Your Visit

Welcome to Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area!

We have exceptional recreational opportunities. There are hundreds of square miles of public lands, thousands of acres of wildlife rich wetlands, marshes, and water bodies and two designated wildernesses that provide for highly diverse recreation experiences.

While experiencing this unparalleled scenic beauty one can find solitude, absorb clean crisp air, gaze upon some of the clearest of night skies and bask in a climate that is dominated by sunlight.

In addition, there are phenomenal cultural resources that clearly express old world traditions and native beliefs. The cultural expression in the landscape illustrates the local ties to this unique landscape and heritage.

Interactive Map

Click on an icon to read more. Then click on ‘More Details’ to visit an associated website or image. You can zoom in (see controls at bottom right) and move the map around by holding down your mouse and dragging.

Currently, you filter the map to show All, Museums, Mission Churches in Costilla County, and Mission Churches in Conejos County.  We’ll be adding more visitor attraction categories in the future.

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Be sure to visit our protected lands.

 Important things to know about our Heritage Area:

Getting Here and Getting Around:

We are located 250 miles south of Denver International Airport.

You fly into our Heritage Area at the San Luis Valley Regional Airport

You can call a (Little Stinkers) taxi cab to get around at 719-589-2500

You can rent a car from Hertz by calling 719-589-6138

Weather Preparation and Featured Activities:

December -February are winter months, bring warm clothes and snow boots. This is the best time of year for winter fun such as ice skating, ice fishing, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, sledding, small town holiday festivities, the Alamosa Ice Fest, and the Rio Frio Fest .

March-May are spring months and it can still be a little cool and windy, bring sweaters, hiking gear, and rain gear. This is a great time of year to see everything starting to bloom. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad starts their season in May.

June-August are summer months, bring swimming attire, hiking gear and cool clothing. This is a great time of year for fishing, camping, hiking, biking, river rafting, and visiting the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Enjoy the Summerfest on the Rio, Manassa Pioneer Days, Santa Anna Y Santiago Festival, and the La Jara Glory Days Festival, and live music every Sunday at 6pm at Cole Park in Alamosa.

September-November are our beautiful fall months. This is the best time of year to see Colorado’s colors. Bring sweaters, hiking gear and a camera. A train ride during these months provides some amazing photo opportunities.

Suggested Self-guided Tours 

(More itineraries coming soon)

Town of Antonito Walking Tour                             

Antonito is one of Colorado’s historic towns with plenty to see such as Colorado’s oldest Catholic church, the Conejos County Museum and much more. The downloadable self-guided walking tour takes you to some wonderful sites that guide you through the town’s history.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Conejos. Courtesy Julie Gallegos

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Conejos

Mission Church Tour

There are several churches in the three counties that comprise the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, which are considered mission churches.  Several have unique architectural features and four in Costilla County were recently placed on the National Register of Historic Sites. All of these sites are easily accessible by cars and buses.

 

La Capilla de Todas los Santos. Courtesy Tawney Becker

La Capilla de Todas los Santos. Courtesy Tawney Becker

Spiritual Tour

The Stations of the Cross Shrine in San Luis, Colorado has become a local landmark for not only the spiritual aspect of the bronze statues and the capilla (chapel), but also for the spectacular vistas from the top of the Mesa de Piedad y Misericordia (Mesa of Piety and Mercy).

Next to the oldest congregation in Colorado located in Conejos, Colorado there is a labyrinth being developed by local  parishioners. Conejos County also has several mission churches.

The Church of Latter Day Saints also has some spiritual sites that can be explored.

There is also a new garden just outside of San Luis. Mother Mary’s Garden features two labyrinths, beautiful statuary, seating areas, and celebrates the many religions in the San Luis Valley. All of these sites are easily accessible by car or bus, some require walking short distances or  light climbing.

