Photo by Jay Slater
If you like your course charted so that all you have to do is enjoy,
take one of our custom daytrips and watch for pleasant surprises.
Earth Mountain Education Farm, an outdoor education center, is nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The farm is about an hour from Trinidad at an altitude of 8,000 feet. Earth Mountain offers a unique experience in sustainable living with organic gardens, farm tours, great hiking trails, and a variety of educational workshops. On your tour of the farm, you will learn about sustainable systems such as solar electric, passive solar hot water and heating, and building with natural materials. Earth Mountain offers a fresh, organic lunch from the gardens and a fun daytime adventure. Groups are welcome. Contact us to schedule your high mountain farm adventure! Call ahead to book a camping or RV site or to schedule your visit for a day: 719-680-0215 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Call Yellow Pine Ranch (719-742-3528) and reserve two hours of morning horseback riding through pastures, streams, and forest. The ranch is about 49 miles west of Trinidad on the Highway of Legends (Highway 12); you will see the sign and a yellow house on the right-hand side of the road a bit beyond Cuchara.
After your ride, stop in Cuchara for a lazy lunch. This mountain village with a stream running through is always a refreshing summer getaway.
Continue back toward Trinidad. Turn right about 3 miles from Cuchara to Blue and Bear Lakes, a quiet mountain retreat with idyllic woodlands and meadows scattered with wildflowers and butterflies. Take one of the easy trails or cast your line in the water until it’s time to head back to Trinidad and an evening at the theatre (Events).
Villages west of Trinidad offer days of interest and fun, and the drive along the Highway of Legends is beautiful. First, have breakfast in Stonewall, about 33 miles from Trinidad. The village is in a dramatic location next to part of the millions-of-years-old Dakota Sandstone Formation.
Stop in Cuchara, about another 21 miles down the road, for an ice cream cone. Visit the boutiques on the boardwalk.
Continue another 12 miles to La Veta, which has a lively art gallery scene. Take a guided tour of the excellent Francisco Fort Museum and visit the small raptor center (call first, between 10am and 4pm: 719-742-3224). Walk along the quarter-mile, handicap-accessible La Veta Nature Trail, in a park with mule deer, red foxes, birds, and reptiles. Signs tell of edible and medicinal plants used by Native Americans and early settlers.
Continue on Highway 12 to Walsenburg, which has a pleasant downtown area with specialty shops. The Coal Mining Museum at 112 W. 5th is a must-see. A map in the museum shows the town as underlaced with tunnels. Guides share little-known facts about the mining life. Walsenburg also has a waterpark and an indoor shooting range.
For the hours of museums in this trip, see Museums.
After picking up a take-out lunch from one of Trinidad’s restaurants, choose your route for four-wheeling on Cordova Pass Road, also called Apishapa Road. This road connects Aguilar and Cuchara (the road is numbered CR 43.7 where it meets Aguilar but CR 46 where it meets Cuchara). Your destination is West Peak Trailhead, 29 miles from Aguilar and 6 miles from Cuchara.
If you start your trip in Aguilar, 21 miles north of Trinidad on I-25 at Exit 30, relax in the town park with a breakfast snack from Ringo’s Market, in the historic Arcade Hotel & Saloon on Main. Then proceed on County Road 43.7 for your drive to the West Peak Trailhead on Cordova Pass Road.
You can also go the long way through Walsenburg, 37 miles north of Trinidad on I-25, and continue on the Scenic Highway of Legends loop to access the road near Cuchara—and have a heartier breakfast in Walsenburg. Or you can drive directly to Cuchara, 54 miles west of Trinidad, to access County Road 46 from there.
On both sides of four-wheel-drive Cordova Pass Road, green blankets lie beneath conifers and aspens that occasionally part for magnificent views of the Spanish Peaks and dikes. Apishapa Arch on the road is carved through one of the dikes.
West Peak Trailhead (11,743'), 29 miles west of Aguilar and 6 miles east of Cuchara, has picnic tables and 3 walk-in campsites with a restroom and trash service. The trails wind into the Spanish Peaks Wilderness Area.
