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Photo courtesy of Visit Telluride
Just five miles from downtown Telluride and accessible by high-clearance 4x4, Alta Lakes is a sonnet-worthy area of crystal-clear alpine lakes, studded on all sides by snow-capped peaks. Camping is primitive—don’t expect running water, much less a hot shower—but it’s precisely this lack of frivolities that keeps the surrounds so pure. Area residents love Alta for its hiking and mountain biking trails, and the fact that it’s an Instagram post come to life. When you’re done exploring in nature, be sure to stop by the hamlet of Alta itself, a former mining boomtown that looks like a spaghetti western set.
By Kathryn O'Shea-Evans, AFAR Local Expert
Alta Lakes, Telluride
At 11,220 feet above sea level, these lakes may well be some of the highest you’ll ever paddle on, be it on a stand-up paddleboard or in a kayak. With easy road access from Telluride, visitors can either get themselves and their gear there or hire a guide outfit like Telluride’s BootDoctors, which will take care of the details like gear, lunch, and driving. Even at that altitude, the three Alta Lakes sit in a small basin between the 13,470-foot Silver Mountain and Bald Mountain at 11,868 feet. Just on the other side of the ridge to the north is the top of the Telluride Ski Area. Even well into the summer, snow patches lurk in the shaded nooks in the steep slopes above the lakes.
By Cameron Martindell, AFAR Local Expert
Alta Lakes Rd, Telluride, CO 81435, USA