The Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway covers 129 miles and takes about 3 hours to drive, longer if you plan to stop at the different destinations. This drive travels through Antonito, Manassa, San Luis, Fort Garland, Blanca, Mosca, and Alamosa. Be sure to allow at least two days to see everything this byway has to offer.
Spanish for "little Anthony", Antonito was first called San Antonio Junction. Founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) Railroad in 1880, Antonito is located in the south central part of Conejos County. When the railroad was extending south from Alamosa, company officials failed to get the desired concessions at the old town of Conejos. So, they laid out a site of their own to the southeast of Conejos, and the first train pulled into Antonito the evening of March 27, 1880. Today, the San Luis and Rio Grande Railroad runs a freight train connecting perlite mine operations and lava rock to the north by hauling rail-cars loaded with these materials out of the area. The narrow gauge sections through the mountains are still in used for its historic train, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.
Built in 1880, the track between Antonito and Chama was part of the San Juan Extension of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad. The decline of silver mining in the 1890s ended the railroad's vital role. The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad filed for abandonment in 1969, but the most scenic part of its route, its equipment, and its buildings were saved by the states of Colorado and New Mexico in 1970. The C&TSR is America's longest and highest narrow-gauge railway still in operation. Embark from the scenic mountain village of Chama and enjoy the 60-mile ride back into time. Full and half trips run daily between Chama, NM and Antonito, CO from end of May to October.
Cano's Castle rises out of an otherwise unremarkable neighborhood of homes. Scrap aluminum of wire, hubcaps, screen doors, beer cans, and window encasements gives the castle its dazzle. The creator, Cano, is a private man who lives off the grid and he prefers not speak to strangers. Cano refers to his creation as "Jesus' Castle." Please be respectful of him and his creation.
Photo by EMKotyk
A historic town founded in 1878, after Mormon settlers arrived from the South, through Pueblo, fleeing persecution because of their faith. Manassa residents celebrate their foundation and their heritage every year on July 24, when they celebrate Pioneer Days.
A museum which honors Jack Dempsey, the World's Greatest Heavyweight Boxer, is housed in the cabin in which Dempsey was born. It contains several artifacts of Dempsey's career, including the gloves he wore in the New York fight and numerous black-and-white photographs.
Jack Dempsey Museum
412 Main Street
Once a part of four Spanish land grants decreed by the King of Spain, the town's adobe architecture and classic Spanish town layout retain the texture of the historical and cultural influences. San Luis was established in 1851 thereby making it the oldest town in Colorado.
Located on a mesa in the center of San Luis, the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross was built as an act of faith and love by the parishioners of the Sangre de Cristo Parish in San Luis, Colorado. There are 15 stations which consist of sculptures depicting the last hours of Christ's life: His judgment, sufferings, death, and resurrection. The bronze statues are 3/4 to life size and were created by Hubert Maestas.
Photos by EMKotyk
Built in 1858 and named after the commander Brevet Brigadier General John Garland, the purpose of the fort was to protect settlers from the Ute Indians when it was a territory of New Mexico. During the Civil War, Colorado Volunteers were trained at Fort Garland. Their job was to fight the Confederates to prevent them from spreading further west. In addition, the famous Buffalo Soldiers were stationed here between 1876 and 1879. When the Utes were moved to Utah, the troop's numbers were reduced and in 1883 the fort was officially abandoned. Today the museum houses five of the original 22 buildings. The buildings remaining include the commandant's quarters (where Kit Carson and his wife lived when he was stationed here) and Calvary barracks.
Located south of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument, Zapata Falls is an easy half mile hike to a beautiful waterfall. In the summer, hikers must wade through the stream to reach the waterfall and in the winter the waterfall is completely frozen.
Photo by EMKotyk
The tallest dunes in North America are the centerpiece in a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. Experience this amazing area through hiking, sand sledding, splashing in Medano Creek, wildlife watching, and photography.
Located in the shadow of the Great Sand Dunes National Park, San Luis State Wildlife Area (formerly San Luis State Park) is an outstanding location to view waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds and raptors most of the year.
Colorado Gators is a family oriented, educational facility that focuses on full use of natural and recycled resources. Initially started as a Tilapia farm due to the warm geothermal waters, the Youngs purchased baby alligators to dispose of dead fish and the remains of filleted fish. In 1990, the farm was opened up for visitors to view the alligators and subsequently they have become a sanctuary for unwanted exotic pets such as pythons, various snakes, tortoises, iguanas, and even birds such as peacocks and parrots. The animals are displayed for the public to understand the dangers in owning exotic pets and for school educational programs. In addition, of the 50 known albino alligators in the world, they have three albino alligators.
Alamosa, which means "cottonwood" in Spanish, is the hub of the San Luis Valley for retail and services. Alamosa was incorporated in 1878 and began as a rail center for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. Home to Adams State University and Trinidad State Junior College, higher education opportunities and cultural events abound. Board the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad for an excursion train ride from Alamosa to La Veta, visit the Great Sand Dunes National Monument, or explore many of the numerous peaks and hiking trails in the region.
The purpose of the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge is to provide food, cover, and breeding habitat for migratory birds and resident wildlife. The Refuge conserves and enhances the wetland and desert habitats found in the area. It is one of three national wildlife refuges in the San Luis Valley that provides crucial feeding, resting, and breeding habitat for over 200 bird species and other wildlife.