Uncovering History of the Mystic San Luis Valley

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Get ready to take the kiddos' learning to new heights with Colo-Road Trips Educational Itineraries, trips crafted with plenty of hands-on learning, educational adventures and, of course, stops for ice cream. Each was designed with kids from kindergarten to 5th grade in mind, but the activities, outings and accommodations will be enjoyed by children of all ages — yes, that’s you Mom and Dad. Supplement your trip with trivia, educational videos and games — or just hop in the car and go!

Explore the Mystic San Luis Valley on this epic road trip. Along the way, you'll drive along scenic byways, pop into museums, visit a state park and animal refuge and spot a ton of sand too. Traverse through Walsenburg, La Veta, Fort Garland, Alamosa, Monte Vista, Del Norte, Lake City and Creede. 

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Grab Your Supplies

While all that is truly needed is your kid's sense of adventure, a notebook, a writing utensil and plenty of colored pencils will come in handy.

Day
1
Activity
Get Your Hike On: Lathrop State Park

Opened in 1962, Colorado’s first state park offers stunning views of Spanish Peaks, Greenhorn Mountain and Pikes Peak. With two lakes, three hiking trails and many varieties of plants, Lathrop State Park is a must-visit.

Lunch
Green Chili Eatery

Don’t let this small shack fool you. This eatery has it all with delicious food, famed green chile and plenty of patio space for the kids to roam around.

Activity
Architecture Detective: Highway of Legends

Colorado's Highway of Legends Scenic and Historic Byway is the perfect detour for those exploring southern Colorado. Along this stretch of two-lane highway, you can view unusual volcanic formations radiating outward from the Spanish Peaks, drive over Cuchara Pass on the mountains' shoulder and view the glorious Cuchara Valley, a hidden wonderland.

Dinner
Dog Bar & Grill

A staple in the Cuchara Valley, Dog Bar & Grill was named one of the "Top 12 Best Outdoor Patios in Colorado" by The Denver Post. This dog-themed restaurant is the perfect stop to stretch your feet after your travels on the Highway of Legends and includes a kid's menu for those with puppy-sized appetites.

Activity
Stargazing at Cuchara Mountain Park

Tucked in the eastern slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Cuchara is a charming mountain village with a million-star review. Spend your night gazing at the formations in the sky at the Cuchara Mountain Park — and keep your eyes peeled, you might catch a shooting star!

Lodging
La Veta Inn

After a long day’s adventure, spend some time telling stories by the fire. If you book a suite, you’ll be able to tuck your kids into their bedroom while you get to relax in your own space down the hallway. When you awake, the day's first activity is only a two-minute walk away.

Educational Activity
Get Your Hike On

Hiking at Lathrop State Park is a way to connect to a place, hone observation skills and get some energy out! Get Activity.

Extra Credit
Go Geocaching

Interested in an outdoor treasure hunt? Before heading out of Lathrop State Park, try your hand at geocaching. Get Activity.

Insider's Tip
Roll On

Hop on the road and head 20 minutes south to La Veta.

Educational Activity
Channel Your Inner Detective!

Make a stop in La Veta at the beginning of your drive and become an architectural detective. Get Activity.

Insider's Tip
Enjoy a Sundae

Stop by Charlie’s Market after a night under the stars to grab a sweet treat at this old-fashioned soda fountain located in a grocery store.

Day
2
Breakfast
Ryus Avenue Bakery

This small-town artisan bakery serves up melt-in-your-mouth pastries that’ll get you and your kids energized for the day. The bakery also has a garden patio where you can enjoy its baked goods in the fresh mountain air.

Activity
Travel Back in History: Fort Garland

Built in 1858 to protect early settlers from Indigenous raids during the Indian Wars, this 19th-century treasure highlights adobe structures, the Black Buffalo Soldiers of the Ninth Cavalry and some interesting Civil War history. Be prepared to be transported back in time through the exhibits of women and children as well as military life at Fort Garland.

