Nestled at the southern terminal of the awe-inspiring Highway of Legends, the city of Trinidad is a well-preserved charmer where archaeology and architecture are offered up alongside modern-day recreation.
If a quick round of early-morning golf sounds like an ideal way to kick off your vacation, you’ll love the Trinidad Municipal Golf Course, a nine-hole course with stunning views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (especially from the seventh hole). Avid Golfer rated this public course One of the Top 10 Hidden Gems in the Country.
Afterward, delve into history at the site of the Ludlow Massacre, 12 miles northwest of Trinidad. Today a ghost town, Ludlow was the site of a vicious skirmish between the Colorado National Guard and striking coal miners that left 20 people dead. Restored by the United Mine Workers of America, the site includes a miners’ tent camp, storyboards and photos that recount the chilling encounter.
Later, return to Trinidad for dinner and a stroll through the quaint, brick-lined streets of Old Trinidad, where you can ogle one of the largest collections of Victorian houses west of the Mississippi.
Head out early to the downtown Trinidad History Museum, which houses the meticulously preserved Baca House, a two-story adobe built in 1870 that combines Hispanic construction techniques with British design. Also part of the history museum is The Santa Fe Trail Museum, whose exhibits evoke frontier life from the trail days to the 1920s. Among the artifacts displayed within is Kit Carson’s fringed buckskin coat. While here, you can also visit the Bloom Mansion, an elaborate Victorian-era confection built in 1882.
Conclude your visit with a drive along one of Colorado’s scenic and historic byways, the breathtakingly beautiful Highway of Legends. From Trinidad, the byway heads west to Cokedale, where a strip of old coke ovens (which were used to mix and heat coal at extremely high temperatures) lines the road, resembling something more Roman than frontier.
The byway heads north alongside the Sangre de Cristo range, affording spectacular views of those mountains to the west as well as the monstrous volcanic walls that jut from the Spanish Peaks to the east. It also passes through the San Isabel National Forest, home to six wilderness areas and the Cuchara River Recreation Area, and into the lovely Cuchara Valley, which takes its name from the Spanish word for spoon.
The byway continues through the town of La Veta before ending in Walsenburg, about two hours north of where you began, though you’ll want to make plenty of stops to enjoy the natural and historic landmarks along the way.
Have more time?
If you have another day, visit the Comanche National Grassland's Purgatoire River Tracksite, the largest documented dinosaur track site in North America. Here you can walk alongside more than 1,300 brontosaurus and allosaurus footprints from 150 million years ago. Hike, bike or ride on horseback to the site, which is a very flat five miles each way. Occasionally, the Forest Service provides guided auto tours of the site — check with the Comanche National Grassland Office in La Junta.
Photo: Bloom Mansion.