The San Luis Valley: South Central Colorado, New Mexico: A Mysterious Valley: A Complete Guide

The San Luis Valley (SLV), (located in South central Colorado and North central New Mexico), is the largest alpine valley in the world. Zebulon Pike was the first white American to cross the Sangre De Cristo Mountains into this 120-mile-long-by-forty-mile wide territory. The four-thousand-square-mile, semiarid desert valley floor sits at an average elevation of 7,600 feet, over a mile and a half above sea level, and averages less than five inches of rainfall per year.

Its entire wishbone shape is ringed by majestic forested mountains on all sides. Along the entire eastern side of the valley stands a solid wall of rock soaring to heights of over fourteen thousand feet–the imposing Sangres de Cristos. The second youngest mountain range in the continental United States, the peaks owe their jagged appearance to their relatively young age. The Valley is also just 50 or so miles from Archuleta Mesa and the notorious Dulce, New Mexico/Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation in Rio Arriba County NM—alleged location of an “alien/human underground base.”

What is a “Hot Spot”?

Our strange planet features thousands of enigmatic locales that have a history of unexplained events, such as bizarre aerial activity, strange phantasmal creatures and other inexplicable phenomena—myths, legends, stories and current events that are all centered around specific locations. East, west, north or south, it doesn’t matter where you travel on this blue globe hanging in space, there is undoubtedly a paranormal “hotspot” region near you.

Generally, these areas appear to have fairly similar characteristics:

  • Unusual geophysical properties
  • Rare weather phenomena
  • Waves of anomalous, unexplained aerial activity that have been observed for generations
  • Myths and legends that define the Hot Spot area as containing Native sacred sites
  • Unique sub-cultural belief systems around the paranormal, religion and the occult
  • Crypto-creature and dimensional doorway reports and stories
  • Government/Military presence i.e., bases, military operations areas, MTRs, black facilties
  • A local attitude of indifference and apathy to anomalous aerial sightings because they’re seen so often 

North America features more than its share of hotspot regions—some more celebrated and documented than others. A partial listing of North American hotspot regions should include: the infamous “Skinwalker Ranch” inside the Uintah Ute Indian Reservation;  New Mexico Highway 70 (and the mountains around the Mescalero Apache Reservation); the White Sands Missile Range; and Mothman country back east in the Ohio River Valley around Point Pleasant, West Virginia. While we are on the East Coast there’s also the Hudson River Valley region with its mysterious dolmans and underground caverns and tunnels; the mysterious eastern tip of Long Island, New York; the mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania and magical Seashore State Park in Virginia Beach, Virginia. There are also many other locations, too numerous to mention.

Hot-Spot Locations: Monitoring Ground-Zero

These pivotal specific regions are also a sociologist’s undiscovered goldmine, however, few long- term studies have been mounted to scrutinize experiencers who live in these locales. After personally interviewing hundreds of witnesses of these types of events, I have begun to suspect that the experiencers themselves are as important as the incidents of weirdness they experience. In addition to so-called paranormal events, hotspot areas of the world also appear to feature unusual geophysical properties that may account for their higher than normal incidences of unusual events. These geo-energetic elements, when defined and studied, could potentially provide further motivation to scientifically investigate the full width and breadth of these hotspot regions’ unexplained activity. Without question, there appears to be an emerging public interest in these specific locales (and the events they feature) and word about the documented activity has been slowly filtering out into the mainstream.

At the top of North America, in the southern Rocky Mountains, you’ll find Colorado/New Mexico’s San Luis Valley (“SLV”)—one of North America’s premier hot spot locations. I spent ten years from 1992 to 2002 investigating and documenting unexplained events that occurred in and around the SLV. I uncovered thousands of stories from the recent past and hundreds of current reports of the unexplained; many of these gems now encrust the extensive database I developed covering this crown jewel of paranormal hotspots.

Hotspot regions such as the San Luis Valley are veritable magnets for reports of paranormal events. But unfortunately, any attempt to define what constitutes a truly “paranormal” event is wrought with perilous philosophic and scientific challenges, and a lack of hard, scientific data. Prior to my arrival, knowledge of past reports of unexplained activity had not traveled out into the mainstream beyond the valley. When I moved to the mysterious San Luis Valley in 1989 little did I realize that I would spend the better part of the next fifteen years investigating, researching and documenting around a thousand unusual events—all occurring within the well-defined confines of this specific area. Looking over my extensive database chronicling these events, I suppose you could say the key was coordinating efforts and communicating with an assortment of local law enforcement officials, a skywatcher network, other amateur and professional investigators and local newspaper reporters.