Lunch
Rendezvous BBQ

Before you embark on your next leg, be sure to stop by Rendezvous — the only place where you can find Mississippi-style barbecue with a Colorado twist. The pulled pork and sweet potatoes are crowd favorites, even for those picky eaters.

Activity
Exploring Colorado’s History: Los Caminos Antiguos Byway

Los Caminos Antiguos byway traverses the cradle of the San Luis Valley. You'll see historic bits of the state and spot a valley rich in culture, agriculture and vistas. The Hispano influence is evident in the churches and people.

Dinner
Locavores

This fast-casual restaurant serves up fresh meals that have been sourced from farmers and ranchers within 200 miles of its location — a great lesson in sustainability for the younger ones. While you’re there, make sure to ask for crayons. Kids can draw their masterpieces on the tables.

Activity
Hike Blanca Vista Park

Stretch your legs at Blanca Vista Park. The mile Crestone Trail is accessible from the wildlife viewing area and features a grand view of the mighty Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range.

Lodging
Dunes Inn

If the children need to keep up with their online courses, the Dunes Inn offers free fiber internet to all guests. This gives the little ones time to catch up on homework and parents time to catch up with friends and family.

Educational Activity
Travel Back in History

Explore the life of a Buffalo Soldier at Fort Garland Museum. Get Activity.

Insider's Tip
Drive to Fort Garland

Head south out of La Veta for about 45 minutes to your next destination.

Educational Activity
Spanish, Anyone?

As you travel along the Los Caminos Antiguos byway, try to match the Spanish words to the English translation. Get Activity.

Insider's Tip
Stretch Your Legs

Head to the top of a hill where Shrine of the Stations of the Cross, a historic church, is located.

Insider's Tip
Have a Nightcap

Visit the Colorado Farm Brewery to "tap" off your night at the nation’s only farm-to-glass brewery. They offer a variety of styles made with the estate’s very own ingredients. The kiddos can enjoy a farm tour while enjoying a delicious root beer as well.

 

Day
3
Breakfast
Milagros Coffee House

With a rotating gallery by local artists, this coffee shop is the perfect place to get the creative juices flowing for the day’s adventure. Several menu items are brewed strong enough to power parents throughout the day.

Activity
Welcome to Alamosa: Alamosa Welcome Center

Alamosa, the largest town in the San Luis Valley, is considered the Gateway to the sand dunes. Said to be named after cottonwood trees along the Rio Grande, Alamosa has a college, museum and many nearby attractions.

Lunch
My Brother's Place

Word on the street is that this pizza parlor rivals most New York City slices and is tike-approved too. Make sure to grab a seat upstairs, which has ample space for kids to be kids.

Activity
Time Traveling in Alamosa: San Luis Valley Museum and Cultural Center

With exhibits on the lives of Indigenous, Hispanic and Japanese American peoples as well as information on early railroading and early mercantile stores, this museum is a must-see.

Dinner
The Rubi Slipper

Enjoy American classics in this vintage-style diner, where kids can enjoy a root beer float. But, make sure they save room for dessert! We hear their funnel fries and fried ice cream are top-notch!

Educational Activity
Interested in Working in the Travel Industry?

Here’s your chance! After a visit to the Alamosa Welcome Center create a poster or brochure to encourage people to visit the Mystic San Luis Valley. Get Activity.

Educational Activity
Shopping: In the Past vs. Today

Explore how modern-day shopping compares to the past at the San Luis Valley Museum and Cultural Center. Get Activity.

Trivia
How’s Your Memory?

Test your memory about your travels from the first three days. Get Trivia.

Activity
Incline Bar & Grill

Incline is a true Colorado dining experience featuring bold southwestern flavors inspired from Southern Colorado kitchens. With 20 beers on tap…

Lodging
Great Sand Dunes Lodge

The best part about a night at the lodge is the view of the sand dunes from your private patio. Keep your eyes peeled for hummingbirds, as they tend to frequent the property.

