San Luis Valley
Spanning 8,000 square miles, the San Luis Valley is the world's largest alpine valley. The average altitude is 7,500 feet. Everywhere you look, majestic mountains surround the many attractions and provide the ultimate environment for the outdoor enthusiast. Rising to 14,345', Mt. Blanca can clearly be seen for miles from anywhere in the Valley. The air is clean and clear, and the sky is crystal blue. Perfect!!
With attractions like the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Great Sand Dunes National Park, the Alamosa and Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuges, the Gold Medal fishing waters of the Rio Grande, Penitente Canyon, Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Narrow Gauge Railroad, and numerous natural hot springs (including the Colorado Gator Farm), San Luis Valley has something for everyone.
The San Luis Valley sits atop the Rio Grande Rift, a split in the crust of the Earth where the sides are pulling away from each other. If the Valley floor were excavated, bedrock would be down about 30,000 feet, making the bottom of the Valley close to 4 miles below sea level. Over thousands of years, the mountains surrounding the Valley have eroded away, filling in the hole with rock, sand and earth. Quite a few streams flow into the Valley, only to sink into the ground before they go very far. The only surface water to leave the Valley is the Rio Grande itself, flowing to the south along the crack named for it. There is a huge water aquifer under the valley and, below a certain depth, all of it is hot.
The following photos describe just a few of the many sights and sounds of the Valley:
This photo was taken in January of 2007, at the North end of the Valley. Since the Valley is surrounded by mountains, it is protected from most major snow storms, but the deep stuff is always nearby. This is about 40 miles North of the Circle DJ Ranch:on Route 285, looking East at the Sangre de Cristo Mountains:
Looking toward Del Norte Peak and the San Juans (from the Como Lake Road) over the Blanca Wetlands Recreation Management Area (BLM), Alamosa and Monte Vista:
Looking west on the Valley floor, just west of Blanca:
Looking across the Valley, San Luis Lakes State Park in the middle:
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains border the Valley on the east:
The Rio Grande, west of San Luis:
The San Luis Hills, east of Manassa:
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