A Excellent Colorado Street Journey by means of the San Luis Valley

I grew up in Colorado Springs and have been throughout Colorado, however I’ve spent little or no time within the San Luis Valley. When Go to Colorado reached out desirous to ship me again to my dwelling state, it appeared like an ideal alternative to journey south and probe for per week. Spoiler alert: it was a terrific journey, and one in all my favourite street journeys ever.

I flew into Colorado Springs, drove south to Nice Sand Dunes Nationwide Park, headed north to Crestone and Joyful Journey Sizzling Springs (between Moffat and Villa Grove), drove southwest to Del Norte, after which returned to Colorado Springs through Manitou Springs – 567 miles complete over 5 days. The overwhelming majority of the drive was lovely. It’s Colorado in any case.

Nice Sand Dunes Nationwide Park / Zapata Ranch

I keep in mind tenting on the Nice Sand Dunes as a child, nicely earlier than it was a Nationwide Park. I hadn’t visited in a long time nevertheless. It’s a straightforward park, with one street in and only a few main areas to park and camp. In fact when you’re parked you possibly can stroll and discover so far as you need to.

I stayed at Zapata Ranch, roughly 12 minutes from the sand dunes – one of the best, closest place to remain to go to the park. Zapata Ranch is a good ranch vacation spot even with out the dunes close by, so once you mix them you get type of an ideal trip spot. I checked within the afternoon, walked across the ranch somewhat, after which joined the opposite visitors for dinner at 6pm. Dinners and breakfasts are communal, which as a solo traveler I actually loved. I ended up throughout from a lady from Boulder who had already been over to the dunes and was heading again for sundown, so I joined her!

Colorado road trip - San Luis Valley - My cabin at Zapata Ranch

Word: the sand dunes are sometimes windy. They wouldn’t exist with out the wind. That sundown tour was somewhat chilly and really windy, however completely lovely. Positively head over for sundown should you’re staying on the ranch. We crossed the river and walked up and down dunes for roughly an hour. Then again to Zapata Ranch.

Horseback Driving at Nice Sand Dunes Nationwide Park

I awakened, sat exterior with espresso, after which joined everybody for breakfast on the ranch. After that, the day was all about horseback driving!

Colorado road trip - San Luis Valley - The sand dunes from my bed at Zapata Ranch
The sand dunes from my mattress at Zapata Ranch
Colorado road trip - San Luis Valley - Early morning coffee at the ranch
Early morning espresso on the ranch

A typical ranch keep is 3+ nights, and horseback excursions are included every single day. The conventional driving locations are to the bison herd, across the ranch or on the sand dunes. I selected the sand dunes in fact – how usually do you get to journey in a Nationwide Park? And whereas I’ve ridden camels by means of deserts a number of occasions, I had by no means been on a horse in sand dunes.

I walked over to the corral, met Maddie, my information for the day, and met Snookie, my horse for the day. Maddie made certain my stirrups have been the proper size, I bought some fundamental driving instruction, and we trailered over to the park.

I cherished this journey! For 4 hours we rode by means of the river, the dunes and a number of other meadows, stopping briefly for a picnic lunch (the ranch had made me a bison burrito). It was a beautiful, sunny day, and never too windy, and Maddie and I talked your complete journey. Unsure if I’ve had a non-public information on rides earlier than this? I used to be undoubtedly rusty once we began – it had been just a few years since I had been on a horse – however by the tip Snookie and I had bonded and I used to be much more comfy with the reins and my seat.

Colorado road trip - San Luis Valley - Following Maddie through the meadow
Following Maddie by means of the meadow
Colorado road trip - horseback riding in the river
Within the river
Colorado road trip = San Luis Valley - Hey I'm on a horse at the sand dunes!
Hey I’m on a horse on the sand dunes!
Colorado road trip -  A horseback riding break
Taking a break for lunch, with Snookie

From the dunes we went again to the ranch the place I joined a leather-based working demonstration/workshop, had dinner and headed again to the dunes for an additional sundown. It was hotter and fewer windy and I climbed up for over an hour. Actually fulfilling night time!

Colorado road trip - The leather workshop at Zapata Ranch
The leather-based workshop at Zapata Ranch

Zapata Falls

I thought of going to the sand dunes for dawn, however being solo it wouldn’t be attention-grabbing from a images perspective, since you really want individuals on the dunes so as to add scale, and there weren’t many individuals on the park that week (mid-Could). Subsequent time!

After breakfast on the ranch I packed up and drove a couple of minutes away to the Zapata Falls trailhead, and hiked half a mile to the falls. The path was rocky however pretty straightforward, however the river close to the falls bought difficult, with a number of rock hopping and ice strolling. Among the ice appeared pretty skinny too. I do know when the ice melts the one option to the falls is thru the chilly river, so from that perspective Could was a great time to go to, however it could have been a troublesome tour for younger children.

