Camp Hale was established in 1942 in Colorado to provide winter and mountain warfare training during World War II.
The site was acquired by purchase from private owners and by use permits from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service. The cantonment area (or living area) for Camp Hale was constructed in Eagle Park, east of Highway 24 between Leadville and Red Cliff, Colorado. The camp was established here because of the natural setting of a large, flat valley bottom, surrounded by steep hillsides suitable for training in skiing, rock climbing, and cold weather survival skills. The size of Camp Hale varied between 5,000 and 247,243 acres during the time that it was an active military installation.
Military use of Camp Hale included the 10th Mountain Division, the 38th Regimental Combat Team, 99th Infantry Battalion, and soldiers from Fort Carson conducting mountain and winter warfare training exercises from 1942 to 1965. Throughout this time, the Army tested a variety of weapons and equipment at Camp Hale. From 1959 through 1965, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) secretly trained Tibetan soldiers at Camp Hale. In July 1965, Camp Hale was deactivated, and control of the lands returned to the Forest Service in 1966.
While munition training exercises were conducted throughout the Camp Hale area, one area of known heavy use was the East Fork valley. The East Fork valley is near the cantonment area of Camp Hale off U.S. Highway 24 and is located along the East Fork of the Eagle River. According to historical records, the valley was a major combat training area throughout the life of Camp Hale. The following munitions have been confirmed to have been used in the valley: anti-tank rockets, recoilless rifles, rifle grenades, hand grenades, high explosive and illumination mortars, artillery, practice antitank land mines, and small arms. Other munitions may also have been used in the valley. Records show that the CIA also used the valley for military training.
In the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the 2.3 million-acre White River National Forest is a place of serenity and adventure, boasting 8 wilderness areas, 4 defined seasons, and 10 peaks surpassing 14,000 feet in elevation.
Wildlife in the area abounds. Bighorn sheep navigate rocky ridges and bull elk bugle at dusk. Scenic rivers sustain populations of cutthroat, rainbow, and brown trout. Alpine regions provide habitat for pika and ptarmigan. These species, along with many others, depend on surrounding undeveloped wilderness, clean streams, and diverse forests to live.
Most of the buildings have been torn down, but foundations and other “footprints” remain.
In 2022, President Biden designated Camp Hale a national monument. This designation ensures important protection of its 50,000+ acres of habitat for elk, lynx, songbirds, and other rare wildlife and plants from development.
“When you think about the natural beauty of Colorado… you find it here,” the President said, referring to our country’s national parks and other public lands as “treasures and wonders that define the identity of us as a nation.”