Visit southern Colorado, and you’ll find a landscape that looks much as it did centuries ago, with craggy, towering peaks, windswept plains, and, of course, the iconic sand dunes. There are a few hardy communities in this awe-inspiring landscape, but venture outside of those, and you’ll hardly see another soul. As you explore the wild terrain, you might get the sense you’ve stepped back in time. And, you just might think you’ve leaped to the Old West days if you board the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad train, which allows passengers to experience the rugged San Luis Valley much the same way people did in the late 1800s.
Departing from Alamosa, the train offers full-day excursions, winding through the mountains and ending at La Veta, where passengers can enjoy art galleries and a variety of restaurants. For another option, you can board the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in Antonito and ride it to Chama, N.M., climbing higher than 10,000 feet as the train rumbles through southern Colorado. No matter which train you take, you’ll find that it’s an exciting way to soak in the beauty of the San Luis Valley and the surrounding mountains.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is hosting an amateur astronomy night on Saturday, September 8th from 8:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. at the South Ramada picnic area near the Dunes Parking Lot. Telescopes will be set up at the South Ramada for planetary and deep-sky object viewing throughout the event. Ranger-led tours of the night sky begin at the South Ramada at 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Staffed tables will provide astronomy information, handouts, and additional activities including an opportunity for kids to complete a Junior Ranger Night Explorer activity book and work towards earning a special night sky patch. Stargazers are encouraged to continue enjoying the dark skies after the event.
There’s an unparalleled excitement we feel when we overcome obstacles in the wilderness. We feel a rush and deep satisfaction when we step into new territory, or try an activity for the first time, and expand our perception of our own abilities. Adventurers who thrive at that intersection of challenge and exploration should make their way to Colorado’s San Luis Valley, where they’ll find a handful of the toughest outdoor adventures in the Centennial State.
Alamosa sits in the center of the valley, with the Sangre de Cristo range to the east and the San Juan Mountains to the west. Denverites can blaze down I-25 and reach Alamosa in a four-hour drive. The area’s mix of spicy terrain is a draw for hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers, cyclists, and rock climbers. Here are a handful of the most riveting experiences for adrenaline-seekers in Southern Colorado.
Looking to spend the 4th of July in the San Luis Valley? We’ve compiled six great ways to make sure your Independence Day celebration is unforgettable!
Heaven among anglers, the high-desert valley of Alamosa is home to a ginormous web of more than 1,400 rivers, streams, reservoirs and lakes, including the beloved Rio Grande River, which is fed by the surrounding snow-capped peaks. Of those waterways, the Rio Grande River, a siren call to anglers, embodies one of the longest stretchs of Gold Medal Water that the Centennial State can offer.
To qualify for Gold Medal status, the water must produce a minimum of a dozen quality trout—measuring at least 14 inches—per acre. This healthy ecosystem delivers 60 pounds of standing stock—the amount of living organisms in the ecosystem, including fish, plant life, and micro invertebrates—per acre. The designation only applies to water that is accessible to the public.
The Rio Grande and other waterways near Alamosa support five major species of fish, including rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, cutthroat trout, and Rio Grande cutthroat.
Considering the wilderness of the San Luis Valley, its unique terrain—including the tallest sand dunes in North America—and boundless outdoor recreation access (without big crowds), this area is prime for all varieties of anglers. Diehard explorers can venture to remote, high-alpine lakes, yet families can design fishing vacations that allow access to amenities in town and a fun mix of other outdoor activities.
Whether you stay near town or go deep into the Rocky Mountains, you’re bound to catch healthy trout. Here’s your guide to help kickstart a trip to the world-class angling scene that surrounds Alamosa.
ALL ABOARD THE RIO GRANDE SCENIC RAILROAD
If you are looking for an experience that encompasses the quintessential Alamosa, the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad may be perfect for you. This train ride combines the rich history of the west, breathtaking mountain views and small town hospitality that Alamosa is known for. The train travels on the tracks that were laid in 1878 to bring supplies into the San Luis Valley and ship agricultural and mining products out. You can relive the golden age of railroads through miles of unspoiled Colorado territory, all the while learning about the San Luis Valley and surrounding areas from the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad’s friendly and knowledgeable staff.