Utilizing these techniques and sources, SLV residents documented and investigated an intensive seven-year wave of unexplained phenomenal events between 1992 and 1999. As a result of this effort, this forgotten region at the top of North America was named the Number One per capita UFO hotspot by the Computer UFO Network (CUFON), with 257 sightings per 10,000 in population; along with Bucks County, PA, it could be called America’s most active UFO sighting region.

For twenty-plus years, one of my goals has been to install a web of high-resolution video cameras around the San Luis Valley. Back in the early 90s when I first conceived of this surveillance net, the cost for gear and the level of existing affordable technology made the project too costly to undertake.

Today, with the advent of low cost/high resolution cameras and the Internet, this surveillance net is now possible. With the help of several members and benefactors from MUFON OC this dream has become a reality. UFODAP has installed the first of seven proposed cameras on cell-towers and mountaintops and the team has conducted a successful two-week test. Customized tracking and synchronization software is being developed and the team envisions a Spring 2011 launch date for the first triangulated array. Along with the 30X optical zoom, 360 degree, pan/tilt cameras, the team has designed a scientific approach that includes recording magnetometers, gravitometers, ELF audio recording, passive radar (if possible) and later, FLIR systems—all three senson packages coordinated with customized, Internet-based detect and record motion, follow motion, auto zoom and GPS coordinate tracking software and 24/7 event monitoring.

Why locate the system in the San Luis Valley? That’s easy! From 1992 through 2000 almost every conceivable type of UFO craft was reported numerous times by San Luis Valley residents and visitors. Silver, red, orange, green, white and blue lighted “spheres” were seen along with all sorts of traditional saucer-shaped craft. Huge black triangles were also reported by law enforcement and in one incident, the silent triangle was observed accompanied by “military helicopters.”

Space constraints prohibit even a quick overview of the hundreds of documented UFO sightings in the SLV that I have investigated there.

A History of UAP/AAO/UFO Sighting Events 

Reports from the late 19th century and early 20th century suggest undefined aerial phenomena have been witnessed in the SLV (and elsewhere) for generations. These reports, made prior to the first conventional aircraft flights in the region, obviously cannot be dismissed as misidentified human aerial activity. Anecdotal research of these isolated historical events cannot prove or disprove their high-strange nature, however it appears that a long time ago, something intelligent, with the aid of high technology, seems to have singled out humanity for unknown purposes. And, with daily sighting reports piling up around the world, it appears they are as busy as ever!

Documented UFO sightings in the San Luis Valley number in the thousands but there are a number of specific, historical reports that deserve mention. According to a San Francisco newspaper article that appeared in September 1948, a San Luis Valley resident named Grant Edwards, Sr. had been showing amazing daylight UFO footage of multiple objects to civic groups around the SLV Edwards had just been given a new 8mm movie camera. That August afternoon, he unwittingly became the first US civilian ever to film multiple daylight UFOs. Edwards evidently presented the film to several dozen people before the film was appropriated by “the FBI” six months later in early 1949. I received confirmation of this historic film from several witnesses of the film, including Grant Edwards’ son who, at the time I interviewed him, was a County Commissioner. He corroborated the film’s authenticity, telling me on-the- record, “Yes, my Dad was the same Grant Edwards who filmed the UFOs.”

Cattle Mutilations!

In the realm of the paranormal, the San Luis Valley is most notorious as the “birthplace of the cattle mutilation phenomenon.” The first widely publicized case of this type occurred right in the heart of the SLV, but what makes this distinction compelling and perplexing is that the case in question featured a horse, not a cow. In the thousands of cases of animal mutilation that have since been reported around the world no other remains have ever been reported in the same horrific condition as those of “Snippy the Horse.” Not a popular subject with the casual “true-believer” crowd, ever since the Snippy case occurred in September, 1967, the scourge of “cattle mutilations” has quietly spread around the Western beef-eating world. Since 2002, over 2,000 cases have been reported in Argentina and Brazil alone, and estimates of the pervasiveness of the mystery most often cite the number of cases worldwide to well exceed 10,000. Since 1967, around 200 official reports have been filed by SLV ranchers, but the total number of local SLV cases may be closer to 1,000.

