jeep wrangler parked in front of ghost town ruins in southern arizona

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The Arizona backcountry is full of ghost towns, abandoned mines, and other fascinating pieces of United States history. It’s not uncommon to stumble upon something cool when you’re out exploring.

Still, when we happened across adobe ruins on Forest Service Road 143 in Coronado National Forest, I couldn’t help but be in awe.

The ruins of Alto Camp, an early 1900s silver mining town, sits in a quiet corner of the Santa Rita mountains about 20 miles north of the Mexican border.

The mine operated from the late 1800s until the early 1900s. After the discovery of silver in the area, the town of Alto quickly grew to a population of over 500 residents.

All that’s left of the town are the remains of a stone wall, an adobe building, mine tailings, and a cemetery on a nearby hill.

The adobe building was once the home of Josiah and Minnie Bond. One room of the house served as the town’s post office, and Minnie was the first female postmaster in the United States. The post office operated from 1907 until 1933.

Minnie sadly died after being struck by lightning in 1922. After Minnie’s death, Josiah took over as postmaster for the town. They are both buried in the Alto cemetery.

mountains of southern arizona looking south from alto camp ghost town
Looking south from Alto Camp ghost town

Getting to Alto is a real “choose your own adventure” affair. Love wash crossings, bumpy arroyos, and narrow shelf roads? Take Forest Service Road 143 from Mt. Hopkins Road just east of Tubac, Arizona and enjoy a 15 mile off-highway adventure.

Prefer an easier drive and want to check out another funky southern Arizona town? Take Salero Road from Patagonia, Arizona, to Forest Service Road 143 and the ruins will be about 14 miles away.

Although the drive to Alto Camp from Patagonia is easier, we recommend a high-clearance vehicle. Forest Service Road 143 is bumpy, has several wash crossings, and looks like it could get nasty in rain or snow.

Like many ghost towns, Alto Camp is in a remote area and cell signal is sparse in some areas. Get gas before you head out, pack snacks and water, and take whatever you need to feel comfortable traveling in the wilderness.

A visit to Alto Camp is an interesting trip back in time to Arizona’s rich mining history, and a fun way to experience the beautiful backcountry of Coronado National Forest. If you’re in the area, it’s worth a stop!

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