The Rio Grande River begins its journey in the heart of the San Juan Mountains. On the periphery of Silverton, Colorado, the water begins its high-mountain flow and feeds thick blankets of Ponderosa Pines as it moves southeast through the Weminuche Wilderness.
Also known as the "Rio Bravo," its whitewater traces steep cliffs and jagged peaks before it enters the San Luis Valley: a vast intermountain basin with 14,000-foot snow-capped peaks on either side. To the east, the sun rises over the adjacent Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Outdoor lovers are drawn to San Luis Valley for its magnificent landscape, wildlife, river culture, and solitude. At an elevation of 7,500 feet, the basin spans 65 miles wide, stretches 100 miles in length, and reaches all the way into New Mexico. The Rio Grande passes the towns of Del Norte, Monte Vista, and Alamosa before it continues south.
With Alamosa, Colorado, as a basecamp, travelers will find refreshing adventures while exploring the Rio Grande’s dynamic waters and broad banks.
If 2018 resolutions included healthy activities such as skiing more deep powder at Wolf Creek, so far this winter, Mother Nature has not provided. Hopefully she will even herself out from February through April and lay down those deep carpets of snowy fluff for us to enjoy! Weather is out of our control.
How about those healthy activities over which we do have control for our bodies, mind, and spirits? Enter four new businesses in the San Luis Valley who are addressing those needs. Cool Breeze Farm, Susan Vadney Massage and Sound Healing, Infinite Art Gallery and Tea House, and the new remodeled Body Tune Up Gym.
COOL BREEZE FARM
Allien Jones moved here from the bustle of California to pursue what she loves, growing flowers, edible plants and herbs. She has rented a farm that came with a solar heated greenhouse for her plants to grow year round, not only in organic soil, but she has a unique hydroponic system for growing a variety of herbs and lettuces, vertically! It is the first time I have ever seen lettuce, cilantro and parsley growing sideways in this ‘vertical garden.’ Constructed in a metal framework with a drip system, I was eyeball to eyeball with cilantro.
The farm is off the grid northeast of Alamosa and utilizes solar hot water, solar electric, passive solar, and thermal mass in the form of large solar heated water tanks to help balance temperature extremes. Clean artesian well water is used for growing many different types of flowers and plants. Jones is also renting garden space at the Gator Farm up the road where the 87 degree water temperatures not only keeps 300 alligators happy, but the warm water in the greenhouse is magical for growing food in the winter. The extreme winter cold of the San Luis Valley can be overcome by creating microclimates within a carefully controlled indoor environment.
With a theme of Superheroes for the 2018 Rio Frio Ice Fest, how about a famous real person that does not make most people’s Superhero lists because they are mostly unfamiliar with Archimedes! He is the guy who gave us Pi. This is the number, in what I call circle science that is always the same, when you divide the circumference of a circle by its diameter and is a never ending number but is rounded oﬀ to 3.14159....
And he gave us the Archimedes Principle and all sorts of other cool knowledge as a mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor and astronomer. The Archimedes Principle is that an object placed in water will displace the amount of water equal to its own weight. Perhaps you have heard of Archimedes as the guy who yelled “Eureka! I’ve found it!” While taking a bath, he noticed how he displaced a certain amount of water and the answer came to him! So excited was he, that he went running through the streets without any clothes on to proclaim his discovery. No record of what month in which this occurred or whether or not he came to his senses and ran to the nearest body of water and did his own Polar Plunge to escape being seen!
How do these two super discoveries, made over 2,000 years ago apply to the Rio Frio in 2018? Let’s ask Archimedes!
#1. - ICE CAROUSEL AND ENTERTAINMENT AT BLANCA VISTA PONDS. PLUS THE POLAR PLUNGE!
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