Situated about four hours away from the hustle and bustle of Denver is the small city of Alamosa in Alamosa County.
This beautiful and secluded area in the center of the San Luis Valley, combined with a small population of fewer than 10,000 people, makes it the perfect getaway for visitors wishing to stay in a quaint and relaxing environment while still having access to all the amenities they need.
While the main attraction in the city is its proximity to Great Sand Dunes National Park, the city is also known for its interesting history, vibrant culture, nice weather, and natural beauty, with stunning views of the mountains. The natural setting of the area provides plenty of opportunities to participate in a wide range of outdoor activities in all four seasons.
The historic downtown area of Alamosa has many restaurants, cafes, and shops. A number of festivals and events take place throughout the year, including the Rio Frio Ice Fest in January, Summerfest on the Rio in June, and Early Iron Festival Car Show in September.
Below are 15 of the best things to do in and around Alamosa, Colorado.
1. Great Sand Dunes National Park
An absolute must-see when visiting Alamosa is the Great Sand Dunes National Park in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The park is home to North America’s tallest sand dunes.
The landscape, which includes dunes that stretch as high as 750 feet and across 10,000 acres, offers a perfect setting for outdoor activities, including picnicking, hiking, and camping. It’s also the perfect spot to do some stargazing at night.
2. Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge
The Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge is where wildlife enthusiasts and bird-watchers go to catch a glimpse of the migratory birds and animals that thrive in the San Luis Valley. Some of the birds that can be spotted include hawks, egrets, herons, pelicans, falcons, and owls, and the 11,100-acre refuge features wetland habitats, meadows, and stunning views.
There’s a trail that visitors can hike or bike, and there’s also the option to drive the auto-tour road or hike to the Bluff Overlook.
3. Zapata Falls
Another must-see in the Alamosa area is Zapata Falls. The best time to see this stunning attraction is after the snow melts and runs down the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the falls.
Although the hike to the falls can be tricky, it’s well worth it. Along the way, you may even get to see one of the rare black swift birds who make their nest in the area.
As if the falls are not spectacular enough, they’re surrounded by beautiful views of the valley and sand dunes. There are hiking and biking trails in the park.
4. Cattails Golf Course
Cattails Golf Course in Alamosa offers golfers an extraordinary par 71 golfing experience with 18 holes, a driving range, and professional lessons. All this is set to the backdrop of beautifully-maintained links, the Rio Grande River, mountain views, and wetlands. Also on-site is a golf shop with equipment rentals and a full-service restaurant and bar.
5. Rio Grande Scenic Railroad
Discover the unspoiled territory of Colorado that very few people get to see with an excursion on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad. See untouched wilderness that remains practically the same as it was hundreds of years ago, and experience what it must have been like in the golden years of rail travel.
Pass through beautiful landscapes featuring towering mountains, windswept valleys, and meadows. Visit historic towns and hear about the history of the railroad and mining in the area.
6. The San Luis Valley Museum
Visitors of all ages wishing to learn more about the history and the people who shaped Alamosa and the San Luis Valley area can do so at The San Luis Valley Museum. A number of artifacts are on display, including antiques, memorabilia, and pictures.
There are also several exhibits about the railroad, the Native Americans who first lived in the area, the Hispanic pioneers, and the Japanese who settled later. Well-informed volunteers are available on-site to provide additional information and answer questions.
7. Splashland Hot Springs
The Splashland Hot Springs is a long-standing top attraction in Alamosa, and it’s a great place to spend an entire day with the whole family.
This geothermal swimming pool and natural hot springs feature three water slides and a diving board. Water therapy and various swimming lessons and aerobics classes are also available.
8. San Luis Valley Brewing Company
Some of the best craft beers in the San Luis Valley are brewed at the San Luis Valley Brewing Company in Alamosa. This family-owned business in a historic building serves a variety of craft beers, including Valle Especial, Hefe Suave, and Valle Caliente, in their chic, cozy taproom.
Skilled kitchen staff concoct delicious meals, including pasta and Rocky Mountain trout. During happy hour, you can try out the margaritas and homemade black-cherry cream soda.
9. UFO Watchtower
If you’ve ever wanted to see an alien, a visit to the UFO Watchtower near Hooper may just provide you with that opportunity. Even if an alien doesn’t present itself during your visit, be sure to hear the stories of others who have seen and experienced strange things in the area.
If you dare, set up camp on-site and spend the night in this eerie location where you may get to see some strange things yourself.
10. The Shrine of the Stations of the Cross
About 45 minutes from Alamosa in the town of San Luis is an inspirational display of cultural and spiritual artworks known as The Shrine of the Stations of the Cross.
See beautiful bronze sculptures by renowned artist Huberto Maestas as you meander along an easy trail leading to a mesa. At the top, enjoy spectacular views of the town.
11. Calvillo’s Mexican Restaurant
The place to be if you want authentic Mexican cuisine in Alamosa is Calvillo’s Mexican Restaurant. This eatery is famously known for its renowned buffet, which features many fresh items, including enchiladas, quesadillas, tacos, fajitas, and a variety of desserts.
All dishes, whether it be from the buffet or menu, are created using popular recipes from various regions of Mexico, and cooking methods passed down through families.
12. Fort Garland Museum
Originally found in 1858, Fort Garland was primarily used as a base to protect settlers from outside attacks. Today, Fort Garland is a museum situated 25 miles away from Alamosa. During a visit, you will see various original artifacts and exhibits detailing the history of the area, the fort, and the people.
While you’re there, take a walk around the parade grounds and explore the old buildings. If you happen to be in the area during certain times of the year, you may even be lucky enough to see one of the living history performances that are held throughout the year.
13. The Wet Paintbrush
If you like to paint and also enjoy indulging in wine or beer, head to the Wet Paintbrush, where you combine these two activities for a fun and relaxing time. This sip-and-paint art studio allows patrons to create their own masterpiece while they sip on their favorite beverage.
Even if you don’t already know how to draw or paint, skilled staff – who also happen to be artists – will show you some basic techniques. Sessions are held in groups, and all the materials needed are supplied.
14. Rio Grande Farm Park
Rio Grande Farm Park was initially developed as a spot for community members to meet and learn about farming techniques and to preserve some green space in the area. This beautiful park can be accessed by a pedestrian bridge directly from downtown Alamosa.
There are several walking trails in the park; along the way, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Visitors can also pick apples in the on-site orchard and learn about traditional farming methods.
15. Firedworks Gallery
At the full-service gallery and framing shop at the Firedworks Gallery in Alamosa, visitors can browse a wide selection of striking art and learn about the artists who created each piece.
A walk through the gallery introduces art-enthusiasts and anyone looking for a unique treasure to take home to a variety of items, including paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and anything else the shop owners felt would fit in with their mission.
The gallery also hosts various events throughout the year, including exhibits and workshops.