The San Luis Valley is a gigantic, dried up river bed (many thousands of years ago, it was an ocean bed) located in South Central Colorado. It is just four hours drive from Denver.
This valley is 50 miles wide and 150 miles long, bounded by the San Juan Mountain Range on the West, and the Sangre De Cristo Mountain Range on the East. Blanca Peak (14,351 ft.) is the most prominent in the Sangre de Cristo range. The vastness of the valley is spectacular, giving way to views of the mountains, colorful sunsets, and an array of wildlife including antelope, elk, black bears and more.
The Great Sand Dunes are the most famous attraction of the San Luis Valley. These dunes reach a height of 750 feet and are nestled just west of the Sangre de Cristo Range. These massive sand dunes were formed as the prevailing winds blew sand from the dried river bed to the west, slowly piling up the sediment. When you look at the sand, you can see many colors, including black volcanic sand that is a remnant from inactive volcanoes.
Also in the area, but lesser known, is the Valley View Hot Springs. Located on the Orient Land Trust at the foot of the Sangre de Cristos, these hot springs feature 10 pools and a sauna which are geothermally and hydro-electrically heated. There are numerous hiking trails in the area, including one that leads to an abandoned, collapsed mine where about 250,000 Brazilian Free Tailed Bats reside during the summer before migrating south (see video below). 100% off grid, the Valley View Hot Springs really bring its visitors closer to nature.
Crestone is a small community located right in between the dunes and the springs and boasts a highly spiritual population. In the area, all major religions are represented. You can visit two Buddhist Stupas, an Ashram, a Hindu Temple, and the oldest church in Colorado.
No matter what brings you to the San Luis Valley, there is definitely something for everyone in this beautiful place.
Brazilian Free Tailed Bats leaving a collapsed mine for nightly feeding. Video by Arielle Powers
Learn more at http://sanluisvalley.org/