Alamosa County, Colorado: Outdoor Activities and Culture


Alamosa County in south-central Colorado is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. With its diverse landscape of mountains, forests, lakes, and wetlands, the county offers endless opportunities for adventure, exploration, and jaw-dropping scenery along its scenic byways.


  • Alamosa County has world-class hiking, biking, fishing, wildlife watching, and other outdoor pursuits
  • Scenic drives like Los Caminos Antiguos and the Silver Thread Scenic Byway provide stunning mountain vistas
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park showcases the tallest sand dunes in North America
  • Blanca Peak is one of Colorado's most challenging and rewarding summit hikes
  • The San Luis Valley is a birdwatcher's haven with over 300 species spotted


Alamosa County is crisscrossed by hundreds of miles of hiking trails that cater to all ability levels. The county’s crown jewel for hiking is Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve near Alamosa. The park features the tallest sand dunes in North America, soaring up to 750 feet high. Adventurous hikers can climb to the top of Star Dune, the tallest in the park, for phenomenal views. Easier hiking trails like the Montville Nature Trail and Mosca Pass Trail offer flatter routes through scenic wetlands and aspen groves.

Just northwest of Great Sand Dunes lies the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Blanca Peak, the second-highest peak in the Rockies. Experienced mountaineers flock to Blanca Peak for its challenging summit climb, which involves an elevation gain of over 5,000 feet. The 14,345-foot summit rewards the effort with jaw-dropping 360-degree views. Less demanding trails like the Como Lake Trail and North Colony Lakes Trail also penetrate the Sangre de Cristo wilderness.


Cycling is another fantastic way to explore Alamosa County with bike-friendly roads winding through its diverse landscapes. The 17-mile Cole Creek Road south of Saguache offers a scenic and gently sloping ride along the western base of the Sangre de Cristos. For mountain bikers, the Zapata Falls Recreation Area near Great Sand Dunes National Park boasts over 8 miles of thrilling single-track trails. Road cyclists can take on the demanding climbs along the USA Pro Challenge route on Colorado 17 towards the mountain hamlet of Crestone.

Fishing and Boating

Alamosa County is an angler’s paradise with over 20 lakes and numerous rivers and streams. Rio Grande Reservoir State Park near Del Norte has excellent trout fishing and opportunities for power boating, sailing, and paddle sports on its blue waters. Further east, the Arkansas River between Salida and Buena Vista offers gold-medal fly fishing along its peaceful stretch through Brown’s Canyon National Monument. High alpine lakes like Como Lake, Hope Lake, and North Clear Creek Reservoir provide idyllic backcountry fishing for those willing to hike or backpack in.

Wildlife Watching

The diverse ecosystems of Alamosa County make it one of the best places for wildlife watching in Colorado. The San Luis Valley is an important stopover point on the Central Flyway bird migration route. Over 300 species of birds have been spotted in the valley, including the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. The nearby Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge is another destination for learning about and spotting Colorado wildlife. Large mammals like bighorn sheep, elk, black bear, and mountain lion inhabit the higher-elevation forests and peaks. Patient wildlife watchers may spot these elusive animals along trails like the Zapata Falls Recreation Area and Blanca Peak.

Scenic Drives

Some of the most spectacular scenery in Alamosa County can be viewed along its scenic and historic byways, which are accessible by car. The Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic and Historic Byway follows sections of the Old Spanish National Historic Trail, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the San Luis Valley. The byway passes sandstone rock formations, volcanic plugs, and sweeping valley vistas dotted with cattle ranches.

The Silver Thread Scenic and Historic Byway climbs from South Fork over Wolf Creek Pass into the Continental Divide at over 10,800 feet. This route showcases stunning mountain scenery, alpine meadows flush with wildflowers in summer, and remnants of Colorado’s mining history. Further east, travelers can take the narrow and winding Medano Pass Primitive Road deep into the heart of Great Sand Dunes National Park, surrounded by towering sand dunes.

Seasonal Attractions

The diverse landscapes and elevations of Alamosa County provide unique seasonal attractions and activities for visitors throughout the year. In fall, the aspen groves of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains put on a dazzling golden display, while the wetlands and grasslands of the San Luis Valley host an evening spectacle when sandhill cranes arrive for their annual migration stopover.

For winter sports, Wolf Creek Ski Area offers some of the best powder skiing in Colorado, with over 300 inches of annual snowfall. Sandboarding and sledding down the sand dunes of Great Sand Dunes National Park also attract winter thrill-seekers to Alamosa County.

Come spring and summer, wildflowers carpet the mountain meadows while whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River kicks into high gear. The lush wetlands surrounding the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge come alive with birds and their fledglings nesting in cottonwood trees during the warmer months.

Culture and History

For those interested in Colorado history and culture, the San Luis Valley Museum has exhibits of early native American artifacts that give a glimpse into the lives of the area’s indigenous people.

BLM Land

Alamosa County contains public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). While not as plentiful as other parts of Colorado, these spaces offer free dispersed camping and day-use opportunities.

Travel Tips

To make the most of your outdoor adventures in Alamosa County, here are some key travel tips:

  • The best time to visit is generally May through October when most scenic roads, trails, and activities are accessible.
  • Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended for accessing more remote scenic drives and trailheads
  • Stay hydrated and watch for afternoon thunderstorms when hiking at higher elevations
  • Carry insect repellent if exploring wetland areas during the summer
  • Respect wildlife and keep your distance from any animals encountered
  • Travel with a guide or experienced outdoorsperson for high-risk activities like mountaineering

With its diversity of landscapes and ecosystems, Alamosa County truly offers an outdoor playground for visitors of all ages and interests to explore. From conquering Colorado’s highest peaks to photographing migrating sandhill cranes, adventures await in every season. Just be sure to respect and treasure these natural spaces that make the county special.


What are the top 3 hiking trails in Alamosa County?

The top 3 hiking trails are the Star Dune Trail in Great Sand Dunes National Park, the Blanca Peak Summit Trail, and the Zapata Falls Trail.

Where is the best spot for wildlife watching?

The Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge within the San Luis Valley provides excellent wildlife watching, especially for spotting migrating birds.

What is the highest paved road in Alamosa County?

At 12,095 feet, State Highway 17 to Crestone offers the highest paved road driving in Alamosa County.

When do the aspen trees change color in the fall?

The aspen groves in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains typically peak in their fall golden colors between mid-September and early October.

What is the most popular winter activity?

Wolf Creek Ski Area near Pagosa Springs provides the top downhill skiing and snowboarding in Alamosa County and receives over 300 inches of snow annually.


About the author

Ransom Patterson

My expertise in Colorado life extends beyond just residing here; it’s also about living actively within the community. I spend my time cycling through Denver’s trails, experimenting with local cuisines, and immersing myself in the local music scene. These activities give me a unique perspective on the cultural and outdoor offerings of Colorado. This hands-on approach allows me to provide insider tips and personal recommendations that resonate with both locals and visitors alike.