The Stations of the Cross:
Located on a mesa above San Luis, the Stations of the Cross is a meditative climb to the top of San Pedro Mesa. Amid three-quarter size bronze sculptures of Christ’s last hours, by local sculptor Huberto Maestas, one connects with one’s spiritual side. La Capilla de Los Santos (the Chapel of the Saints) is located at the top of the Mesa and overlooks the Culebra Valley. From the top of the Mesa you’ll find a breath-taking view of Colorado’s oldest town (est. 1851) and the last remaining commons in the US, la Vega. Open daily, free admission.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve:
Just to the north of Zapata Ranch is the Great Sand Dunes National Monument, the tallest sand dunes in North America. Set at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the sand dunes are both beautiful and irregular, for they stand in stark contrast to the surrounding terrain. Bring the kids and some sand toys or just put on your hiking boots and walk up and down the seemingly endless expanse of sand which covers nearly 39 square miles. Bring your camera and binoculars for you just might spot some kangaroo rats or some mule deer, elk, coyotes, bobcats, rabbits and ravens which live near the dunes.
The Visitor Center is open daily from 9:00-4:30 except on federal holidays in winter. Camping sites available, first come, first served. www.nps.gov/grsa/ 719-378-6300
Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area:
Conejos County is part of the SdCNHA. Rich in history, religion, culture, and bio-diversity, the area preserves a special place in our nation’s history where the villages and lifestyles of some of America’s earliest Spanish settlements still exist alongside newer railroad communities. Visit SdCNHA.org.
A refreshing dip in one of the San Luis Valley’s thermally heated pools will help relieve stress and give you an experience found in few locations throughout the continental United States. You can reach Splashland Hot Springs Pool at 719-589-6307 and Hooper Hot Springs at 719-378-2807 www.sanddunespool.com.
Alamosa also has an indoor water park at the Ramada Inn. The park is open to the public. Please call 719-589-5833. Be sure to call before you visit these private facilities for hours, regulations and costs.
Zapata Falls Recreation Area:
From the intersection of State Hwys 160 and 150, drive North on Hwy 150, along Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic & Historic Byway, towards the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve to the Zapata Falls road and experience some of the finest views of the Valley. A hiking trail, picnic area and plenty of parking make the visit warm and welcoming.
Home to teal, pintail and mallard ducks, Canada Geese, yellow-headed blackbirds, snowy plovers and many more. Watch quietly, please. The wetlands may be closed at certain times of the year during sensitive nesting periods.
San Luis State Park:
This State Park and Wildlife Area has a modern campground, picnic facilities and wonderful wildlife trails and blinds. Elk, songbirds, coyotes, kangaroo rats and rabbits are common sights here. And excellent spot for fishing and boating, with spectacular views of Mt. Blanca and the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. 719-378-2020.
Alamosa, Monte Vista and Baca National Wildlife Refuges:
The San Luis Valley boasts three wildlife refuges created to provide safe harbor for a variety of small wildlife and waterfowl. These refuges are meticulously maintained to provide habitat for songbirds, mallards, pintails, Canada gees, teal, killdeer, egrets, herons, raptors, deer, beaver and coyotes. The refuges seek to conserve the natural habitat of these local creatures while providing an environment that is also conducive to human visitation. Offering a safe and appealing meeting ground for wildlife and humans, these refuges are both peaceful and educational for people of all ages. www.fws.gov/alamosa/ (719) 589-4705
San Luis Valley Alligator Farm:
Famous for its high-altitude reptiles, the warm artesian spring water not only creates ponds and wetlands for the gators, but also provides outstanding habitat for many waterbirds and waterfowl. Admission charged. coloradogators.com/ 719-378-2612