This mountain town sits at the feet of three 14,000-foot peaks, and at 10,578 feet, it’s the United States' highest incorporated town.
Located along Route 9, north of Fairplay and south of Hoosier Pass, Alma lies downstream from Buckskin Joe, one of the first gold-rush towns of the 1860s. At one time, area mines produced more than $1,500,000 annually, before the ore petered out and a smallpox epidemic all but wiped out town residents. Today, visitors can walk through the town's cemetery, pondering what life was like for these hardy miners from details gleaned from their gravestones and the ornate rails that surround them.
Relics and spirits remind Alma visitors of the town's mining history. The Sweet Home Mine was known until very recently for producing world-class specimens of rhodochrosite, a mineral known for its beautiful pink rose color (which you can see today over at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science).
Like oft-told tales of lost ore veins, Alma ghost stories abound, including that of Silver Heels, a mining camp dancer who stayed behind to nurse ill residents during the smallpox-induced exodus. Near the epidemic's end, she contracted the disease, which left her beautiful face scarred. She was never seen again, but to this day, residents and visitors alike claim to have seen a veiled figure walking among the graves of smallpox victims.
Today Alma welcomes mountain-hiking enthusiasts, ghost hunters and tourists from Leadville and Breckenridge. Must-sees include Kite Lake, at a crisp 12,400 feet, the ghost town of Buckskin Joe and Alma's spooky cemetery. The four-wheel-drive Mosquito Pass, the highest motor-vehicle pass in North America, above Alma is the area’s most popular summer attraction.
Brochures available from the Forest Service in Fairplay interpret 17 different scenic and historic sites near town. The Windy Ridge Bristlecone Pine Scenic Area near Alma protects wind-sculpted pine trees, some of which are a thousand years old.
Alma’s Festival in the Clouds celebrates the town’s lofty location with regional art, live music and food each July.
For an itinerary of things to do in the area, read The Real South Park.