though a lot of it is in ruins. At least some of the structures are being preserved. Now if I could have only gotten up to the mine .... wanted to see if any of the aerial tramway was still intact !!

A viewer writes -  Thursday, June 13, 2013 -- Visited Alta site today. It is beautiful and remains unimproved.

A viewer writes - Tuesday, January 20, 2015 - I visited Alta in 1982 or 1983 with my summer camp group. At the time you could go inside many of the buildings, including the boarding house which was not boarded up. We actually spent the night inside the boarding house, and there were about twenty kids! It was a totally bizarre but amazing experience and I'm so glad to have found these great pictures and to read about the history and others' stories about the site.