Although “misidentified scavenger action” may explain many of these reports, most ranchers are skilled, knowledgeable outdoorsmen who know what is a mundane livestock death and what is truly high-strange. It stands to reason that they would not invite the scorn often associated with claims of animal mutilation upon themselves and their families. Couple this with dozens of reports of unusual military-style helicopter activity in and around mutilation sites and you have a truly puzzling scenario that is not easily studied, debunked or denied.

The San Luis Valley

San Luis Valley (SLV)

Words fail to describe the frequency and variety of paranormal events, UFOs, bigfoot tracks and sightings, encounters with off-world beings, black helicopters, cattle mutilations, and quasi-military officials chasing hikers off mountains in the SLV.

An estimated 8,000 sq. miles, this is the world’s largest alpine valley, with altitudes between 7,500 and 8,000 ft. Surrounded by the San Juan range in the west and the Sangre de Cristos in the east, the valley floor is 60 miles across at the widest point. North to south, the valley stretches 120 miles, from Poncha Pass to the Taos Plateau. A vast aquifer lies beneath the surface of the valley, thought to be one of the largest in North America.

The Great Sand Dunes Monument, on the western flank of Mt. Blanca, is an inexplicable, 40-sq. mile field of sand dunes rising as high as 700 ft. above the valley floor. The scientific explanation for the dunes’ presence is that the sand was blown from the Rio Grande riverbed to the west, where it was trapped by the Sangre de Cristo barrier wall accumulating of the valley floor.

Geologists say that it’s as good a story as any as they really don’t know where the dunes came from, or what action caused them, as was shared by journalist and researcher Christopher O’Brien. The sand is the purest silica on earth, and in terms of geology, has no common mineral composition with local materials.

The Bermuda Triangle of the West

The word “vast” is an understatement when describing the San Luis Valley.

In seemingly every direction, the San Luis Valley stretches flat for miles, eventually encircled by a sharp ridgeline of mountains reaching heights above 14,000-feet in the distance. Prehistorically speaking, the area used to be a massive lake – and it’s easy to see how that could be the case while standing on the valley floor. The valley is essentially a large basin that lost its once-trapped water over time.

There are several small towns scattered about – Del Norte, Alamosa, Crestone – but it’s easy to feel isolated here, especially at night. Unnatural sounds are rarely heard once off the main highway that travels through the space and even rarer can be spotting another soul while you’re exploring certain areas in this slice of the state. There’s a population of just 47,000 in the San Luis Valley, according to 2010 census data, equating to roughly 5.6 people per square mile. Keep in mind that Colorado Springs has 2,426 people per square mile, and Denver has 4,674. There’s really not even a comparison to be made.

The San Luis Valley is one of the spots where it’s truly possible to feel alone – despite the booming outdoor recreation industry in Colorado. Cell phone reception is sparse. Drives between the nearest destinations can seem long, and after night falls, everyone seems to sleep.

Of course, not everyone sleeps – but you’d never be able to tell. There’s not much light to draw attention to a small group of lurking UFO enthusiasts that inhabit the area. After all, too much light would be detrimental to their ongoing mission of spotting something odd zip across a star-filled sky.

The Hunt for UFOs

According to a 2011 Huffington Post article, an estimated 20,000 people have traveled to visit an attraction called the UFO Watchtower between the publishing date and when it was built in 2000. Many more have visited in the years to follow.

The “tower” is a humble deck-like platform made of metal that is raised 10 feet from the ground in Hooper, Colorado in the midst of a barren swath of land.

In 2011, owner Judy Messoline claimed that UFOs had been spotted from her UFO watchtower at least 59 times. There have been dozens of additional sightings since.

In an interview conducted by Vice, owner Judy Messoline states that she originally moved to the valley to raise cattle with little-to-no previous interest in UFOs. Upon her arrival, she started to hear numerous local stories about the frequent sightings in the valley. After a few years passed, she stepped away from the cattle industry and opened her watchtower to cater to other curious minds.

