Touring the Alpine Loop Jeep Trails high up in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado is a summer season pastime. The dirt road that runs from Silverton to Eureka and Animas Forks is by far one of the easiest Alpine Loop trails to do, so this is a good choice for those who are not familiar with the conditions. The reward for completing the trip to Animas Forks is a chance to visit an old west mining camp ghost town high up in the snow capped mountains where few mainstream tourists go!
The smoothest easiest section of the Alpine Loop runs from Silverton to the Eureka Mining Camp. Just about any kind of vehicle can do.this section of the trip. For the next leg of the journey to Animas Forks, there are some vehicle restrictions that are set in place. RV campers or trailers are discouraged from driving on this section of dirt road. Only high ground clearance 4x4 vehicles are recommended from this point on. A high ground clearance 2x4 vehicle can do the trip from Eureka to Animas Forks, but a 4x4 is a better choice, especially if the conditions are wet. All of the Alpine Loop roads that go beyond the Animas Forks Ghost Town destination will require a heavy duty 4x4. For those who have vehicle limitations, the old ghost town will likely be the end of the line.
Just like with so many other old abandoned ghost towns in the west, Animas Forks originated as a busy boom town. Animas Forks came to be during the peak of the Colorado gold and silver rush in the late 1870s, which did not last very long. The profitability was always questionable and the market prices put an early end to most of the Colorado ore mining ventures by the early 1900s. Remote wilderness boom towns like Animas Forks were completely abandoned as soon as the word of closure first got out. This is because nobody in their right mind wanted to be there, especially during the winter, so the buildings were left standing instead of being parted for scrap value. Animas Forks certainly has the look of a ghost town that was hastily abandoned, which is a good thing, because most of the old historic buildings are still intact.
Animas Forks certainly is an ominous, yet pleasant place to be during the summer season. The look is quite deceptive, because winter in this place is such a nightmare. The Animas Forks area is prone to severe avalanches, because the snow gets so deep in this place. Back when Animas Forks was occupied, the residents actually had to dig snow tunnels just to get from one building to the next, which is a scary thought indeed. There was no hope for rescue if a blizzard occurred, so the folks in this old ghost town were totally dependent upon each other to survive. Summers may be peachy for a tour of Animas Forks, but you sure do not want to spend the winter in this inhospitable place!
There are many old mining artifacts and an old mill to check out while visiting Animas Forks. Concrete foundations and rusting iron can be seen everywhere. As always, viewing the adits from a distance is the safest bet, because the old mines do pose a serious risk of injury or death. For those who use modern filters to replenish the water supply, this area is contaminated with everything from cyanide and mercury to heavy metals, so it is best to pick a clean fresh water spring a little further uphill.
Ominous and eerie is how Animas Forks looks on a dreary overcast day. On the flip-side, a sunny day makes this old ghost town look as appealing as a modern mountain vacation resort. Animas Forks is one of the most interesting old ghost towns in the west, so it is well worth touring section of the Alpine Loop. For more details about the long dirt road from Silverton to Eureka and Animas Forks, those articles are listed in the Colorado Index Page. All it takes is the right kind of vehicle and the gumption to get up and go to make the Animas Forks Ghost Town trip happen!
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