Insider's Tip
Cool Off

Take a dip at the Sand Dunes Swimming Pool located in Hooper.

 

Day
4
Breakfast
Great Sand Dunes Oasis

Located at the entrance of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, this is a one-stop-shop where you can cross multiple trips off of your list. Enjoy a delicious breakfast and then head over to the rentals shop to grab a sandboard for the day’s adventure.

Activity
Sand Matters: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

A sandbox of epic proportions, the entire dune field encompasses 30 square miles. The tallest dune even towers 750-feet high. The kid in every visitor loves to sled down the sand year-round.

Lunch
Great Sand Dunes Oasis

Drop off your rentals and stay for lunch! The restaurant’s menu offers everything from burgers to tacos, but be sure to take a slice of pie for the road.

Activity
Hike Zapata Falls

Wade through ice-cold water and maneuver over slippery rocks to see these hidden falls. If you want to keep your shoes dry, balance on the log bridge overhead to capture the perfect photo of this roaring water feature.

Dinner
The Sunflour Cafe

Stop by this local favorite for dinner and be sure to snag a booth for ultimate comfort for you and the fam. This is another spot that excels at dessert, so save some room for a warm cinnamon roll.

Activity
Wildlife Sanctuary: Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge

This refuge is a bird watcher's paradise due to the arid climate of the San Luis Valley. Lush wetlands provide a year-round habitat for various birds, coyotes and deer. In March and September, 20,000 migrating Sandhill Cranes use the refuge as a stopping point.

Lodging
Best Western Movie Manor

Head over to this mom and pop-style hotel that doubles as a drive-in theater! If it has been a long day in the car, you can see the big screen from the comfort of your room. Pro-Tip: Call ahead to request a room with direct views of the screen and pop by the concession stand before you head up to your room.

Educational Activity
How Did the Sand Dunes Get There?

Ever wonder how the sand dunes were formed? Visit the Visitors Center to find out. Get Activity.

Educational Activity
Word Scramble

After a visit to the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, practice your new vocabulary by seeing how many words you can unscramble. Get Activity.

Trivia
How Much Do You Remember?

See what you can recall from your adventures today. Get Trivia.

Day
5
Breakfast
Boogies Restaurant

Time to fuel up for your last day of activities! This local favorite boasts hometown service and a dedicated kid's menu. Don't miss the hash brown casserole.

Activity
Music in the Valley: Rio Grande County Museum

Filled with hands-on activities to delight kids of all ages, the Rio Grande County Museum will take you on a journey. Learn about Indigenous Peoples, mountain men, settlers and agricultural workers on the way.

Lunch
Blue Moose Cafe

With a fun antler chandelier hanging from the ceiling and tons of moose artwork, the kids will love this restaurant.

Activity
Creede Underground Mining Museum

Kids will enjoy learning about stoping, blacksmithing, mucking, blasting and assaying, all while underground in the cool heart of the mountain. Retired miners lead tours, and the more than twenty exhibits bring mining alive.

Dinner
Tommyknocker Tavern

Tommyknocker's has spacious outdoor seating areas — perfect for getting your kid’s energy out before the night comes to a close. The deck also has spectacular views of the mountains and is a great place to catch the sunset.

Activity
Hike South Clear Creek Falls

Located between Lake City and Creede, the falls are a short 900-foot hike.

Lodging
Soward Ranch

The cabins have room for the entire family, and kids will have a bedroom all to their own — perfect for getting a good night’s rest before you head back home. Be sure to spend some quality time on the porch, enjoying the fresh mountain air and reminiscing on the family's favorite moments during their "learn-cation."

Educational Activity
Got Music?

Explore how music was an important part of life in the valley at the Rio Grande County Museum. Get Activity.

Educational Activity
Are you Ready to Travel Underground?: Creede Underground Mining Museum

Expand your vocabulary while exploring the many displays at the Creede Underground Mining Museum. Get Activity.

Trivia
Remember Mining, Anyone?

A few questions to help you remember mining terms and your time in Creede. Get Trivia.