Picture of the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad making way through a mountain meadow to the train station in Chama, New Mexico

The Cumbres and Toltec Railroad train passes through the picturesque fall scenery of Southern Colorado.

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is a guest favorite and we are just 5 minutes away from the Antonito, CO. Depot. This is America’s most spectacular, longest, highest, narrow gauge steam railroad still operating. The train will take you on a true adventure back in time as it meanders through 64 miles of awesome peaks and valleys of the scenic Rockies. The train passes through tunnels, gorges and breathtaking vistas.

Great Sand Dunes Park and Preserve About an hour drive from Twin Rivers, The tallest dunes in North America are the centerpiece in a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. Experience this diversity through hiking, sand sledding, splashing in Medano Creek, wildlife watching, and more!

Colorado Gators Reptile Park  About an hour drive, the Colorado Gator Farm is one of Alamosa’s most unique attractions. Utilizing the geothermal waters of the valley, the owners decided to start their very own Tilapia farm in 1977. Instead of throwing away the dead fish, in 1987 they bought 100 baby alligators to take care of the fish remains naturally. These baby alligators grew fast in the warm, geothermal waters and locals started asking if they could see them. The Gator Farm opened to the public in 1990, showcasing their tilapia ponds and enormous alligators.

Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, About an hour drive, Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge is located in the San Luis valley, a high mountain basin located in south-central Colorado. It’s one of three national wildlife refuges in the valley that provides crucial feeding, resting, and breeding habitat for over 200 bird species and other wildlife. Alamosa and Monte Vista Refuges are located at the south-central end of the valley, the Baca Wildlife Refuge located at the north end.

The San Luis Valley, sitting at 7,800 feet, extends over 100 miles from north to south and 50 miles from east to west. Three mountain ranges surround the valley – the Sangre de Christo to the east, the San Juan to the west, and the Saguache to the north. At sunset, the highest peaks of the Sangre de Christo range take on a blood-red glow which inspired early Spanish explorers to name them after the “Blood of Christ.”

Surrounding mountains feed the arid valley with precious surface water replenishing an expansive underground aquifer. The mountain snow melt and artesian wells provide needed water to the agricultural community and to the rivers, creeks, and wetlands that thread across the valley floor.

The Refuge’s wetlands are artificially made and intensively managed to provide habitat for a variety of waterfowl and other water birds. Water from irrigation canals and wells maintain this important wetland habitat. Mallards, pintails, teal, and Canada geese are common, as are American avocets, killdeer, white-faced ibis, egrets, and herons.

This Refuge is one of more than 560 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System – a network of lands set aside and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specifically for wildlife. The Refuge System is a living heritage, conserving wildlife and habitat for people today and generations to come.

Pike’s Stockade National Historic Landmark about a 45 minute drive

Established beside the Conejos River in February 1807 by Captain Zebulon M. Pike during his expedition to the southern part of the Louisiana Purchase in Conejos County, Colorado. The stockade was built of logs in a 36 square with two log bastions on the north side. The walls were 12′ high and the stockade was surrounded by a ditch.

The stockade was in use for less than a week while Pike explored and tried to find the headwaters of the Red River. Pike was actually in Spanish territory and the spanish sent a small force to escort the expedition out of the area. The Spanish force arrived at the stockade on 26 Feb 1807 and informed Pike that he was in Spanish territory. Pike took down the U.S. flag and two days later the Spanish force escorted the expedition to Santa Fe. The Spanish released Pike and most of the expedition members later in 1807.

Oldest Church In Colorado about a 5 minute drive:

Picture of the oldest church in Colorado, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Conejos, Colorado

Oldest church in Colorado, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Conejos, Colorado

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church is the oldest parish in Colorado. Meeting in a temporary space in 1856, the parish designation was granted in 1859. Construction of the original church commenced in 1863 and was completed in 1866. Though the exterior was renovated between 1879 and 1881, Theatine priests updated the interior and added stained glass windows in 1921. On Ash Wednesday of 1926 an electrical fire destroyed the church, leaving walls and towers. The adobe towers were razed in 1948 and replaced with the contemporary brick entrance.