Colorado road trip - San Luis Valley - The ice leading into Zapata Falls
The ice main into Zapata Falls
Colorado road trip The view of the sand dunes from Zapata Falls Trail
The view of the sand dunes from Zapata Falls Path

A Colorado Street Journey Cease in Crestone

From Zapata Falls I drove somewhat below an hour to Crestone. Crestone is tiny however fascinating – a religious base for lots of religions, with quite a few temples and retreat facilities simply exterior of city. And as one individual put it in a DM, it’s one of many final really genuine Colorado mountain cities and can possible by no means change, because it isn’t close to a ski space. I had lunch at Cloud Station (a part of Elephant Cloud Market), walked round downtown (which takes all of quarter-hour), after which drove across the temple space, getting out just a few occasions for brief hikes.

Colorado road trip - Elephant Cloud Market and Cloud Station in Crestone
Elephant Cloud Market and Cloud Station in Crestone
San Luis Valley - Lunch at Cloud Station in Crestone
Lunch at Cloud Station
Colorado road trip - Walking around Crestone
Strolling round Crestone
San Luis Valley - The Stupa of Enlightenment, Jangchub Chorten, near Crestone
The Stupa of Enlightenment, Jangchub Chorten, close to Crestone

Joyful Journey Sizzling Springs

There are quite a few scorching springs all through the San Luis Valley. Some are pure however most have been became swimming pools, which makes temperature management far simpler! Some of the well-known is Joyful Journey. I drove half an hour from Crestone, checked into my yurt (they’ve regular rooms, tipis and yurts), placed on my swimsuit and a gown, and walked over to the recent springs. I can’t communicate to the well being advantages from soaking within the mineral-rich waters, however I spent an hour in a number of of their swimming pools – at totally different temperatures – and it was totally stress-free.

Colorado road trip - My yurt at Joyful Journey Hot Springs
Inside my yurt at Joyful Journey Sizzling Springs
San Luis Valley - My yurt (1A)
My yurt (1A)
San Luis Valley - In the 106-degree hot spring at Joyful Journey
Within the 106-degree scorching spring at Joyful Journey

Like Zapata Ranch, Joyful Journey contains dinners and breakfasts. I had dinner within the eating room after which explored the lodge till it was darkish. The labyrinth and geodesic dome greenhouse are notably cool. I then awakened at dawn to spend extra time on the labyrinth earlier than having breakfast and packing as much as proceed my roadtrip by means of the San Luis Valley.

Colorado road trip - The labyrinth at Joyful Journey
The labyrinth at Joyful Journey
Colorado road trip - The geodesic dome greenhouse
The geodesic dome greenhouse

A observe on yurt life: there are not any bogs within the yurts, however the communal restroom was lower than a minute from my yurt (1A). I’d keep there once more, since what number of occasions do you might have the choice of sleeping in a yurt? In order for you an in-room rest room although you might want to go together with one in all their normal rooms.

Colorado road trip - The tipis at sunrise - Joyful Journey Hot Springs
The tipis at dawn

Penitente Canyon

I did numerous analysis on San Luis Valley hikes between Joyful Journey Sizzling Springs and Del Norte and located Penitente Canyon. I cherished this hike! It was roughly a mile and a half loop, leaving from the principle parking space (once you drive into the park, preserve going straight till the tip). At one level I by some means bought off the path, however there was sufficient cell protection to search out the hike within the AllTrails app and see the way to get again onto the loop. I extremely suggest downloading your deliberate hikes in AllTrails earlier than setting out anyplace.

San Luis Valley - Hiking in Penitente Canyon
Mountaineering in Penitente Canyon
Colorado road trip - Hiking in Penitente Canyon
Penitente Canyon

I hiked the loop clockwise, however that meant I had the solar in my eyes as I used to be strolling by means of the canyon, which is probably the most lovely a part of the hike. For those who’re mountaineering within the morning I’d suggest going counter-clockwise as a substitute.

Del Norte, Colorado

Penitente Canyon is simply 20 minutes from Del Norte, totally on a dust street. I had a typical rental automotive and had no issues in any respect. I drove into Del Norte and headed to Three Barrel Brewing Firm for lunch. After a superb pizza I walked round downtown – bigger than Crestone, however nonetheless it didn’t take greater than half-hour to see most websites.

Del Norte, Colorado - a great Colorado road trip stop
Del Norte, Colorado

The lodge choices in Del Norte come right down to the Windsor Resort and the Mellow Moon Lodge. I often go for iconic, historic resorts however this time I went for the retro motel and completely cherished it! Mellow Moon is my favourite motel keep ever. My room was nice, and I slept amazingly. I’m undecided once I’ll be again in Del Norte, however I’d keep at Mellow Moon Lodge once more in a heartbeat. Extremely really helpful for an evening (or two) on a Colorado street journey.

