Hiking & Camping

Willow Creek Hike above Crestone
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Solitude in Every Season

From the San­gre de Cristo to the San Juan Moun­tains, the jagged peaks and rush­ing rivers of the San Luis Val­ley pub­lic lands wrap them­selves around this Rocky Moun­tain basin. Whether view­ing the moun­tain scenery from roads or find­ing chal­lenge on trails, vis­it­ors dis­cover solitude and self-re­li­ance through un­crowded year-round re­cre­ation op­por­tun­it­ies. As re­cre­ation pres­sures in­crease in other parts of Col­or­ado, the pub­lic lands of the Saguache County main­tain their re­mote spirit and tra­di­tional cul­ture.

The Rio Grande Forest and ad­ja­cent BLM lands form the scenic and cul­tural back­drop to the Saguache County. With a land­scape of high peaks, geo­lo­gic won­ders, and steep river canyons, the spec­tac­u­lar scenery beck­ons ad­ven­tur­ers from near and far. Cul­tur­ally, the pub­lic lands have been sig­ni­fic­ant to gen­er­a­tions of users and con­tinue to provide eco­nomic be­ne­fits to local com­munit­ies through re­cre­ation-based tour­ism and mul­tiple uses. His­tory is alive at pre­his­toric Nat­ive Amer­ican sites, his­toric min­ing camps, and along the routes of early ex­plorers and set­tlers.

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail winds for 236 miles across the Rio Grande Forest and is managed to protect its scenic and recreation values. The CDNST stretches 3,100 miles from Canada to Mexico along the spine of the Rocky Mountains, creating a habitat corridor for wildlife and hikers. For map and more information go to ContinentalDivideTrail.org.

Special attractions include Sangre de Cristo and La Garita Wilderness Areas, Penitente Canyon, significant migratory wetlands, numerous 14,000 ft peaks, excellent hunting, fishing, and hiking opportunities. Consistent snow and excellent terrain create a winter wonderland ready for enthusiasts of snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiles. With nearly half of the land designated as Wilderness or backcountry, and the overall remote nature of our public lands, the opportunities for solitude are outstanding. The area continues to be a safe and inviting place for families and social groups to experience the great outdoors.

The Rio Grande National Forest and BLM lands are managed public lands; the lands combined are called the San Luis Valley Public Lands. Visit the Rio Grande Regional Forest website for more information.

Campgrounds

Saguache Public Lands manages six campgrounds on the Forest and one on the BLM. Reservations are not available for these campgrounds. Please note there is a 14 day stay limit on SLV Public Lands.

CABINS:
Saguache Public Lands also have cabin rentals. These primitive cabins are refurbished Guard Stations that were built in the early 1900s. Cabins are available for reservation; at click the links in each of the listings below , or visit www.recreation.gov, or by phone 1-877-444-6777.

BREWERY CREEK GUARD STATION:
About 15 miles west of Villa Grove. Bunks 9 people. $50.00 per night.

CARNERO GUARD STATION:
27 miles southwest of Saguache, or 12 miles northwest of LaGarita. Bunks 12 people. $50.00 per night.

STONE CELLAR GUARD STATION:
56 miles southwest of Saguache located in Saguache Park. Bunks 10 people. $50.00 per night.

UPPER CROSSING GUARD STATION:
8 miles west of Saguache, Bunks 8 people and has more amenities, such as running water and electricity. $75.00 per night. Cabins are Pack It In – Pack It Out and must be cleaned before you leave. Call the Saguache office 719-655-2547 for more information.

Saguache Public Lands

ACRES OF PUBLIC LAND:
743,544 acres, 515,750 National Forest and 227,794 BLM, of which 89,747 acres are Wilderness.

ROADS & TRAILS:
928 miles of roads, 31 miles of motorized trails and 259 miles of non-motorized trails.

14’ERS: (Peaks above 14,000' elevation)
Kit Carson Peak, Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle and Challenger Point.
For more information regarding these peaks and access visit www.14ers.com

Great Sand Dunes National Park
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Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

It may seem like Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is a little off the beaten path, but whether you have just a couple of hours or several days to spend exploring, the National Park and Preserve offers great opportunities to discover, recreate and reconnect with nature. From easy strolls to sandboarding to true wilderness adventure, the unusual combination of landscapes found within Great Sand Dunes National Park The Great Sand Dunes & Preserve has something for everyone!

The best part of the secret is that the vast majority of the Park is located within Saguache County. The recent expansion of the park has allowed access to the northern backcountry boundary via the Liberty Gate and Trail. Hikers, horses and pack animals may use this trailhead to access the National Park and National Forest lands in this area. Until further National Park and National Forest planning has been completed, Saguache County has granted temporary approval for horse trailer/ vehicle parking at the designated parking area near the terminus of Camino Baca Grande in the Baca Grande Subdivision, locally known as the “Liberty Gate,” just outside the northern edge of the National Park. Wagons or other horse-drawn equipment are not permitted to enter the park. For overnight use, please self-register at the Liberty Gate for a free backcountry permit.
Visit https://www.nps.gov/grsa/ or call the Visitor Center at 719-378-6395 for more information, (a map of road access to the Liberty Gate is available).

The Dunes in an hour or two: If you have only a very short time to enjoy the park, try to take in the contrast between wind-swept dunes and craggy Rocky Mountains. Make your first stop the Visitor Center: watch the 20-minute film and take a peek at the exhibits. Then head into the dunes on foot. Even a short easy stroll will reveal animal and insect tracks in the sand and ever-changing ripples. Attend a ranger-guided terrace talk or nature walk during summer months. All interpretive programs are free and open to everyone.

“Can we sandboard on the dunes? What about sandskiing?” Yes! You can give either option a try, but be prepared. For most people, the trek up the dunes carrying the gear is more memorable than the slow and gritty descent. “Snowboarding in winter, when the dunes are snow-covered, is awesome!” says Noelle, an avid snowboarder. Don’t bother to wax and avoid any areas where there is vegetation growing.

Scenic Drive (County Rd 41G)

This is a well maintained largely gravel road departing from Hwy 114 about 12 miles outside of Saguache and ending up in La Garita. In La Garita, you can enjoy a refreshing soda or a meal at the Trading Post.

Penitente Canyon

Natural rock formations that create a small hidden canyon. Trails circle the top of the canyon that are open to hikers mountain bikers an horses. A trial runs along the floor of the canyon where you can see the painting of the Madonna left by the penitente movement and watch rock climbers scale the cliffs. This is a great place to take kids but please exercise vigilance as the cliffs can pose a risk of falls.

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