Alta Lakes

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: up to 1.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 11,216 - 11,318 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: Alta Lakes Campground
Fee: none
Attractions: Alpine lakes




The Alta Lakes are located in the Uncompahgre National Forest near Telluride, Colorado. The three lakes that make up the group can be found above the mining ghost town of Alta, Colorado at an elevation that is over 11,000 feet above sea level. The scenic lakes are a popular mid summer destination for camping, fishing and hiking.


To get there drive south on Highway 145 from the roundabout near Telluride for 5.7 miles and turn left at the sign for Alta Lakes. Continue on the narrow mountain road for 4.3 miles to the Alta Lakes Recreation Area. The road is normally passable for 2-wheel drive passenger vehicles but it is rough in places. Much of the road is too narrow for vehicles to pass each other without one of the vehicles finding a wide spot to pull over on.


The road splits into two routes that lead to various primitive campsites. The restrooms are porta potties that appear to be serviced on a regular basis and kept quite clean.


For hiking around the lakes the roads on both sides can be combined with short sections of trail to make a loop.


The campsites are primitive in nature with no tables or fire grates. Campers are expected to clean up after themselves and pack out their own trash.


The mountains that provide the scenic backdrop for the lakes tower above 13,000 feet.


Walking across the dam provides a good route around the main Alta Lake.


On the east side of the dam there is a short trail that can be followed that leads over to Upper Alta Lake.


From there you can find another section of trail to make use of to get around that lake.


Like the main Alta Lake the scenery around Upper Alta Lake isn't too shabby either.


Once around to the east side of Upper Alta there is a road that leads back to the campground between it and Middle Alta Lake.


The biggest difference with Middle Alta Lake is that it is closer to the mountains and the south end of it is on private property. Be sure to stay on the road or take one of the trails that lead back over to the first two lakes and be respectful of the private land.


Presently it is free to camp at Alta Lakes. At this altitude you can expect the temperature to drop near to freezing or below at night and typically only warm up into the 60s during the day. Those cooler temperatures might be why we didn't notice any mosquitoes while we were there. It's usually a good idea to have a can of bug spray anyway though. We noticed one group that had pulled a tent trailer up to Alta Lakes but everyone else there were camping in tents. We had our trailer parked in Lizard Head Meadows on top of the pass so this was just a day trip for us. Alta Lakes is a good place to stay cool and enjoy the outdoors in the higher mountains of the Uncompahgre National Forest. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.