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Conejos Peak Ranger District


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General Information

Conejos River valley near Platoro - 9.63
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Conejos River valley near Platoro - 9.63
Description - There are a number of interesting and scenic attractions in this district including: Blanca Peak, the Conejos River, the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad and Platoro Reservoir. The attractions in this district include natural and man-made sites. Blanca Peak, 14,345 feet, towers 6,500 feet above the valley floor as Colorado's fourth highest peak. The South San Juan Wilderness lies within this region and provides 180 miles of trails. The southern section of the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness also lies within this district with the Great Sand Dunes immediately west. The grasslands that lie near the top of Cumbres Pass are of particular interest, because they were created in 1879 by a 26,000-acre forest fire.

There are several attractions of historical nature in the region. Elwood Pass, known as 'Soldiers Road,' received it's nickname because it lies on the Fort Garland to Fort Lewis Military Road. Our Lady of Guadelupe Church, claimed to be the oldest church in Colorado, is located in Conejos. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, originally built by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad in 1880 to reach the mines of Silverton, is now a scenic attraction on the National Register of Historic Places.

One of many ghost towns in the San Juan Mountains, Platoro was prospected in the 1870s by Summitville miners. Today a reservoir by the same name is a very popular recreation site. The Terrace Reservoir backs up the Alamosa River for three and a half miles with an earthen dam. It was built around 1906 and at that time was the largest dam of its type in the U.S.

The Conejos River Drainage basin and the San Luis Valley have a long and colorful history. The history of the Conejos Peak Ranger District is interwoven with that of the San Luis Valley because the people settling in the valley depended upon the surrounding mountains for much of their food, clothing and shelter. Seeking out the many historic features that lie scattered over the district and adjacent lands can be an exciting and enjoyable activity, lending an understanding of the area's rich cultural background. Favorite routes for history study are Forest Road 240 toward Platoro, the Osier Mountain Road (Forest Road 103) and the scenic railroad.

Attractions - The attractions in this district include natural and man-made sites. Blanca Peak, 14,345 feet, towers 6,500 feet above the valley floor as Colorado's fourth highest peak. The South San Juan Wilderness lies within this region and provides 180 miles of trails. The southern section of the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness also lies within this district with the Great Sand Dunes immediately west. The grasslands that lie near the top of Cumbres Pass are of particular interest, because they were created in 1879 by a 26,000-acre forest fire.

There are several attractions of historical nature in the region. Elwood Pass, known as 'Soldiers Road,' received it's nickname because it lies on the Fort Garland to Fort Lewis Military Road. Our Lady of Guadelupe Church, claimed to be the oldest church in Colorado, is located in Conejos. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, originally built by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad in 1880 to reach the mines of Silverton, is now a scenic attraction on the National Register of Historic Places.

One of many ghost towns in the San Juan Mountains, Platoro was prospected in the 1870s by Summitville miners. Today a reservoir by the same name is a very popular recreation site. The Terrace Reservoir backs up the Alamosa River for three and a half miles with an earthen dam. It was built around 1906 and at that time was the largest dam of its type in the U.S.

The Conejos River Drainage basin and the San Luis Valley have a long and colorful history. The history of the Conejos Peak Ranger District is interwoven with that of the San Luis Valley because the people settling in the valley depended upon the surrounding mountains for much of their food, clothing and shelter. Seeking out the many historic features that lie scattered over the district and adjacent lands can be an exciting and enjoyable activity, lending an understanding of the area's rich cultural background. Favorite routes for history study are Forest Road 240 toward Platoro, the Osier Mountain Road (Forest Road 103) and the scenic railroad.

Recreation - The most popular activities on the Conejos Peak District are camping and fishing. The campgrounds and picnic areas are ideally suited for fishermen, sightseers, hikers and backpackers. They are located along the Conejos River and the surrounding backcountry. The camping and picnic areas range from developed campgrounds to dispersed primitive sites.

The Conejos River had more public fishing access along its length than any other major river in Colorado. The river runs through the district from its northwest boundary to its eastern boundary. The river provides more than 30 stream miles of high quality wild trout fishing.

Climate - Mountainous terrain influences the climate visitors find in the Conejos Peak Ranger District. Elevations range from 7,500 feet to over 14,000 feet at the top of several mountain peaks. In general, the climate at low elevations is cool and arid while the high country is cold and humid. Average precipitation varies from under 8 inches at the 8,000 foot level to over 50 inches in some alpine areas. Snowfall varies significantly in the Forest. North Cochetopa Pass commonly receives two feet of snow in a year when Wolf Creek receives six to eight feet.

Summer is short and frost may occur anytime in high elevations. Annual temperature extremes range from 90 degrees in summer to 30 degrees below zero in winter. Rapid weather changes, with temperature changes of 40 degrees in periods as short as four to six hours, occur frequently.

Location - The Conejos Peak Ranger District is the southern most district in the Rio Grande National Forest. The lands of the district are split by private and public lands that lie in the San Luis Valley. The district includes terrain in the southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains (east) and the San Juan Mountains (west). The best access is via Highway 17 from Antonito, which is located on U.S. Highway 285, south of Alamosa.


Current Conditions & Trip Reports
Ranger Tip: Conditions are very dry and fire danger is high. Reservations are no longer accepted at the Elk Creek Campground.

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More Information
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Contact Information:
Conejos Peak Ranger Station, 15571 County Road T-5, P.O. Box 420 , La Jara, CO, 81140, Phone: 719-274-8971, TTY: 719-274-3139

Additional Information:
Alamosa Area - Alamosa is the center from which almost any outdoor activity imaginable is possible, including summer skiing on the dunes in The Great Sand Dunes National Monument.
Del Norte Area - Del Norte lies at the intersection of State Highway 112 and U.S. Highway 160. The primary force behind the economy is agriculture and recreation.
Monte Vista Area - Monte Vista is a lively city located in the heart of the San Luis Valley. During March, the Crane Festival celebrates the migrations of the sandhill crane and the endangered whooping crane.
Rio Grande National Forest - The 1,852,000 acre Rio Grande National Forest offers every visitor an area packed with recreation opportunities, incredible beauty and breathtaking adventure.
South Fork Area - South Fork is located at the junction of the Rio Grande River and its south fork. Where Highway 160 and 149 meet in the center of town, you will find the beginning of Colorado's historic Silver Thread Scenic Byway.

Links:
Above Timberline - THE SANGRES: A FIELD GUIDE

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