The ghost town of Animas Forks, CO is located high in the San Juan Mountains at 11,200 feet. There are several original buildings remaining. The best way to explore the region is by Jeep or other high-clearance 4×4.
The first cabins were built by prospectors in 1873, about 12 miles northeast of Silverton. Three rivers meet nearby, one of them being the Animas River. The town was originally called Three Forks of the Animas before being shortened to Animas Forks.
By 1876, Animas Forks was a bustling mining community. At that time the town had 30 cabins, a hotel, a saloon, a post office, and a general store. Roughly 450 people occupied Animas Forks in 1883. At that time there was even a local newspaper, the Animas Forks Pioneer.
Because of the high altitude, every fall residents of Animas Forks would migrate south to the warmer town of Silverton. In 1884, a blizzard lasting 23 days, blanketed the town with 25 feet of snow. Locals had to dig tunnels to get from building to building.
Mining, speculation and processing mills spurred Animas Forks’ growth. But by 1910, most of the mining had stopped in the area. Animas Forks was a ghost town by the 1920s.
Animas Forks is located on a system of unpaved roads known as the Alpine Loop. The loop is 65 miles (105km) and connects the southwestern Colorado towns of Lake City, Ouray, and Silverton. More than 100,000 people visit the Alpine Loop each year.
The dirt road from Silverton to Animas Forks is only passable in summer by two-wheel drive vehicles. The road beyond Animas Forks is four-wheel drive only. It takes you over Engineer Pass to Lake City.
Once you arrive, the BLM and San Juan County provide interpretive brochures and maps of the ghost town, available in the parking area. Entry to the buildings is unrestricted, but be careful as some are fragile.
From Silverton – (12.3mi/46min) Take County Road 2 for just over 12 miles until you reach Animas Forks Ghost Town.
From Ouray – (13.3mi/44mi) Take US 550 for 4 miles south to Co Rd 18. Take left and continue for 4.3 miles. Road becomes Co Rd 17. Continue for 2.7 mi. Road becomes Co Rd 2. Follow for 2 miles to town.
Nearby Town: Silverton, CO (12mi)
County: San Juan
Roads: 4WD (passable in 2WD in summer, but 4WD is needed beyond town)