If Heaven Ain’t in Alma, We Don’t Want it

Alma is a small town of less than 300 residents in Park County, Colorado between Breckenridge and Fairplay. It was incorporated in December of 1873 and named after a local merchant’s daughter.

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Alma was originally formed as a camp settlement for miners and the workers of two smelting companies in the 1870s. Gold was found in an area called Buckskin Gulch and several silver deposits followed.

Today you can still visit the famous Sweet Home Mine and over 1,000 others varying from site markers to active use.

Alma is a high, I mean HIGH mountain town, the highest incorporated municipality in the U.S., at an altitude of 10,578 feet!

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We felt light-headed and out of breath at times just standing still. Climbing stairs was an ordeal, even among the fittest of us. Our friend has spent over a year in Alma but says she still struggles with altitude sickness.

My song for this blog is “Push the Sky Away” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds:

Since Alma is a town and not a city, technically the nearby city of Leadville is the “highest incorporated city” but none of that spoils Alma residents’ fun.

Many businesses in Alma proudly boast the title of “highest [type of business] in North America” which is a play on words regarding altitude and the legality of marijuana in the state.

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Driving to Alma from Denver was an easy hour and forty-five minutes, with so many beautiful sights along the way. There are a few quirky ones too- be sure to stop at the Sasquatch Outpost in Bailey.

Hoosier Pass is a 2WD trail off US-9 that crosses the continental divide, slightly north of Alma. If you are coming from Breckenridge you will drive right past it.

The Hoosier Pass summit has an elevation of over 11,500 feet. It is the highest point of the TransAmerica bicycle trail that runs from Virginia to Oregon.

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This site also marks the crossing of Pike National Forest to the east and White River National Forest to the west.

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Mosquito Pass is another popular trail, a designated 4×4 path that leads to the city of Leadville. At an elevation of over 13,000, it is not for the faint of heart or inexperienced, and requires a high clearance vehicle. You can take this route to view many of the mines between Alma and Leadville.

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The Alma Foundation is currently working to complete its Riverwalk Project and the Mosquito Range Heritage Initiative. Each of these projects are a collaboration between multiple organizations to build boardwalks, trails, and living history and connect it to Alma’s beautiful natural environment.

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Several historic buildings can be found around Alma like the Alma Town Hall which is on the Park County Historical Register and the State Historical Register, the Schwartz Hotel, and the Alma Ladies Aid Hall. Read more about that here and here.

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We loaded up on snacks and necessities at Al-Mart General Store. They sell everything from health food, pantry items, camping supplies, outdoor and sports gear, apparel, homemade soap and candles, souvenirs, gifts, and more.

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Kiki’s Peak Produce supplies the mountain top residents with fresh fruits, vegetables, and other delicacies from local farms outside the foothills.

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Otto’s Food Cart was our brunch stop, offering an eclectic and locally-sourced menu.

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We tried a few different sandwiches, the Alma Philly and a spicy honey chicken biscuit, and both were delicious.

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Hoosier is a recurring name in this part of Colorado, used as a pun as often as possible, and in reference to some of the “Hoosiers” that settled in from Indiana long ago.

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Other places like Alma Coffee Roastery, Bristlecone Bake Shop, South Park Brewing, South Park City Museum, and South Park Saloon offer up the best of the town’s homemade food, beer, and history.

And yes, there are references to that South Park around town. There is even a painted wooden mural you can stand behind and put your faces through for photos.

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The Northern Standard and High Country Healing dispensaries support Alma’s reputation for being “high.”

Artisan markets like Big Nipper’s Mining & Mercantile, Organsky Woodworks, and The Sheepherder have handmade items from local craftsmen.

Treeline Hostel is a new feature in Alma, billing itself as the “highest hostel in North America.”

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We spotted this little cutie too.

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Alma is an outdoor lover’s heaven, with so many options for hiking, mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, camping, riding ATVs and 4x4s, fishing, hunting, and other sports.

In less than ten miles you can visit many of the Federal natural lands near Alma including Pike National Forest, White River National Forest, San Isabel National Forest, Quandry Peak, Mount Lincoln, Mount Democrat, Wheeler Lake, Mount Bross, Mount Cameron, the Mohawk Lakes, Kite Lake, and the Montgomery Reservoir.

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Cabin Rentals
The gorgeous cabin we stayed in belonged to our friends, but it is not too unlike other cabins in the area you can rent. 

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Once in Alma, we mostly stayed in our cabin and gawked at the mountain views.

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I had three things in mind for this cabin stay, and was lucky enough to get everything I wanted.

  1. Create an exquisite charcuterie board with local products.

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Our wonderful friend/hostess also made us a dazzling dinner, which leads me to my point that you should pick up local products and make your own delicious meals.

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2. Watch the sunset.

Watching the sun slowly fall over the Rockies, taking down every colour in the spectrum, altering the shapes of each mountain peak and the clouds swirling around it- oh, it was so gorgeous that we could not shut up about it the entire time!

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     3. Sit around the fire

I took this trip with some of my best friends and was so grateful to be in their company, especially in such a beautiful place.

Full bellies, a little high, warm and cozy blankets, a crackling fire, listening to music, and laughing at each other until I could not keep my eyes open any longer was the perfect way to end this night.

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In the area for a while? Follow us to Boulder, Denver, Breckenridge, and Red Rocks! (blogs in progress)

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