Southern Colorado’s Spanish Peaks Country — named for the pair of towering peaks that dominate the area’s landscape — encompasses the relatively untouched wilderness of the San Isabel National Forest, the history-enriched Highway of Legends and the charming towns of La Veta, Cuchara, Walsenburg and Gardner.
Outdoor pursuits like hiking and stargazing, an impressive collection of arts and cultural offerings and tons of family attractions await in this less-traveled portion of Colorado — where legends roam.
Spanish Peaks Country is a quick and easy scenic drive from Denver — without the I-70 traffic.
A less than three-hour drive from Denver, Spanish Peaks Country is easily accessible without battling traffic or crowds. Point your car south on I-25, queue up some of your favorite tunes and you’ll be there before you know it. Aside from being an easy drive, La Veta, Cuchara and Walsenburg are also more affordable than the state’s other more-popular mountain towns — so your entire family can take in quintessential Colorado experiences without breaking the bank.
The Highway of Legends showcases some of America’s most breathtaking backdrops and fascinating history.
Cross mountain passes at 10,000 feet, peer across the sun-kissed plains and learn about the coal and steel production that helped build America — all from the comfort of your own car. Hwy. 12, better known as the Highway of Legends, connects Walsenburg, La Veta, Cuchara, Stonewall, Trinidad and Aguilar. Aside from being the perfect way to get around the region, the drive also sports unique geology and photo opportunities of the area’s spectacular natural features.
Not quite sure what you’re looking at? Think you see ancient Roman arches, not coal-smelting ovens? Download the Highway of Legends driving tour app to learn about ancient geologic changes that transformed the landscape over the course of centuries and hear tales of the Old West and about those who shaped the state’s history. More scenic drives >>
There are oodles of kid-pleasing attractions.
The kids will squeal in delight as they zip down a bright yellow tube slide at Walsenburg Wild Waters or soak in the thrills of a train ride from a dome seat on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad. As the La Veta Mountaineer climbs the steep grades of the southern Rocky Mountains, your crew can watch glimpses of the wilds slide by as you tuck into dishes like chicken cordon bleu with hollandaise sauce and mashed potatoes.
Have some animal lovers on your hands? Head out to Mission: Wolf, a nonprofit educational wolf sanctuary that offers Wolf Behavioral Sessions, giving visitors the chance to encounter the majestic creatures face to face. If you feel like venturing farther, Spanish Peaks Country is also a great base camp for checking out attractions in the surrounding region. Take a day trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, where little ones (and grown-ups) can sled down the dunes and frolic in Medano Creek. The park is less than an hour and a half from Walsenburg via Medano Pass, a lesser-known way to get to the park that’s lined with beautiful alpine views. More family fun >>
The unscathed wilds of Spanish Peaks Country beckon outdoor explorers.
Tucked amid pinyon-juniper forests near Walsenburg, Lathrop State Park — Colorado’s first state park and the only one with an on-site golf course — is a hub for hiking, biking, fishing, boating and swimming. Hike trails from Blue and Bear lakes to witness the backdrop transform from dense ponderosa pine forests to alpine tundra and spy on bighorn sheep, elk and mule deer. Or choose a route in the Upper Huerfano Valley to encounter sights like glacial lakes, waterfalls and sprawling meadows framed by sky-tickling granite peaks; and spot a greater roadrunner or pinyon jay while looking to the skies on the Spanish Peaks portion of the Colorado Birding Trail that includes 20 different sites.
You also can find solitude on less-traveled fourteeners (peaks higher than 14,000 feet) like 14,042-foot Mount Lindsey and discover equally magnificent panoramas on thirteeners like 13,517-foot Trinchera Peak. Visit in the autumn to see La Veta Pass lined with golden aspens and dark green pines, or come in the summer to check out the vistas from Farley Wildflower Overlook on Cordova Pass Road, where the wildflower views look like images from a painting. More outdoor activities >>
The arts scene is one of Colorado’s best.
The Museum of Friends in Walsenburg is the only counterculture museum in the United States — housing more than 600 pieces collected by two local artists, from paintings and sculptures to cultural artifacts. After gaining some inspiration at the museum, sign up for a class at the La Veta School of the Arts or check out the galleries in downtown La Veta such as Kathy Hill’s Studio Gallery or Shalawalla Gallery, Gift Shop & School. Then, take in a show featuring local talented performers at Francisco Center for the Performing Arts or a concert or movie at the Fox Theatre. Plan to visit in early July for Art in the Park, when artists from all over the state gather to La Veta to showcase their handmade goods, including paintings, jewelry, ceramics, apparel and more.
From music fests to cultural celebrations, there’s diverse events to plan your trip around.
Cradled by the Wet and Sangre de Cristo mountains, Spanish Peaks Country is known for its low light pollution and dark skies. Set up camp for a weekend of stargazing, grazing on food-truck delights and learning more about the galaxy we call home at the Rocky Mountain Star Stare. Or challenge your road-biking skills on the Highway of Legends on the 102-mile Stonewall Century Ride in August. In July, country music from artists like Jerrod Niemann and Charley Jenkins flows across the mountain tops from La Veta’s Spanish Peaks Music Festival, and locals celebrate more than 150 years of history with duck and bed races at Francisco Fort Day.
Planning a fall visit? September brings the International Celtic Music Festival, with its Scottish dancing, harp courses and singing classes; and the La Veta Oktoberfest takes place on the first Saturday in October every year, when you can groove live tunes with a brat in one hand and a stein of German beer in the other encircled by color-changing foliage. Browse the calendar >>