Costilla County, Colorado
Colorado’s beautiful Costilla County is one of six counties that comprise the breathtaking San Luis Valley. The San Luis Valley is a region in south-central Colorado with a small portion overlapping into New Mexico. It contains the headwaters of the Rio Grande. Costilla County is generally flat, valley land at the headwaters of the Rio Grande in south central Colorado and borders northern New Mexico. It is bounded on the east by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and on the west by the San Juan Mountains.
Costilla County is known for its quaint old towns, like San Luis, which offers a great deal of history and fun activities. Perfect for people to immerse themselves in nature while escaping the hustle and bustle of the city. Costilla County averages over 300 days a year of sunshine, which allows plenty of time to enjoy all of your favorite adventures.
This southern Colorado dream spot affords you the opportunity to enjoy almost year-round access to skiing, camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, hot springs and more. The wide-open spaces of the San Luis Valley make for beautiful panoramic views of the valley and mountains. Kayak around in the Rio Grande river, catch all assortments of fish in nearby lakes play around and picnic in the world famous Great Sand Dunes, hike in the nearby mountains, backcountry ski and snowboard in the winter, hunt elk and deer throughout the county (home to the largest Elk herd in Colorado), and ATV around the vast expanses of Colorado wilderness! We know you will love this area. The Great Sand Dunes National Park is to the north, San Isabel National Forest is a short drive east and the Rio Grande is to the west. Enjoy any of several reservoirs in the county, including Sanchez Reservoir, Eastdale Reservoir, Smith Reservoir and Mountain Home Reservoir.
Costilla County has two incorporated towns and several smaller communities. The towns of San Luis and Blanca are incorporated while Fort Garland is one of the county’s larger towns though not incorporated. Chama, San Pedro, Los Fuertes, Garcia, Jaroso, San Francisco, San Acacio, and Mesita, are smaller communities, all of which were established shortly after the town of San Luis in 1851.
The county also has a few reservoirs: Eastdale Reservoir, Sanchez Reservoir, Smith Reservoir, and Mountain Home Reservoir. All are excellent for fishing and boating. One may catch walleye, pike, and several species of trout, bass, and a few other types of fish. Costilla County is also home to much wildlife such as deer, elk and antelope, which may often be seen in herds grazing in the fields. Coyotes, bears, bighorn sheep, and mountain lions also make their homes here.
The Smith Reservoir is located 5 miles outside of Blanca, off of Hwy 160 south on County Road12. The location offers great views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range and provides excellent trout fishing. The two boat ramps and the rules prohibiting waterskiing make this a perfect spot for fisherman.
Sanchez reservoir is located a few miles south and east of San Luis. The reservoir is ideal for pike, perch, and walleye as well as boating, hiking, and camping, and wildlife viewing. All boats are allowed but waterskiing and bowfishing are prohibited.
Sangre de Cristo Greenbelt Trail: Costilla County has one developed hiking trail in the county, the Sangre de Cristo Greenbelt Trail. This trail is located in the Greenbelt Open Space within the Sangre de Cristo Ranches subdivision. The trail is a little less than three miles long. Its northern terminus is along Balleroy Road about .75 miles east of Battersea Road and the southern terminus is a short distance south and east of the dead end of Hidalgo Road. There are two picnic benches at the Balleroy Road trailhead that are the same style as benches found in Rito Seco Park and at Stabilization Reservoir. The trail has numerous switchbacks and rock steps in several places. Seven rock cairns were built to better identify the direction of the trail. The Sangre de Cristo Greenbelt trail is in good condition and easy to follow in most areas.
Costilla County offers some of the best big game hunting in Colorado. There is a “Greenbelt” in that has over 5,000 acres set aside for hunting and recreation. Common game species in Costilla County include mule deer, elk, bear, turkey and grouse. The Trinchera Elk Herd in Game Management Unit 83 (Costilla County) is one of the largest in Colorado with an estimated Population of 16,000 elk.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve The Great Sand Dunes are a famous feature of the San Luis Valley. They lie directly to the west of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The dunes can reach 750 feet (230 m) high. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is in place to protect both the dunes and the numerous archeological sites found in the area. Visitors must walk across the wide and shallow Medano Creek to reach the dunes in spring and summer months. The creek typically has a peak flow from late May to early June in most years. From July through April, the creek is usually no more than a few inches deep, if there is any water at all.
Zapata Falls Zapata Falls is another amazing attraction in this area. Here, water tumbles some 30 feet into a pool below. In the summer, the falls offer a cool respite; in the winter, cold temperatures turn them into a giant ice sculpture.