The Spanish Peaks are known by geologists the world over for spectacular rock walls radiating like spokes from the peaks. These "dikes" are made of intrusive igneous rock that was forced into softer sedimentary layers. As the softer rocks eroded, walls of hard rock were exposed, some 100 feet high and as long as 14 miles. The region, now designated as a National Natural Landmark, has around 400 of these formations. Nowhere else are these geologic phenomena found in these patterns or in such abundance.
Hiking & Biking, West Peak Trailhead
In the early 1900s, the foothills near Trinidad were dotted with active coal-mining camps. Miles of tunnels stretched below the Purgatoire River Valley. Above them, trains carried the black treasure to market.
Many camps have vanished or are in ruins. Cokedale, known in 1907 as a model mining camp, remains much as it was then. First, visit Trinidad’s Colorado State Welcome Center at 309 Nevada to pick up the Cokedale brochure so that you can take the self-guided tour through town. If you would like to visit the Cokedale Mining Museum while you are there, call ahead, 719-846-7428 Tues-Thurs only, or 719-846-8763, to make an appointment.
Take Highway 12, the Scenic Highway of Legends, seven miles to Cokedale (right turn) and its coke ovens across the road (left turn). These ovens (shown above) once burned round the clock. Huge ebony mountains just outside town are the slag piles from early operations..
Cokedale itself is still occupied, so please respect residents’ privacy.
After your tour, turn left outside town onto a paved road that turns to gravel. Stay to the right whenever the road forks. For the first 8 miles or so, you may encounter traffic associated with regional methane gas production. The traffic clears, and you come upon concrete and sandstone walls on both sides of the road. These are the remains of the company mining towns of Tollerburg, Berwind, and Tabasco. Families who lived here were evicted by the coal company in 1913 when they went on strike. Some may have set up camp in the nearby Ludlow tent colony.
If ghost towns are your interest, they scatter the countryside around Trinidad. Pick up F. Dean Sneed’s Las Animas County Ghost Towns and Mining Camps, at the Carnegie Public Library or the Trinidad History Museum bookstore.
Hike into an extinct Ice Age volcano. Capulin Volcano erupted toward the end of a period of volcanism in the area that began about nine million years ago. On a clear day, you can see four states from Crater Rim Trail’s highest point.
At the visitor center, a 10-minute film introduces visitors to the volcano. From there, visitors reach the volcano parking lot by car. Trailers, towed vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians are not allowed on the narrow road.
In winter, the volcano trails are for self-guided tours using the interpretive signs placed along the trails. In summer, depending on staffing on any particular day, rangers lead tours, give interpretive talks, and spend time on the trails to answer questions.
Crater Rim Trail, one mile and paved, goes around the rim of the volcano, offering spectacular views of the surrounding landscape. The trail skirts the rim in a series of moderate to steep ascents to the peak’s highest point—8,182 feet—and ends with a steep descent to the parking lot.
The short Crater Vent Trail steeply descends 105 feet to the bottom of the crater, which is the plugged vent of the volcano.
A 10-minute paved nature trail begins at the visitor center. This trail is wheelchair-accessible and offers a close-up view of the prairie landscape and lava formations called squeeze-ups.
Lava Flow Trail is a one-mile loop beginning at the far end of the visitor center parking lot. There are steep sections and rugged lava exposed on the otherwise easy, unpaved trail.
The visitor center, restrooms, picnic area, nature trail, and crater rim parking area are wheelchair accessible.
There is no food service, lodging, or camping within the park, but the nearby town of Capulin has a convenience store.
The visitor center is open every day except Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1. The road to the summit may be closed by snow for a few days each winter.
From Trinidad, go south on I-25 to Raton, New Mexico, and then east 30 miles via U.S 64 and 87 to the town of Capulin. The entrance to Capulin Volcano National Monument is 3 miles north of Capulin on Highway 325. 575-278-2201, nps.gov/cavo.