Colorado road trip - The Mellow Moon Lodge in Del Norte
The Mellow Moon Lodge in Del Norte
San Luis Valley road trip - My room at Mellow Moon Lodge
My room at Mellow Moon Lodge
San Luis Valley - My room at Mellow Moon Lodge. Coolest motel ever!
My room at Mellow Moon Lodge. Coolest motel ever!

Dinner was glorious – on the Windsor Resort Eating Room.

Colorado road trip - Trout for dinner at the historic Windsor Hotel in Del Norte
Trout for dinner on the historic Windsor Resort in Del Norte

The Pikes Peak Cog Railway

My ultimate day in Colorado I used to be presupposed to sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast in Del Norte, and slowly make my approach from the San Luis Valley again to Colorado Springs for my afternoon flight. Nevertheless, Pikes Peak was on the best way to the Springs, and as many occasions as I’ve been to the highest of the mountain, I had by no means taken the Cog Railway (formally the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway) up. So I went on-line, bought a ticket, and left Del Norte at 6am. With just a few scenic stops alongside the best way I arrived in Manitou Springs at 9:30am.

Colorado road trip - The drive between Del Norte and Manitou Springs
The drive between Del Norte and Manitou Springs

My practice departed from Manitou at 10am. I had a window seat on the left aspect, so I used to be dealing with ahead heading up the mountain (9.8 miles), after which backwards coming again down. I actually loved the practice! It was much more stress-free than driving up, it was an attractive day, and the conductor on board was entertaining.

Colorado road trip - At the train depot in Manitou Springs
On the practice depot in Manitou Springs
Colorado road trip - Heading up Pikes Peak on the Cog Railway
Heading up Pikes Peak on the Cog Railway
Colorado road trip - Pikes Peak
Arriving on the prime!

We had roughly 45 minutes on the summit of Pikes Peak. The donuts on the prime are world-famous, however I took too lengthy getting off the practice and the donut line was no less than half an hour lengthy. So I selected to skip the donuts and discover in and across the new customer’s heart as a substitute. There’s a brand new summit signal as nicely.

The brand new Pikes Peak Customer’s Heart
Searching from the Customer’s Heart

In regards to the climate: Manitou Springs was good (70s/80s) however the wind chill on the prime of Pikes Peak was 1 diploma Fahrenheit. Take layers and possibly a hat and gloves with you. There have been individuals in shorts and t-shirts and so they survived however have been visibly uncomfortable! I had two layers of merino wool and a fleece, along with a merino wool beanie, and I used to be heat.

Colorado Springs

Once I’m again in Colorado Springs, I’m often on the Broadmoor with my children or staying with household. With this being a solo journey, I used to be ready to decide on my two favourite locations for lunch – Ivywild Faculty (an previous schoolhouse that now has a number of eating places and a brewery) on the best way out of city and Shuga’s my ultimate afternoon. Each are glorious and extremely really helpful.

My San Luis Valley Street Journey – Abstract

As I stated at the start, I cherished this San Luis Valley street journey! Colorado Springs is an especially straightforward airport to fly into and hire a automotive, I used to be in a position to see household (briefly), I stayed at wonderful, attention-grabbing locations, I had a few nice hikes, I soaked in scorching springs, I went on a enjoyable, distinctive horseback journey, and I made it to the highest of Pikes Peak! Plus each meal was glorious. All of this within the span of 5 days and 4 nights. The climate was glorious – blue skies and heat temperatures every single day. Colorado is sunny the overwhelming majority of the time, so you possibly can possible anticipate the identical in your Colorado street journey.

Horseback driving below excellent skies was a Colorado street journey spotlight
I cherished all over the place I stayed! That is the Mellow Moon Lodge.

My solely disappointment: there was a full moon the week of my go to, so the stargazing wasn’t as nice because it often is. All three of the locations I stayed had clear, unpolluted views of the night time sky.

Colorado Street Journey Sources

I’ve numerous Colorado content material on my website. For extra of my favourite issues to do in Colorado Springs, click on right here. For Vail, Aspen, Telluride and elsewhere, simply use the search field on the prime (on the backside on cellular gadgets) to search out my related posts.

Final yr I labored with Conde Nast Traveler and Wheels Up on itineraries for Colorado Springs, Aspen and Vail as nicely. Click on right here!

Colorado.com can be a tremendous useful resource. They’ve actually all the pieces on their website. Do Colorado Proper is an effective place to begin. Summer time journey concepts are right here.