Explore Colorado / Explore The Outdoors

Alone in Alamosa

I spent a Sunday alone in Alamosa, Colorado….and I loved every second of it.  I was on the tail-end of road trip across New Mexico and was heading back to Denver when I stopped in Alamosa for a night to do a little research for a potential magazine article.  I had driven through Alamosa, even stopped in for meal, but had never really explored it.  Alamosa is only 35 minutes from Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.  Since there is very limited lodging near the Sand Dunes, Alamosa is a great option.

I drove in right at sunset and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites.  Boutique hotels and B&Bs are hard to come by in and around Alamosa, so I stayed in a Holiday Inn.  I’m an IHG member so I took advantage of earning some points!

Since I had been on the road, all I wanted to do was to grab dinner then crash out.  I took the advice of the girls at the front desk of Holiday Inn and headed over to San Luis Valley Brewing Company.  I had eaten at the town’s hotspot before and was hoping it was just as good this time.  It opened in 2006 and was the first brewery in the San Luis Valley and transformed the San Juan Building, built in 1897, into a modern brewpub.  To pay homage to the building’s past life as a bank, the centerpiece of the bar is a 5,000 pound vault from 1912.

I don’t really drink beer, but I was in a brewery, and craft beer is a big deal in Colorado, so I decided on a Valle Especial, which is a crisp, golden, Mexican style lager.  If you’re going to have a Mexican style beer, you have to have some chips and homemade salsa, right?  For dinner I decided on the Southwest Portobello Wrap.  It’s slices of portobello mushroom glazed in Grand River IPA, spinach, avocado, jack cheese and chipotle ranch dressing in a soft tortilla.  For a side, since I’d already had chip and salsa I went for the small salad with a red wine vinaigrette.  The fresh rosemary in the vinaigrette takes it up a notch.  Yes, it’s a brewery, but the food is darn good too!  Plus, I was thrilled to have a yummy sandwich half for lunch the next day.

After a great night’s sleep, I set out exploring this small southern Colorado town.  First stop on a quiet and chilly Sunday morning was Roast Cafe – Craft Coffee Roast & Libations.  The coffeehouse/cafe was created by the same owners of San Luis Valley Brewing Company.  An apple cinnamon scone looking SO good in the case was definitely calling my name!  I paired it with my usual drink of choice, an almond milk latte.  I loved the vibe of this local coffee spot with industrial meets reclaimed wood decor.  I could have easily sat there for a spell but I had exploring to do.

The girl who helped me at Roast Cafe suggested heading over to Cole Park.   So I drove the short distance from Roast Cafe and to explore the treelined park.  Sipping my coffee I took in the scenery as I headed up to a small footbridge.  It was a perfect spot to stop for a few moments to just take in the view of the Rio Grande while listening to the birds chatter.

From the footbridge, I took the dirt path to State St Bridge on the Sierra Blanca Loop.  The whole loop is 1.2 miles along river.  I enjoyed checking out the neighborhoods and watching the geese, horses, and cows I saw along the way.  If you want a little more mileage, you can connect to the Maddox Loop at State St Bridge then cut back on Crestone Peak Trail for some of the best wildlife viewing in the wetlands.

After a leisurely walk, I hopped back in my car and headed east to the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge.  Snowmelt runoff from the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountains created ponds and marshes in the high desert valley.  As development occurred, the pond and marsh habitat began to diminish.  The Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1962 to protect an area of remaining wetland habitat.  The Refuge straddles the Rio Grande River and is home to over 200 bird species and other wildlife.  Bald eagles are frequent visitors, along with about 25,000 migrating sandhill cranes in March and October.  I headed out on the Rio Grande Birding Trail.  It’s a short winding loop through typical bottomland habitat, which is a haven for owls, raptors and song birds.  It was just the birds and me that morning.  The solitude was spectacular.

I couldn’t be in the area and not stop at one of my favorite places in Colorado.  Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve fascinates me.  I absolutely love exploring the diverse landscape of the largest sand dunes in North America.  I’ve been to the dunes several times before, but I was so close, so I had to take the detour for a quick afternoon hike.  Blog on that adventure is up next!

As a storm system was moving in and it was time for me to make the 4 hour drive back to Denver, I sure was grateful I’d made the stop and spent a day alone in Alamosa.

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