Cano’s Castle – Beer Can Folk Art, Antonito, Colorado about a 5 minute drive:

Cano’s Castle rises out of an otherwise unremarkable neighborhood of homes. Its silver walls are blinding in the Colorado sunlight, its five separate structures have all been enlarged upward: a house, a garage, a shed, and whatever lies at the base of its two soaring towers.

Scrap aluminum gives the castle its dazzle: wire, hubcaps, grills, screen doors, window casements. Bicycle reflectors add notes of color. Countless beer cans, carefully cut apart, predominate. The tops and bottoms are nailed to the walls in repeating patterns; the middles have been turned inside-out and hammered flat to create aluminum siding.

Picture of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is about a 45 minute drive where visitors enjoy the gorgeous view looking down into the deep canyon.  From either side of the bridge, jewelry, art and souvenir vendors gather to sell Indian jewelry and other  of folk art.

One of America’s highest and most famous bridges, the route 64 crossing of the Rio Grande near Taos, New Mexico was completed in 1965. A well proportioned cantilever truss with an attractive, curvilinear profile, the bridge received the American Institute of Steel Construction’s award for “Most Beautiful Long Span Steel Bridge” of 1966. In 1997 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Taos, NM  – About an hour drive, Taos, New Mexico, was one of the first art colonies in the United States, and for good reason. The technicolor landscape surrounding this city, located on a mesa at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, inspired the likes of Georgia O’Keeffe, Robert Henri, Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Phillips. Taos is quite small, with a population of 5,700, but it packs a huge artistic and cultural punch.

Tourists in Taos interested in its rich arts history should plan a visit to the Blumenschein Home and Museum on Ledoux Street. This museum, named for artist Earnest Blumenschein, features not only his works, but also the works of his wife, Mary Blumenschein, and other members of the Taos Society of artists, the art colony he helped form. The home is another National Historic Landmark in this little city. One other historic home no one visiting Taos should miss is the Hacienda de los Martinez, a 21-room adobe fortress-style house built in 1804.

Visitors who drive 10 minutes south of downtown discover the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church. This church, constructed in the late 1700s in the Spanish Colonial adobe style, is another National Historic Landmark and one of the top tourist spots around Taos.

Around the block and north of the church is the Ranchos Plaza Grill. The restaurant, occupying an old adobe hacienda, serves authentic New Mexican food. One key ingredient is chili caribe, a specially ground chili. Favorite plates here include the Plato de Chile Rellenos and the Enchilades de Carne Adovada. Locals recommend the sopapillas.

The Adobe Bar is the place to see and be seen in Taos. Live music, a friendly staff and a range of cocktails draw visitors as well as locals to this drinking hole, located within the Historic Taos Inn. Patrons may sip on a “Baby Buddha” or “Fire on the Mountain” margarita while listening to the likes of Susan Gibson, The Monkey Feeders and The Old Way. Embracing genres from flamenco to jazz, and from gospel to native folk music, the “Living Room of Taos” places no limits on fun.

San Luis, CO. San Luis is the oldest continuously occupied town in Colorado. About an hour drive.

San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado, was established on April 5, 1851, with a present population of approximately 750. San Luis is predominately Hispanic, with strong ties to Spain’s religious, cultural, and artistic traditions. Once a part of four Spanish land grants decreed by the King of Spain, the town’s adobe architecture and classic Spanish town layout retain the texture of the historical and cultural influences which shaped the early communities of Southern Colorado. The surrounding area is mainly a farming and agriculture area.

