Spanish for mountain view, Monte Vista lives up to its name. Located in the heart of the San Luis Valley, Monte Vista reveals expansive mountain vistas in addition to miles of resilient crop fields. The farming hub raises potatoes, alfalfa and carrots, but has become famous for another agricultural product — Coors barley. The world's largest single-site brewery, Miller Coors, based in Golden, Colorado, relies on the farms around Monte Vista to produce special barley for its Rocky Mountain-style beer.
Monte Vista's old-fashioned downtown still offers free parking and houses a few galleries, an antique shop and numerous restaurants, including some great homemade Mexican haciendas. Local lodging ranges from B&Bs to motels.
The Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge is one of the area's top attractions. Established by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission in 1953, the wetland habitat provides a safe place for wildlife, especially migratory birds. American Indian petroglyphs in the area depict the sandhill crane's migration, a nod to the fact that the big birds have been using the San Luis Valley as a spring break spot for more than 2,000 years. One of the best times to visit the refuge is during the annual Monte Vista Crane Festival held each March.
Monte Vista is also close to the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic and Historic Byway. Tracing the upper Rio Grande River, the road meanders through the fertile San Luis Valley and some of Colorado's oldest communities. Featuring panoramic views of the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountain ranges, the route also passes the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, state and federal parks, and wildlife areas. Other nearby outdoor activities include skiing, biking and hiking in the Rio Grande National Forest.