Jack Dempsey Museum, Manassa. Courtesy Tawney Becker

Jack Dempsey Museum, Manassa. Courtesy Tawney Becker

Museum Tour

There are several excellent museums in the Lower San Luis Valley that are worthy of a very interesting and informative tour.  These include: the Fort Garland Museum (a History Colorado museum), the San Luis Valley Museum (Alamosa), the Sanford Museum (Sanford), the Luther Bean Museum and Northern Rio Grande Center at Adams State University (Alamosa), the Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center in San Luis (under restoration, but will open soon), the Jack Dempsey Museum in Manassa, and the Conejos County Museum in Antonito. All the museums are easily accessible by car or bus.

Digging at Ft. Massachusetts – ASU Archeology Field School

Digging at Ft. Massachusetts – ASU Archeology Field School

Archaeological Tour

The San Luis Valley is rich in archaeology.  Several tours have been conducted in cooperation with History Colorado classes.  These include petroglyphs along the Rio Grande near the de Vargas Crossing, Fort Garland Museum, Fort Massachusetts (private land), and additional sites in Alamosa and Costilla County.  There are qualified individuals who can be contracted to conduct these tours. Email us if you are interested (our email is located by scrolling to the bottom of this page). Some sites are difficult to get to, may require walking long distances, or moderate climbing.

Train Tour

Both the Denver Rio Grande Scenic Railroad (Alamosa) and the Cumbres Toltec Scenic Railroad (Antonito) are a great way to experience the beauty and culture of our area. Both of the trains are easily accessible by car or bus and are near food and lodging.

Los Caminos Scenic Byway

Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic & Historic Byway Tour

The Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic & Historic Byway provides the visitor with some of the most  spectacular vistas in the region. There are many historical landmarks such as the San Luis Historic District, the oldest church as well as the oldest congregation in Colorado.  Historic Manassa, Sanford and La Jara are home to a very rich Mormon culture.  Alamosa’s railroad history has recently enjoyed a great renaissance and is becoming well known.  Fort Garland Museum has some of the oldest State-owned adobe buildings with a rich cultural and military history.  The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is a beautiful example of nature’s living laboratory with its spectacular dunes, dynamic water preservation and a unique biodiversity. The entire byway is easily accessible by car or bus. There are multiple locations along the way for food, gas, and lodging.

Cultural mural in San Luis

Town of San Luis Heritage Tour 

San Luis de la Culebra (San Luis), Colorado is the oldest continuous settlement in the State of Colorado.  It is where “Colorado Began” as the locals call it.  The Plaza in San Luis, which makes up several square town blocks in the center of the village, is a National Historic District.  It is named so for its unique architecture, its Spanish/Mexican style plaza and the many “firsts” for Colorado, including the oldest business owned continuously by the same family—the R&R Market.  The People’s Ditch is the first adjudicated water right in Colorado, which is one of many acequias in Southern Costilla County. The adjoining vega is a common pasture and supports a centuries-old system of agriculture. This tour is a very popular one and leaves you with a sense of place. The town of San Luis and the sites are easily accessible by car or bus and offer food, gas, and lodging.

Natural Wonders Tour

Our National Heritage Area is full of natural wonder and beauty. It’s the perfect spot in Colorado to take in the majestic beauty of our mountain ranges, fish in crystal clear rivers, lakes and reservoirs, take a hike in the forests, or visit the highest natural sand dunes in the country. Some sites are difficult to access and may require a 4-wheel drive vehicle, walking long distances, or moderate climbing.

Art Tour 

Our National Heritage Area is not your typical art scene, and you don’t have to be an artist to enjoy the wonderful artwork throughout our heritage area. However, many artists find our heritage area to be a source of inspiration!

You could plan this self-guided tour as a three-day trip, with one day in each of our three counties.

If you are interested in visiting a large outdoor gallery, with nature as the backdrop then this self-guided tour is for you. Some amazing local artists, following in their cultural tradition, have painted stunning artwork in unconventional places throughout our Heritage Area. Other artists have created homes of art. Yet others have molded statuary that seems to come to life.

This unique storytelling through art has a way of transporting the viewer back in time. The various artwork depict faith, scenic beauty, Hispano culture, folklore, and the settlement of the area. Art sites are easily accessible by car or van and near food, gas, and lodging.