Nestled at the southern terminal of the awe-inspiring Highway of Legends, the city of Trinidad is a well-preserved charmer where archaeology, architecture and a new creative district are offered up alongside modern-day recreation. The towns of Walsenburg, La Veta and Cuchara add to the area's charm and make for a perfect weekend itinerary.
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.
Or spend a lazy day on the Purgatoire River, which was recently stocked for great trout fishing and a lovely riverwalk.
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. Affordable living and beautiful landscapes have recently resulted in an influx of artists in residence and full galleries, and the Southern Colorado Repertory Theater’s professional company fills the year with classics and original works. These factors and more led to the Corazón de Trinidad (heart of Trinidad) recently being named a Certified Colorado Creative District.
For dinner, make way to Rino’s, where authentic Italian recipes and a talented crew of singing waiters combine for a memorable evening.
Stroll 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, and the A.R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art, which houses collections of Western and Spanish colonial folk art.
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 three classic Colorado towns.
You'll delight in lovely Cuchara’s stunning Sangre (especially from Cuchara Mountain Park’s trails) views and a sleepy downtown with gift shops and several B&Bs and cabins. For summer splendor, pull off Cuchara Pass at the Farley Wildflower Overlook and behold a color-filled meadow.
And peek into La Veta’s art galleries and the 1862 adobe Francisco Fort Museum; the blast from the past at Uptop ghost town on Old La Veta Pass — a favorite of stargazers. At Alys’ Restaurant, chef Alys surprises guests with a menu based on the day’s inspira- tion, not to mention an unbeatable wine list.
For an audio tour of the Highway of Legends, check out the TravelStorys app, which describes the geology and history of the locations you’ll see along the way, as well as the legends of the people who passed through in days of yore.
Have More Time?
If you have another day, visit the Comanche National Grassland's Picketwire 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 5 miles each way. The Forest Service provides guided auto tours of the site — check with the Comanche National Grassland Office in La Junta.
Check out related Colo-Road Trip itineraries: Highway of Legends — Trinidad & Pueblo and Where Legends Roam: Southern Colorado Spanish Peaks Country.