According to a poll conducted by National Geographic in 2012, approximately 36 percent of the US population believes that UFOs exist, with one in 10 respondents claiming that they’ve personally seen one. Of course, this also means that 64 percent of Americans don’t believe in UFOs and that 90% of Americans have never encountered one. Thus the great UFO debate continues.

Local Sightings and Unexplained Occurrences

Sighting reports in the area come in a wide variety, with some consisting of reported dots of light moving at impossible speeds in erratic directions and other sightings of objects that resemble floating metallic balloons. 

Frequent reports of potential abductions in the area have also surfaced over the years, from one hunter that suddenly realized he was missing three hours of memory to a tale told by a truck driver headed through the valley that approached a bright light before losing four hours of a well-logged day. Following that instance, the driver allegedly experienced claustrophobia and violent nightmares.

Another odd story that’s gotten passed around the valley for decades is that of a horse named Snippy. According to Alamosa News, a local source, Snippy was found dead in September of 1967, lying on her side with her head stripped bare to the bone via strangely precise cuts. Upon her discovery, a strong chemical scent still floated through the air.

Some think the horse died of natural causes, stripped by ground-faring meat eaters, while others think something more nefarious occurred.

Despite the body of the horse decaying over some time, scavenging birds avoided the carcass. Also odd was a nearby plot of bushes that had been flattened to the ground. Burn marks were also found in the area, similar to an exhaust mark. Adding to the strangeness was the lack of prints within 100 feet of where the horse was found. Even odder, further inspection revealed that the brain and several organs of the horse had been cut out by someone quite experienced. Spinal matter was also missing – though no blood was found at the scene.

The mutilation of Snippy the horse remains a mystery today, with theories ranging from secret government projects to flying saucer involvement to an unfortunate lightning strike.

Obviously, a few reports of UFO sightings might not mean anything is going on. UFOs get reported around the world on a regular basis and it always seems like nothing comes of it. That might be the case in the San Luis Valley, but for a moment, humor the idea that some of these stories might be true.

According to the New York Times, UFO sightings aren’t something new to the San Luis Valley area. In fact, reports of UFO sightings in the area can be traced back to settlements of the 1600s – long before anything human-made was taking to the skies. It’s also worth noting that a major uptick in reported sightings occurred during the 1960s – during the time of the space race.

Could this be due to people becoming more interested in interstellar things, thus UFOs were simply on the mind? Or could it be something extraterrestrial sharing in a curiosity about where the new technological developments would take humanity, thus peeking in more brazenly and more frequently than before?

Why the San Luis Valley?

There’s a lot of speculation about why so many UFO sightings occur in the San Luis Valley.

Perhaps the most popular theory is that these UFOs sightings aren’t actually people seeing UFOs. There are a number of reasons people think this might be the case ranging from motives related to increasing tourism in the area to people simply seeing figments of their imagination above the isolated valley floor. Any time UFOs are being discussed, this is one potential that must be included in the conversation.

For a moment, though, let’s approach this conversation with the mindset that people are actually seeing something odd above the valley. Several other possible explanations have formed over the years.

Gazing Up at Darker Skies

One possible reason for the high number of UFO sightings in the San Luis Valley could be that the sky is much more visible here. In fact, this part of the state is one of the darkest places in the country – far from any city capable of producing much light pollution and flanked by high mountain walls on all sides.

This immense darkness is the very reason that Great Sand Dunes National Park holds a title as an International Dark Sky Park from the Dark-Sky Association. The designation was given to the park due to the way natural factors, like the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, shelter the area from “sky glow.” This makes it very easy to see stars above the park on a clear night.

In the same way that stars are easier to see in this area of the valley, it could be assumed that other objects in the night sky might be easier to see, as well. In other words, if there was going to be an ideal environment for spotting a UFO, this might be it.

UFOs Love this Place

Another interesting theory regarding why so many UFO sightings occur in the San Luis Valley is related to the assumption that there are simply more UFOs there than other places in the country.

The “why” behind this reasoning is fascinating, with some believing that UFOs are attracted to the valley’s geothermal pools. In a 2013 Vice Documentary on the subject, Judy Messoline, the owner of the UFO Watchtower, claims that there seems to be a connection between hot spring pools and high levels of UFO activity in various spots around the world, including the San Luis Valley.

These geothermal waters are one of the features that the San Luis Valley is known for. It’s allowed for a few hot spring resorts to pop-up in the area and has made it possible for Colorado Gators Reptile Park to house hundreds of gators on their land year-round, despite the frigid temperatures during colder months of the year.

