In an earlier blog post, we introduced the eight regions of Colorado. Now let’s dive more deeply into each region (when we’re finished with each we’ll link them to one another).
Let’s go to the area known as the Mystic San Luis Valley region (shown in the south-central area in gray on our map). As it says, it’s mystical!
One of the most phenomenal and unexpected sites to see is the Great Sand Dunes National Park, north of Alamosa. It’s more than a thousand miles from the ocean, yet here it is in the middle of Colorado!
To give you a sense of the size, check out these three pictures. Taken from the same spot, the first is what the eye sees, and the other two are zoomed in … one to show you the people and the third is marked to further assist you in seeing the people:
Here are a few more pictures taken on the same visit.
It would be easy to make the Sand Dunes National Park a full day affair if you really want to get into it and climb around! Some folks don’t venture out beyond the parking lot, but most really take in the sand!
SCENERY & NATURE
There are other scenic areas within the region, such as the Frontier Pathways National Scenic Byway. Its southern arm is the boundary between San Luis and Pikes Peak regions.
The area of the Los Caminos Antiguos as “an enormous, sun-baked flat between the Sangres, and the San Juan foothills. Life here would not seem to have changed much since the 1600s, when Spain cast its claim over this region. Los Caminos Antiguos takes you to Colorado’s oldest surviving community (San Luis, 1851), its oldest parish (Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Conejos), and one of its first military posts (Fort Garland). Drive, explore, take your time- there’s plenty of it to spare.” (~Colorado Dept. of Transportation)
Yet another popular byway is the Silver Thread. “The colorful old mining camps of the Silver Thread offer history, scenic beauty, and a heavy dose of authenticity. The heights around Creede and Lake City remain strewn with abandoned mining structures, most of them accessible via rugged backcountry roads.” (~Colorado Dept. of Transportation)
Silver Thread is split between this region (San Luis) and the Mountains & Mesas regions.
NATIONAL PARKS & INTERESTS
There is no shortage of national parks here, beyond Great Sand Dunes National Park!
- Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge
- Baca National Wildlife Refuge
- Monte Vista National Wildlife Area
- Old Spanish National Historic Trail
- Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area
Visitors should also consider touring the state historic site of Fort Garland Museum & Cultural Center.
As for wildlife, your vacation might include sightings of elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goats, black bears, pronghorn antelope, and turkey. Fishing might bring you cutthroat, brook, brown, and rainbow trout (here’s are resources for you: the Fishing Atlas and maps and regulations).
Adventurists will be pleased to experience rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, and of course playing in the sand! Technical rock climbers, be sure to check out Penitente Canyon Special Recreation Management Area (SMRA).
This region is far too entertaining and historical to stop there! Here are many links that will explain many more options.
- Denver & Rio Grande Railroad runs from Alamosa to La Veta.
- Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad runs from Chama, NM, to Antonito CO. This is a National Historic Landmark and was named Best Scenic Train Ride in 2017 and 2019 by USA Today.
- Bachelor Loop Interpretive Tour
- Colorado Gators Reptile Park
- Creede Repertory Theater
- La Veta Arts
- San Luis Valley Museum Trail
- San Luis Stations of the Cross
- UFO Watchtower
- Zapata Falls
WORDS OF WISDOM
- If you click on each link provided in this blog post, you will find much more historical and entertaining information!
- Those who book early have the best chance of finding campsite availability, especially for summer weekends and holidays.
- There are limited roadways compared to the eastern USA, so plan for this. Congestion can be an issue (especially Friday and Sunday evenings).
- Regardless of the time of day and time of year, be sure to monitor conditions on COtrip for the current road conditions. Construction, avalanche control, snow, ice, rain … Colorado can see all of it even in one day!
So, where should you camp in colorful Colorado? It depends on the month of your trip and your camping preferences from what amenities you desire to your means of lodging (tent, RV, cabin, yurt, lodge, tepee, covered wagon, glamping safari tent, or any other means of enjoying the outdoors). Since there are many other factors to consider, we created our CampColorado to help you find a campground that suits your desires. The search page offers a range of options, and many listings provide in-depth descriptions.
The Colorado Tourism Office provides additional travel ideas in the regions in this post.
This publication is supported by funding from the Colorado Tourism Office, a state agency. Turn to Colorado.com for a comprehensive list of festivals, events, historic areas, itineraries, and community insight.