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.
Take a look at our maps.
Be sure to visit our protected lands.
Featured Events for July
- Santa Anna Fiesta
- July 21 potluck dinner at 7:00 pm and crowing of the Fiesta Queen at the Immaculate Conception Church in Chama, Colorado
- July 22 Parade at 10:00 am festivities all day, dance at 8pm in San Luis, Colorado
- July 23 Parade at 10:00 am festivities until noon in San Luis, Colorado
- Pioneer Day Festival
- Manassa, Colorado
- July 21,22 Parade at 10:00 am booths, carnival, and festivities all day
Suggested Self-guided Tours
(Itineraries coming soon)
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.