Touring the Byway
5 Days / 4 Nights (Optional Day Six) | Gateway City: Alamosa, CO
We recommend starting your journey in Alamosa, the start of the Los Caminos Antiguos. Take the Historic Alamosa Walking tour for an introduction to the town, and visit the San Luis Valley Museum and the Luther Bean Museum to learn more about the area. Enjoy the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge for some outdoor time. Stay overnight in especially built studio apartments.
This morning depart for Great Sand Dunes National Park, a 30 square mile sand dune field, the largest in North America, where both nature and history abound. Tours of the park with its many natural phenomena are available. At this writing, the Trujillo Historic Homes National Historic Site and Medano Ranch are closed, but do check if they have reopened. A stay at the famed Zapata Ranch, a property of the Nature Conservancy, puts you in very unique accommodations.
You can head for Zapata Falls today, before moving on to Fort Garland and the Fort Garland Museum and Cultural Center. Next up, San Luis, Colorado’s oldest town. There, visit the San Luis Welcome Center, the Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center (if construction has been completed), the historic district, and the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross. A stay at the El Convento Inn puts you in completely unique accommodations in a converted convent.
It’s off to Sanford to visit the Sanford Museum and Pike’s Stockade, down a short dirt road, before reaching Antonito. Here, view Cano’s Castle, and enjoy Antonito’s Main Street with murals and historic buildings. The Conjeos County Museum is currently closed, check if it has reopened. Stay at the Steam Train Hotel, convenient to the railroad.
We’ve saved today for the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad excursion, which will encompass a full day with lunch on the 64-mile train journey.
OPTIONAL DAY SIX
Los Caminos Antiguos – the ancient roads – continued to Taos, New Mexico, and an optional Day Six lets you explore Taos. From there, we wish you safe passage if you are traveling another Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway, or a safe and pleasant journey home.
View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!
Few know that there is a 30 square mile sand dune field in North America and in this case, one wrapped in the rugged 14,000-foot peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The tallest dunes in North America are the centerpiece of a diverse landscape that includes grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, and alpine lakes. While exploring here, you can experience a starry sky on moonless nights, sand board or sled down the dunes and take a surreal walk on the dunes under bright full moonlight. Begin your visit with the short film on the history of the dunes and exhibits illustrating how the sand dune field was formed. You can also view the dune fields from the parking lot, explore Medano Creek and take a four-wheel drive on a tour through the dunes.
Save the whole day to ride the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad, a National Historic Landmark that is the most authentic steam railroad in North America. The 64-mile trip requires a bus trip in one direction or the other to enjoy the entire experience. Owned by both Colorado and New Mexico, the train crosses the state borders 11 times, zigzagging through canyons, passing through two tunnels, and steaming through spectacular western mountain scenery. Lunch is served on all trips.
Manned by a garrison of over 100 men, Fort Garland was commanded by legendary frontiersman Kit Carson. Today, you can explore life in the 19th century fort, walk the parade grounds, and tour the original adobe buildings. Learn about the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry who were stationed at the Fort from 1876 to 1879 and discover Colorado’s role in the Civil War. Exhibits also highlight the women and children who brought a bit of home to the fort.
Sitting above La Mesa de la Piedad y de la Misericordia (the Hill of Piety and Mercy) in the center of town, the Stations of the Cross presents a series of ¾ size bronze statues at each of the 15 stations of the cross that represent the final hours Jesus Christ. Created by internationally known artist, Huberto Maestas, the walk ends at the top at the chapel, La Capilla de Todos Los Santos (The Chapel of All Saints).
The first permanent building at Adams State University holds a stunning collection of Southwest and European art, artifacts, Native American and Hispano Southwest arts, paintings and bronzes by nationally and regionally known artists, and European decorative arts.