Rio Grande County, Colorado: Attractions and Activities


Rio Grande County, located in the San Luis Valley of south-central Colorado, covers an area of 912 square miles and has a population of approximately 11,250 residents. The county was established in 1874, with its county seat in Del Norte.


  • Rio Grande County is home to the towns of Del Norte, Monte Vista, and South Fork, each offering unique attractions and outdoor recreation opportunities.
  • The Rio Grande River flows through the county, providing ample opportunities for fishing, rafting, and scenic views.
  • The county's cultural heritage is celebrated through museums, historical sites, and community events.

Cities and Towns of Rio Grande County

Del Norte

Del Norte, the county seat, was founded in 1871 and features a historic downtown district with buildings dating back to the late 19th century. Visitors can explore the Rio Grande County Museum, which showcases exhibits on the area’s history and culture.

Monte Vista

Monte Vista, known as the “Valley of the Cranes,” is home to the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, where thousands of sandhill cranes migrate each spring. The town also hosts the annual Crane Festival, celebrating the arrival of these majestic birds.

South Fork

South Fork serves as a gateway to the Rio Grande National Forest and the Wolf Creek Ski Area. The town offers a variety of accommodations, restaurants, and shops catering to outdoor enthusiasts.

Natural Attractions and Outdoor Activities

Rio Grande River

The Rio Grande River offers excellent fishing opportunities, with rainbow and brown trout being the most common catches. Rafting and kayaking are popular activities along the river, with guided tours available.

San Juan Mountains

The San Juan Mountains provide a stunning backdrop for hiking, biking, and camping in Rio Grande County. The Rio Grande National Forest offers numerous trails, including the Continental Divide Trail and the Silver Thread Scenic Byway.

Cultural Heritage and Historical Sites

Museums and Historical Societies

The Rio Grande County Museum in Del Norte features exhibits on the area’s mining history, early settlers, and the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. The museum also hosts special events throughout the year.

Historic Buildings and Landmarks

Del Norte’s historic downtown district includes the Windsor Hotel, built in 1874. Monte Vista’s Ski Hi Stampede Rodeo, established in 1919, is the oldest pro rodeo in Colorado.

Community Resources and Events

Local Festivals and Events

In addition to the Crane Festival in Monte Vista, Rio Grande County hosts the Covered Wagon Days celebration in Del Norte, featuring a parade, rodeo, and street dance.

Public Services and Facilities

Rio Grande County offers several public libraries, community centers, and parks for residents and visitors. The Del Norte Public Library provides a variety of programs and resources for all ages.

Economic Landscape and Local Businesses

Agriculture and Industry

Agriculture plays a significant role in Rio Grande County’s economy, with potatoes, barley, and alfalfa being the primary crops. The county is also home to several potato processing plants.

Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs

Rio Grande County supports local businesses and entrepreneurs through organizations like the Del Norte Chamber of Commerce and the Monte Vista Chamber of Commerce. These organizations provide resources and networking opportunities for business owners.


What are the best times of year to visit Rio Grande County for outdoor activities?

Summer and fall are ideal for hiking, biking, and fishing, while winter offers opportunities for skiing and snowboarding at Wolf Creek Ski Area.

Can you recommend family-friendly activities in Rio Grande County?

Families can enjoy visiting the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, exploring the Rio Grande County Museum, and attending local festivals and events.

What are some must-visit historical sites in Rio Grande County?

The historic downtown district in Del Norte, featuring the Windsor Hotel, and the State Bank Building in Monte Vista are must-visit historical sites.

Where can I find information about community events in Rio Grande County?

The Del Norte Chamber of Commerce and Monte Vista Chamber of Commerce websites and social media pages provide up-to-date information on local events and festivals.

How can visitors contribute to the preservation of natural and cultural sites in Rio Grande County?

Visitors can practice Leave No Trace principles when enjoying outdoor activities, support local conservation organizations, and visit historical sites and museums to help preserve Rio Grande County’s natural and cultural heritage.


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.