Regional History

Travelers have always come to this Valley; some are just passing through, many will return, and a handful will stay – but none will forget the vast beauty that is Saguache County. From the time prehistoric Ice Age peoples hunted giant bison 11,200 years ago, through the historic period when European settlers carved out homes in the wilderness, we remain a resilient bunch. Willing to forego convenience of urban pleasures for the quality of life in this peaceful open place where the sun always shines and the stars are as close as your backdoor. This land of majestic vista has much to offer those who seek an experience apart from the ordinary. Folks always ask us, “what is there to do here?” This guide will show you all the wonders of Saguache County – outdoor recreation on public lands, religious temples, quiet spaces to watch abundant wildlife, and a deep culture full of history and art. We invite you to come be a part of it all – you’ll never forget it.

From the Sangre de Cristo to the San Juan Mountains, the jagged peaks and rushing rivers of the San Luis Valley public lands wrap themselves around this Rocky Mountain basin. Whether viewing the mountain scenery from roads or finding challenge on trails, visitors discover solitude and self-reliance through uncrowded year-round recreation opportunities. As recreation pressures increase in other parts of Colorado, the public lands of the Saguache County maintain their remote spirit and traditional culture.

The Rio Grande Forest and adjacent BLM lands form the scenic and cultural backdrop to the Saguache County. With a landscape of high peaks, geologic wonders, and steep river canyons, the spectacular scenery beckons adventurers from near and far. Culturally, the public lands have been significant to generations of users and continue to provide economic benefits to local communities through recreation-based tourism and multiple uses. History is alive at prehistoric Native American sites, historic mining camps, and along the routes of early explorers and settlers. The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail winds for 236 miles across the Rio Grande Forest and is managed to protect its scenic and recreation values. The CDNST stretches 3,100 miles from Canada to Mexico along the spine of the Rocky Mountains, creating a habitat corridor for wildlife and hikers. For map and more information go to www.cdtrail.org.

Special attractions include Sangre de Cristo and La Garita Wilderness Areas, Penitente Canyon, significant migratory wetlands, numerous 14,000 ft peaks, excellent hunting, fishing, and hiking opportunities. Consistent snow and excellent terrain create a winter wonderland ready for enthusiasts of snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiles. With nearly half of the land designated as Wilderness or backcountry, and the overall remote nature of our public lands, the opportunities for solitude are outstanding. The area continues to be a safe and inviting place for families and social groups to experience the great outdoors.

The Rio Grande National Forest and BLM lands are managed public lands; the lands combined are called the San Luis Valley Public Lands. Visit the Regional Forest website or the BLM website for more information.