Shrine of the Stations of the Cross The town of San Luis has an exceptional tourist attraction, the Stations of the Cross Shrine. These sculptures are ¾ to life-size bronze statues of the 15 stations of the cross with the resurrection being the 15th. The shrine is located on a mesa (flat top mountain) in the center of San Luis where locals recreated their own Calvary. The Shrine of the Stations of the Cross was built as an act of faith and love by parishioners of the Sangre de Cristo Parish in San Luis, Colorado. They wanted a place of prayer and solace open to members of all faiths and good will and hope that visitors find consolation and peace in their lives.

The spiritual traditions evident in this shrine reflected in the lives of the people of San Luis and the surrounding area have deep roots. The Hispanic first settlers of the area brought with them Spanish and Mexican traditions of communal ownership of land and water, a strong allegiance to their language and customs, and intense religious faith. Locals are proud to be their descendants, and are committed to preserving their sacred heritage.

Conejos River

Tucked down in southern Colorado, in the eastern portion of the San Juan Mountains, is a a flyfisher’s dream – a beautiful river with lots of access. The Conejos River has fishing access and easements along more than 60 miles of its course.

Portions on the Conejos are in the San Juan National Forest, or in the South San Juan Wilderness Area. Other fishing easements have been provided on private land, in this portion of the state favored for summer cabins.

Conejos means ‘rabbit’ in Spanish – good question why anyone would ever name a river after these little hopping creatures. Regardless, it’s a great area for fishing and enjoying scenery at the same time. You can angle for almost every type of trout in this river and see some gorgeous country at the same time.

Access –

Headwaters The Conejos starts above Platoro Reservoir. Take USFS Rd. 250 north from Hwy 17 to the old town of Platoro and the reservoir (about 25 miles). There is some road access above the reservoir, but to get to the headwater creeks, you will need to hike into the South San Juan Wilderness.

Lake Fork The Lake Fork of the Conejos is Wild Trout water from its headwaters through and including Big Lake and Rock Lake. The Lake Fork is accessed by trails off of USFS Rd. 250.

Saddle Creek to South Fork Flyfishing only; includes some of the Pinnacles area in the canyon.

South Fork to Menkhaven Ranch Some access on USForest property; respect private property

Other: The Conejos River SWA is no longer active. From Menkhaven Ranch downstream  – access on US Forest lands near Aspen Glade and Mogote Campgrounds.

platoro canyon Colorado
Platoro Canyon Photo by Al Marlowe
conejos river Colorado
Even dogs enjoy the Conejos. Maybe she is looking for the rabbits? Photo by Al Marlowe
platoro river Colorado
Looking upstream from junction of Hwy 17 and FR250

Rules for fishing the Conejos:

  • Menkhaven Ranch downstream, to Aspen Glade Campground -Rules also apply to Bear Creek subdivision, HEBO Corp. and Douglas properties:
  • Artificial flies only
  • Bag and possession is two trout, 16″ or longer
  • From lower bridge at Platoro downstream to confluence with South Fork of the Conejos:
  • Artificial flies and lures only
  • Bag and possession is two trout, 16″ or longer
  • Lake Fork – from headwaters downstream thru and including Rock Lake and tailwater
  • Artificial flies and lures only
  • All cutthroat trout must be returned to the water immediately

How to get there:

Take Hwy 17 going west from Antonito, or east from Chama NM. Forest Rd 250 runs north from where Hwy 17 meets the Conejos. There are numerous forest roads north of the areas where you can access other rivers or lakes.

13. Los Pinos River is about a 15 minute drive from Twin Rivers Cabins & RV Park

The New Mexico portion of the Los Pinos is an exceptionally pleasant and easy river to fly fish. Averaging 40′ wide, this little gem of a stream has a gentle gradient and is seldom more than waist deep. Perfect dry fly water. The river starts in southern Colorado, flows south and east parallel to the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, then passes Osier Station into New Mexico. Although a long drive from anywhere, the river is fished regularly. Most fish are planted. They enjoy a rich insect diet and grow healthy and happy in short order. Types of Fish: Los Pinos: Rainbow and brown trout. Cruces Basin: Brookies.