Southern Colorado Vacation Activities

Colorado Scenic RailroadThe Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad was constructed in 1880 to service the mining industry.

The railroad originally ran from Alamosa through Antonito and Chama to Durango and Silverton, CO.

It is known as “America’s longest and highest narrow-gauge steam railroad.”, and “America’s Most Spectacular Narrow Gauge Steam Railroad”.

Today the train, powered by 75-year-old and 97-year-old steam locomotives, travels 64 miles between Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico, with highlights such as the colorful San Juan Mountains, 10,000-foot Cumbres Pass, the Mud and Rock Tunnels, Toltec Gorge, Phantom Curve and other curves, trestles, and bridges that offer breathtaking views.

The old steam engine chugs its way along the narrow gauge line, climbing to Cumbres Pass and drawing passengers along one of the most scenic routes and on the highest train line in North America. This is the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, an actual journey of 64 miles but — in the mind — a leap into the past amidst scenes of Rocky Mountain splendor.

The line was built as the San Juan extension of the Denver & Rio Grande in 1880 to service the mining camps in the San Juan Mountains. It is now owned by the states of Colorado and New Mexico.

San Luis Colorado

Southern Colorado VacationAt the southern end of the San Luis Valley and at the foot of 14,047-foot Culebra Peak, this Hispanic town is Colorado’s oldest. More characteristic of New Mexico than Colorado, this community, with its abode architecture and shared crop-growing area, is a special member of the state. Many citizens are relatives of the Mexican land-granters who first settled this area in 1851. The Plaza de San Luis de la Rio Culebra Historic District encompasses downtown and the surrounding La Vega, a 600-acre community-shared tract of land, which is the only of its kind left in the nation.

The San Luis Museum and Cultural Center has packaged this history for you in displays of Spanish artifacts and Hispanic art. The center’s indoor and outdoor theaters host films, plays, and other special festivals throughout the year. A newly created 1.4-mile path lined with bronze sculptures, which wanders through the forest of a nearby mesa, represents the Stations of the Cross and reflects the community’s religious commitment.

Looking for an interesting place to stay? The 1886 Sangre de Cristo Parish Church building is now El Convento Bed and Breakfast; local artists sell their work on a lower-level space.

Sixteen miles north of this tiny village is Fort Garland, the 1858 U.S. military fort that replaced Fort Massachusetts, the first outpost in the valley. Kit Carson was at Fort Garland from 1866 to 1867. Today the old outpost has been reconstructed into the Fort Garland Museum, which depicts a lonely and isolated frontier with Native American, Mexican, and Anglo artifacts, plus military garb and Hispanic folk art.