Penitente Canyon Penitente Canyon is located in the San Luis Valley. It was once a refuge for the Penitentes. The area, located on the lands of the Bureau of Land Management, offers rock climbing, fishing, mountain biking/hiking trails, and camping.
Lake Pueblo State Park Lake Pueblo State Park is a state park located in Pueblo County, Colorado. It includes 60 miles of shoreline and 10,000 acres of land. Activities it offers include two full-service marinas, recreational fishing, hiking, camping and swimming at a special swim beach.
Wildlife Costilla County is home to wildlife such as deer, elk, antelope, mule deer, and moose; some of which may be seen in herds grazing the fields. Coyotes, bears, bighorn sheep, lynx, and mountain lions also make their homes here. There is a large variety of birds, some which are migratory, including but not limited to Sandhill cranes, Canadian geese, hawks, and Bald Eagles.
SKIING – There are several Ski Areas within a 90-minute drive from the area. Wolf Creek Ski Area in Pagosa Springs averages 36’ of snowfall per season and boasts “the most snow in Colorado.” Nine lifts service over 1600 acres of terrain. Red River Ski & Summer Area is located in the southern Rockies, just north of Taos, New Mexico. They average 213” of snowfall per year. They have 7 lifts servicing 63 trails over 290 skiable acres. Angel Fire Resort in Angel Fire, New Mexico, averages 210” of snow each year. They have 7 lifts and 80 trails.
MOUNTAIN BIKING - Angel Fire Resort has a really cool bike park that they’re always working on, adding to, and improving. It is the Largest Bike Park in the Rockies and has been voted Best in the Southwest by MTBparks.com! With a summit elevation of 10,677 feet, the Angel Fire Bike Park offers lift-accessed downhill biking with over 60 miles of trails for all ages and abilities.
SANDBOARDING - Sandboarding and sandsledding are popular activities, both done on specially designed equipment which can be rented just outside the park entrance or in Alamosa. Visitors with street-legal four-wheel drive vehicles may continue past the end of the park’s main road to Medano Pass on 22 miles of unpaved road, crossing the stream bed of Medano Creek nine times and traversing 4 miles of deep sand. Hunting is permitted in the preserve during the months of autumn, while hunting is prohibited within national park boundaries at all times.
ZIPLINING TOURS - Angel Fire Resort features four ziplines at the top of the mountain, high above the stunning Moreno Valley. Tours typically take two to three hours, and the ziplines vary from 120 to 1,600 feet in length. Between ziplines, you’ll walk along a well-maintained path which allows you to fully enjoy the beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Breckenridge Whitewater Rafting & Zipline in Buena Vista offers high quality outdoor adventure packages in the Rocky Mountain region. They are about a 3 ½ hr drive from San Luis.
HORSEBACK RIDING - Granite Mountain Outfitters – Dorsey Creek Rd., Hwy 285, Salida, CO 81155 Rainbow Trout Ranch – 1484 Forest Service Rd 250, Antonito, CO 81120 Spotted Fever Ranch – 12525 Rd R.5, San Acacio, CO 81151
RAFTING - Breckenridge Whitewater Rafting & Zipline in Buena Vista offers high quality outdoor adventure packages in the Rocky Mountain region. They are about a 3 ½ hr drive from San Luis.
GOLFING Cattails Golf Course – 6615 N River Rd Alamosa CO Challenger Golf Course – 67581 CR T Crestone CO Monte Vista Golf Club – 101 Country Club Dr Monte Vista CO
HOT AIR BALLOONING Colorado Hot Air Balloon Rides – South Park Valley CO
ROCK CLIMMING Alamosa Canyon English Valley La Garita Creek Wall Penitent Canyon The Rock Garden Sidewinder Canyon Witches Canyon
The Arts There are over 500 known artists living in the San Luis Valley as evidenced by an onging directory maintained by Monte Vista artists’ group, The Art Thing, The Art Thing’s membership boasts several nationally recognized artists working in various media. Monte Vista is also home to the  Monte Arts Council as well as several festivals and an art tour that attracts artists from as far away as California and North Carolina.
The San Luis Valley is home to five active live theaters, two at Adams State University, The Creede Repertory Theater, The Old Spanish Trails Theatre Company and Rocky Mountain Stage in Monte Vista. In August there are two major Music Festivals, the Crestone Music Festival and Spanish Trails Music Festival and Mexican Rodeo. Music in the valley has two well-known sponsors in the South Fork Music Association and the Alamosa Live Music Association.
Taos, New Mexico is an easy 90 minutes south. Taos is a long-time and well-known art colony, and offers many galleries and museums showcasing regional artwork. This area attracts thousands of tourists each year – can become your own backyard playground.