Alta Lakes is a gorgeous area just about 20 minutes outside of Telluride. While it isn’t exactly off the radar in the area, it is a great half day trip and short adventure from town. The road wasn’t too menacing, especially before arriving at the campground area around the lake. I’d probably recommend high ground clearance and I think it is marked as a 4WD road typically. As we confirmed later during the trip, this road is relatively tame for the area overall!
There are several ghost towns in the San Juans, but the incredible perspective on the Wilson Group and Lizard Head make Alta really special! We didn’t have time to make it to Animas Forks on this trip, but that’d be another good one to check out. We wanted to make sure we got a good campsite (and confirm that one was available), so we skipped a detailed look at the ghost town on the drive up. There is great dispersed camping around the lake as you continue up the road. I was told by one of the locals that the campground routinely fills up during peak times, but we had our choice of many different spots. While there is a lot of great camping around the area, we were very happy with our choice.
Side note: I believe you can bike to Alta from the top of the gondola via the Prospect Trail as well. I don’t bike myself, but that might be a fun option if that is your thing.
Anyway, here are some of our favorite pictures: