What to See & Do
From San Luis, Hwy 160 takes you to the crossing of the Rio Grande River. When the Spanish explored the area in the 1500s, the river was called El Rio Bravo del Norte.
Don Juan de Onate claimed all lands drained by the river for King Phillip II of Spain.
From San Luis to the Top of Cumbres Pass
After crossing the river, you travel towards Manassa through an area once part of the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. You will pass by the Forbes-Trinchera Ranch, one of the Ranching for Wildlife projects.
The Trinchero estate was the northern part of the land grant sold by Charles Beaubien, a French Canadian who had settled in Taos. The first territorial governor of Colorado, Col William Gilpin was the buyer. The entire land grant including the southern Costilla section was 1 million acres.
In the small town of Manassa, visit the Jack Dempsey Museum.
The towns of La Jara, Manassa, and Sanford were settled by Mormons. In 1877, Mormons who had previously arrived in Pueblo, Colorado, traveled to Conejos County led by John Morgan, to establish the church's Southern Mission. They settled first in Los Cerritos but were not prepared for the harsh winter. The Spanish people of Los Cerritos gave them help to survive and took them into their homes while the Mormon pioneers built their own homes.
The town they established was Manassa.
This was not the first Mormon town established. In 1854, the site of the town of Sanford was surveyed and named for Silas Sanford Smith, the first president of the San Luis Stake of Zion. Both Sanford and Manassa hold Pioneer Day Celebrations commemorating the anniversary of the arrival in the Salt Lake Valley of the Mormon pioneers.
King's Manassa Turquoise Mine is found east of Manassa. Turquoise was mined here by the Pueblo Indians prior to the coming of the Spanish. Turquoise was looked upon by the Native tribes as a conduit for special powers to the owner and believed by the ancients to provide spiritual benefits. Turquoise has been found in Egyptian pyramids and in the ruins of many ancient civilizations including the Mayans, the Incas, and the Aztecs. The mine was discovered in 1890 by I.P. King of the Manassa King family and has been mined by that family since then.
Three miles east of Romeo is the Pikes Stockade Historic Site where in 1807 Lt. Zebulon Pike built a stockage. Here the warm springs would thaw the frozen water of the Conejos River and provide them with a steady supply of water.
In the town of Conejos, visit Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, the oldest parish in Colorado, constructed in 1856. It's first settlers were from the Abiquiu area of New Mexico.
In Antonito, you can take the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad to Chama.
What to See & Do
From Alamosa to San Luis
Starting from Alamosa, travel north on Hwy 17 and take the exit east to
Sand Dunes National Monument.
Three miles north of the intersection on Hwy 17 to the Sand Dunes is the
San Luis Alligator Farm.
A few miles south of the Sand Dunes on Hwy 150 is the
Historic Zapata Ranch
on which the old stagecoach station still stands.
Stop at the
Zapata Falls Picnic Area
to take a hike up to the falls.
From the intersection of 150 and 160, take 160 east to Fort Garland. To learn about the area's Civil War history, visit the
Fort Garland History Museum.
Hwy 159 takes you to the oldest, continuously inhabited town in Colorado, San Luis.
Hike up to the top of San Pedro Mesa along the
Stations of the Cross
At the top is All Saints Chapel and beautiful views of the San Luis Valley.
Also, visit the
San Luis Museum & Cultural Center in town.