Alta Lakes is a popular dispersed camping area that offers fishing and camping in a spectacular alpine setting. There are 20 designated campsites that are completely undeveloped. The access road to the area is narrow and rough, requiring a high clearance vehicle. Trailers and RV's are not reccomended.
So we headed up to Alta Lakes later than planned and it was pretty dark - the winding and seriously bumpy road felt like it went on for ages. We finally stopped in the parking lot by the ghost town and it was stunning. We didn’t make it up to the top so I can’t speak to that but I imagine it was amazing. It had just snowed and it got pretty cold but our van stayed warm enough. Made for an incredible sunrise too.
This campsite fills up quite quickly. We arrived relatively early, but were unable to find a site and it was just as well because we would have been hard pressed to find level ground for our overland tents without putting blocks on the ground. It’s a beautiful place with amazing spots for ground tents. I will say this, a LOT of different sources state that you need high clearance to get up here…not the case as we passed a few Prius’ making the climb up the road to this site. Get there early and you may get lucky!!
Beautiful camping spot high in the San Juan’s about 25 minutes from Telluride. Access via rugged dirt road. Saw some stock SUVs (CRVs, Subaru’s, etc.) but questionable to get there without higher clearance and 4WD. There are only 20 designated camping spots with fire rings (portapotties nearby). Sites fill by about noon every day of the week and all sites are walk in. Of the 20 sites, most are shady and have views of the lakes. 3-4 sites are pretty bad, have no views, limited areas for tents, etc. This is an incredible camping spot if you get a good site.
There were about 20 spots at the lake area it was a pretty location. There were a few spots open on a Thursday afternoon when we arrived. Seemed to fill up by Friday. They did put in porta potties when we were there. The road up is a bit rough. We managed it barely in all wheel drive vehicles but did get stuck for a bit at one point when we had to stop for someone on their way down. There were a few spots on the drive up as well. Overall good spot, at pretty high altitude. There was a bit of snow.
Half of the camping spots are kind of difficult to get to if you don’t have a Jeep/4Runner/Tacoma. Definitely worth the drive up the mountain to see these Alpine lakes. Kind of crowded when we went on Labor Day weekend, but that was to be expected. Make sure you hike up to the other two lakes, they are even more beautiful than the main lake.
I will start off by saying the trail up was unique with a lot to do, the ghost town is cool with mini waterfalls if you will. The views looking over the mountains were amazing. BUT please have a 4w drive vehicle to drive up, and this is NOT dispersed camping. Very crowded even while rainy. Alta lakes themselves were not as impressive as I hoped for but there are better lakes near it if you talk to the people who live in Telluride. Still a cool spot to go hang out but if you like to camp without neighbors around then don’t pick here.
We were able to get our popup to these sites but not necessarily recommended to even attempt to bring a trailer (ours is lifted with heavy duty tires) worth the risk because, Wow!! Perfect lake views, snow capped mountain tops, and wildflowers for days. We were sadly not allowed fires but this year we are getting tons of moisture in CO so we will head back up to Alta by summer, hopeful for fires again. Port a John's are rarely serviced, so if that's a deal breaker for you….and Please Leave No Trace!! This area is so beautiful, let's keep it that way.
There are 16 sites, rock fire pits, need a high clearance vehicle to reach the sites. Small trailers can reach half of the sites as long as you have someone directing you! Beautiful views. Telluride ski mountain is just behind this campground and for a long hike you could hike down to mountain village about 5 miles away. We were there for 2 nights and there were always sites available. This is a free campground! Portapots available.
There's not likely to be a more beautiful place than the high alpine of the San Juan Mountains. Alta Lakes boasts a series of small lakes stocked with fish annually - making for great fly fishing, naturally. Dispersed camping means pack it in, pack it out but since you can park at your site, this is never difficult. Get there early to enjoy the pick of the pack then get on the water with SUPs, kayaks, and beyond. Stunning views of the Milky Way, always!