Built in 1858, the fort was designed to protect settlers in the San Luis Valley, then a territory of New Mexico. The parallelogram-shaped fort once housed more than 200 men, including soldiers, volunteers and Kit Carson, the fort's commander at the time.

Fort Garland was abandoned in 1883, but survives now as the Fort Garland Museum, a prominent example of Colorado's living history. Here visitors wander the fort's parade grounds and adobe buildings while taking in the some of the region's Hispanic folk art. Just a couple of miles from the fort await fishing areas and shady campsites along Ute Creek. Visitors coming from the Front Range or New Mexico can choose to board the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad right in Fort Garland. Other nearby attractions include the not-to-be-missed Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve as well as a trailhead to Mount Blanca, the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross in nearby San Luis and the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.

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