Photo courtesy A.R. Mitchell Museum
Trinidad History Daytrip
If you want to stay in Trinidad for a leisurely stroll, take a self-guided history tour. Pick up A Walk Through the History of Trinidad, at the Carnegie Public Library or the Trinidad History Museum bookstore. The subtitle of this highly entertaining guide by Gerald Stokes is “An Irreverent and Frankly Gossipy Guide Through the Corazón de Trinidad National Historic District.”
History markers in the downtown and surrounding area—a map of the markers is available at the Welcome Center—will add interest to your walk.
Trinidad and surrounding area are rich in history and equally rich in museums—on art history, mining, archaeology, ranching, the daily life of earlier times. Plan your own museums daytrip. See Museums.
The free Trinidad Trolley includes Trinidad’s museums in the tour.
Choose your route for the following two daytrips. Highways 160 and 109 take you east of Trinidad, then north. Highway 350 runs northeast of Trinidad.
Smoky blue mesas rise in the distance along Highway 160, directly east of Trinidad. Here and along Hwy 109, fourth- and fifth-generation ranchers rotate their cattle on expanses dotted with cholla cactus. Besides the cholla, things visible from the road come in small numbers: one abandoned stone house, one hawk sweeping the sky, three cows grazing.
Kim Outpost, at the junction of 160 & 109, has meals and gas that you won’t see again until you reach La Junta. The store carries everything from canned goods to kids’ books and good conversation. Check the bathroom if you want some local wisdom, for example, “Always buy from kids selling things in their front yards.”
Highway 350, running northeast of Trinidad, is a shorter—and some say more scenic—route. If you take 350, note that the “towns” shown on the Colorado map are whispers of earlier days and have no amenities. Returning to Trinidad on 350 will give you the perspective of those who traveled west on the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail. It’s easy to imagine the wagons rumbling toward Trinidad and the travelers looking to the Spanish Peaks to guide them to rest and water.
Whichever direction you go, you may meet no more than twenty other vehicles on the entire loop.
Magical in cooler weather, Vogel Canyon can reach 110 degrees in summer. Take precautions at any time of year with layered clothing, good hiking shoes, and plenty of water.
Signage in the parking area—which has picnic tables, toilet, horse hitching rails, and the only allowed camping—directs visitors to several trails marked by cairns (see Hiking & Biking). Canyon Trail, mildly difficult, leads to petroglyphs that share the soft sandstone walls with lizards, mud wrens, and flying insects.
This is a fragile and wondrous place. Go softly, don’t touch the rock art, and please take your trash out with you.
From La Junta (87 miles northeast of Trinidad on Hwy 350), drive 13 miles south on Highway 109. Turn west on Road 802 for 1.5 miles. Turn south on Road 505A for 1.5 miles.
On the roof of Bent's Old Fort
Bent’s Old Fort (as opposed to Bent’s New Fort, no longer standing) was one of the significant fur trading centers on the Santa Fe Trail and was faithfully reconstructed in 1976. Each room in this huge fort on the plains is outfitted as it was in the early to mid-1800s, when the fort served as supply depot, wagon-repair shop, council space for Native Americans, and the center of news and hospitality for all comers.
Complete your tour by taking the 1.5-mile hiking trail through a cottonwood grove along the Arkansas River. Six interpretative signs tell of the relationship between the natural resources of the area and human history.
Bent’s Fort is located 8 miles east of La Junta on Hwy 194. After your tour of the fort, visit La Junta for lunch and the Koshare Indian Museum at 115 West 18th. It has a diverse collection of Plains and Southwest art and artifacts. The Otero Museum, at 3rd & Anderson, includes an old store, a blacksmith shop, and many other exhibits on area history.
For hours of museums in this daytrip, see Museums.
Purgatoire Adventures Daytrip
You will need to call to explore the options for a day at this working ranch. Located in the red sandstone region east of Trinidad with its “mini–grand canyons,” the ranch raises grass-fed beef with no antibiotics or hormones. Each member of your group may customize his or her activities for a memorable day in a region of Colorado not seen by the casual visitor. You may find that you want to return for a longer vacation. Call or email for reservations—719-384-5813, email@example.com. More on Purgatoire Adventures Unlimited.
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Last Modified 2/14/13