Nestled in the heart of the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado, Alamosa is a charming and often overlooked destination for those seeking an authentic Colorado experience. With its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and a wide range of outdoor and cultural activities, Alamosa has something to offer every traveler. In this guide, we’ll explore the top things to do in Alamosa, Colorado, to help you make the most of your visit to this hidden gem.
1. Visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Alamosa is renowned for being the gateway to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. These are the tallest sand dunes in North America, and exploring them is an unforgettable experience. Hike, sled, or sandboard on the dunes, and don’t forget to visit Medano Creek, which flows seasonally and is perfect for a refreshing splash.
2. Explore the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge
Birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts will love the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge. The wetlands and grasslands provide a habitat for a wide variety of bird species, making it a prime spot for birdwatching. Keep an eye out for sandhill cranes, waterfowl, and various other wildlife.
3. Take a Ride on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad
The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad offers a unique opportunity to explore the stunning landscapes of the San Luis Valley. Take a scenic train ride through the valley, complete with panoramic views of the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountains. They also offer themed rides, including beer and wine tasting adventures.
4. Immerse Yourself in History at the Luther Bean Museum
Learn about the history of the San Luis Valley at the Luther Bean Museum, located on the Adams State University campus. The museum houses a collection of artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that shed light on the region’s past, including its indigenous history, early settlers, and more.
5. Enjoy the Local Arts and Culture Scene
Alamosa has a thriving arts and culture scene. Visit the Cloyde Snook Gallery for contemporary art exhibitions, or attend one of the many cultural events and performances at the Adams State University Theatre. You can also explore the historic downtown area, filled with shops, galleries, and murals.
6. Soak in the Sand Dunes Hot Springs
After a day of exploration, relax at the Sand Dunes Hot Springs, located just a short drive from Alamosa. These natural hot springs offer a tranquil setting to unwind and take in the stunning mountain views.
7. Go Hiking and Camping
Alamosa is surrounded by natural beauty, making it an ideal destination for hiking and camping. Whether you’re looking for an easy nature walk or a more challenging hike in the mountains, there are plenty of options to choose from. Popular hiking destinations include Zapata Falls and the San Juan Mountains.
8. Sample Local Cuisine
Don’t leave Alamosa without trying the local cuisine. You’ll find a variety of restaurants offering delicious Southwestern and Colorado-inspired dishes. From hearty breakfasts to mouthwatering Mexican food, there’s something for every palate.
9. Stargazing at the Great Sand Dunes
The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is also a designated International Dark Sky Park. This means it’s one of the best places for stargazing in the United States. On clear nights, the sky comes alive with countless stars and celestial wonders.
10. Attend Local Events and Festivals
Check the local event calendar, as Alamosa hosts a variety of events and festivals throughout the year. From the Early Iron Car Show to the SummerFest celebration, there’s always something happening in this vibrant community.
11. Rafting on the Rio Grande River
For a thrilling outdoor adventure, consider going rafting on the Rio Grande River. Several local outfitters offer guided trips, making it an excellent way to experience the region’s natural beauty from a different perspective.
12. Hunt for Geothermal Springs
The San Luis Valley is known for its geothermal springs, and you can explore various hidden hot springs in the area. Whether you’re interested in a relaxing soak or a more rustic, off-the-beaten-path experience, you’ll find options to suit your preferences.
13. Wildlife Viewing at Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge
Just a short drive from Alamosa, the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge is another fantastic spot for birdwatching and wildlife viewing. The refuge is particularly famous for its annual sandhill crane migration, a spectacle that attracts visitors from all over the world.
14. Discover the Colorado Gators Reptile Park
A unique attraction in the area is the Colorado Gators Reptile Park. This facility is home to hundreds of alligators, as well as other reptiles. You can take a tour to learn about these fascinating creatures and even hold a baby alligator.
15. Skiing and Snowboarding in Winter
If you’re visiting Alamosa during the winter months, nearby Wolf Creek Ski Area offers excellent skiing and snowboarding opportunities. Known for its deep powder, Wolf Creek is a favorite among winter sports enthusiasts.
16. Explore the UFO Watchtower
For something a bit more offbeat, check out the UFO Watchtower. Located on a property known for its numerous reported UFO sightings, the watchtower is a unique place to ponder the mysteries of the universe and gaze at the night sky.
17. Shop at the Alamosa Farmers Market
If you’re visiting Alamosa on a Saturday between July and September, don’t miss the Alamosa Farmers Market. It’s a great place to find fresh, locally grown produce, handmade crafts, and artisanal products.
18. Go Fishing at Blanca Wetlands
Blanca Wetlands, just a short drive from Alamosa, offers excellent fishing opportunities. It’s a serene place to cast your line and try to catch rainbow and brown trout.
19. Attend the Summer Rio Frio Ice Fest
In January, the Rio Frio Ice Fest takes place in Alamosa. This winter festival celebrates the season with ice sculpting, live music, and a variety of activities for the whole family.
20. Take a Scenic Drive on the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway
For a picturesque road trip, explore the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway, which passes through Alamosa. The byway offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and takes you through several charming towns and historic sites.
In conclusion, Alamosa, Colorado, offers a rich tapestry of experiences for travelers seeking natural beauty, culture, and history. Whether you’re exploring the majestic sand dunes, learning about the region’s history, or enjoying the vibrant local arts scene, Alamosa has something for everyone. Make sure to add this hidden gem to your travel bucket list, and you’ll create unforgettable memories in the heart of Colorado’s San Luis Valley.