Read 11 Locals' Favorite Hikes in Alamosa

The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad brought commerce here in the 1870s, but today the main attraction is the nearby Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Great Sand Dunes National Park, a 20-minute drive from town, is a unique geological juxtaposition — the nation's highest sand dunes (topping out at 750 feet) against a backdrop of 13,000-foot mountain peaks. Visitors come to hike, sled and even ski the dunes, and also to camp, picnic and explore the trails and wildlife preserve that are part of this national park. Deer, bears, mountain lions, foxes and coyotes make their homes here, along with some rare species of insects.

The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad leaves from Alamosa. From the town's depot, train riders can head to La Veta (May–Oct.) to see spectacular terrain and wildlife and enjoy a meal on board. Summer weekends whisk riders to the Fir Summit Amphitheater for the Mountain Rails Live Concert Series; summer Saturday nights offer multi-course dinner trains with sunset views; and specialty excursions, like the pumpkin patch, Christmas Town and Rails & Ales themes, are held each year. Folks coming from the Front Range or New Mexico can choose to board in historic Fort Garland.

You can walk from the railroad's Alamosa depot to sample downtown's many restaurants, many of which specialize in Mexican cuisine. The charming district also boasts unique shops, art galleries and the San Luis Valley Brewing Company, known for its craft brews and comforting fare.

Visitors should also check out the 18-hole Cattails Golf Course and other nearby attractions, such as the Colorado Gator Farm in Mosca or the Zapata Falls waterfall. The Alamosa/Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge is a bird-watcher's paradise, especially in spring.

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