NOTE: The Alferd Packer Massacre Site is permanently closed. It’s now located on private property and no visitors are welcome. This post remains up for historical purposes.
This legendary massacre site is where mountain guide Alferd Packer supposedly resorted to cannibalism during a harsh winter trip in 1874. The site is located just outside of Lake City in the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado. The nearby museum showcasing memorabilia from the massacre makes it worth a day’s visit.
In 1874, Alferd Packer guided five men from Salt Lake City to the Los Pinots Agency near what is today Gunnison, Colorado. The men wanted to explore the mountains for gold, as was common during this time period. Though they were advised that making it through the mountains during the severe winter weather would be nearly impossible, they were determined to make the trip.
Months later when Packer arrived in Los Pinots Agency alone and with his clients’ belongings and cash, he told others he had been abandoned by the others. Later he would confess to being forced to cannibalism as the party got lost in a storm and soon without any food. He shared how in order to survive he ate the flesh of his companions after each one died and to have killed the last surviving explorer in self-defense.
Later that summer, the five bodies were found at the massacre site and there was evidence that their skulls had been crushed while they were sleeping. After being accused of murder, Packer fled Los Pinots Agency and managed to hide from authorities for nine years.
He was returned to Lake City to be tried for his crimes after being captured in Wyoming. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. However, the verdict was dropped and Parker received a retrial in 1886 in Gunnison. He was again found guilty of murder and sentenced to 40 years in prison for five counts of voluntary manslaughter.
The governor pardoned him in 1901. Just six years later, he died and was buried in Littleton. Never actually found guilty of cannibalism, Packer is known today as the Colorado Cannibal.
1993 Cannibal! The Musical
The 1993 Cannibal! The Musical was based on the Packer story. The musical was directed and produced by Colorado native and co-creator of South Park Trey Parker.
Hinsdale County Museum
In the past, you could visit the site where the massacre occurred, but no longer. Though there was not much to see other than a marker stone honoring the victims, the Hinsdale County Museum is nearby. Also at the Massacre Site, a white cross lays at the entrance to the site at the spot where Lake City’s Sheriff Coursey was murdered by outlaws in 1994.
The museum is home to a collection of Alferd Packer memorabilia, including a victim’s skull fragment. It also hosts ghost tours, cannibal tours, and all kinds of historical lectures. It is open between Memorial and Labor Day from 10 am to 5 pm Monday through Saturday and 1 pm to 4:30 pm on Sunday.
The site could be reached from downtown Lake City by heading south on CO-149 for three miles. After passing a left veer in the road and crossing a small bridge, visitors would find the sign for the Alferd Packer Massacre Site. The site is now on private property and no visitors are welcome.
Address: 2175 CO-149, Lake City, CO 81235
Season: CLOSED PERMANENTLY