…But Are They Extraterrestrial UFOs?

Another theory regarding why more UFOs are sighted in this area compared to other parts of the country is the high level of military presence in nearby big cities, like Colorado Springs. Keep in mind that a UFO doesn’t inherently mean something that is extraterrestrial. It simply means that something is airborne that’s also unidentifiable.

There’s speculation that the San Luis Valley has played a role as a testing ground for new types of military aircraft that the public has yet to be informed about.

Of course, at the same time, some locals believe that while these aircraft might be military, that they’re not of an earthly military. Locals have claimed that a secret extraterrestrial base exists in nearby Blanca Peak, a 14,344-foot peak that’s part of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. This has yet to be proven.

For many, the question remains – are there actually UFOs appearing over San Luis Valley? And if so, why?

11 Things to Do in San Luis Valley, Colorado

But there’s much more to San Luis Valley than the views, climate and historical importance. This is one of the quirkiest regions of Colorado, with a ton of once-in-a-lifetime experiences and roadside attractions. 

Instead of heading west up I-70 for your next Colorado road trip, consider driving south. Here are 11 reasons why. 01of 11

Hold an Alligator

Colorado Gator Ranch
Aimee Heckel

This is no swampland, and we’re far from Florida. But hundreds of alligators live in San Luis Valley. 

The Colorado Gators Reptile Park is an educational rescue that started in the ’70s as a tilapia farm. It turned out, the area’s 87-degree geothermal waters were great for harvesting the fish. Surprise. 

They were also great for the 100 baby alligators that the founders bought to help dispose of the dead tilapia. Those gators multiplied and changed the emphasis of the farm, from fish to reptiles. The park began taking in gators that needed to be rescued or rehomed and opened its gates to other unwanted exotic creatures, such as tortoises, massive pythons, and lizards.

Today, you can even meet some famous animals here, including Morris, a 450-pound gator who appeared in movies and now lives in an indoor-outdoor pen on the ranch, where visitors can see him up close through the fence. You’ll also be able to hold a baby alligator. You’ll be shocked to learn that gator skin is silky soft—not at all rough and scaly, like the lotion commercials would have you believe.02of 11

Watch a Drive-In Movie From Bed

Movie Manor drive-in movie theater motel
Aimee Heckel

This is one of the strangest motels you’ll ever stay in. From the comfort of your room, you can watch a drive-in movie—from bed. 

Movie Manor, a Best Western chain in the middle of nowhere, is a destination itself, not only for the quirkiness of one of the few remaining, running drive-in theaters. There is also an old-school playground right at the base of one of the screens, so your kids can teeter-totter while watching the latest flick.

There are two different screens, and not all rooms have the same view. But if you land in a room with a less-than-ideal angle, you can always walk or drive your car into the parking lot and do the drive-in, traditional style.

Movie Manor is the full deal, with a concession stand in the middle, with cheap burgers and hot dogs, as well as candy, popcorn, and nachos, of course. As a bonus, a simple continental breakfast is included in your stay, and the lobby is always serving up tea and coffee. 03of 11

See a Trash Castle

Cano's Castle
Aimee Heckel

This roadside attraction takes recycling and repurposing to a whole new level. Cano’s Castle, located in the tiny town of Antonito, is a towering “castle” constructed out of beer cans and hub cabs. Adding to the silver shine are also grills, wire, screen doors, bike parks, nails, aluminum siding and more. You can’t tour it or see whatever is behind the tall walls, but Cano’s Castle is worth a quick diversion for the funky factor.04of 11

Live in the Wild West

Mill Creek Ranch at Old Cow Town
Aimee Heckel

Fifteen minutes deep into the mountains past the small town of Saguache, you will come across a sign for Old Cow Town. Another drive along a winding dirt road will bring you to a small valley. Perched against the hillside is a horseshoe of Wild West-style buildings. 

You have arrived at the Mill Creek Ranch at Old Cow Town. 

This all-inclusive, family-friendly getaway transports visitors to another period. Dine in the Mad Cow Steakhouse, see horse-drawn carriages (and even a horse-drawn hearse) in the museum, go on a trail ride, play putt-putt golf, hike the trails and listen to live music in the dance hall. This list of activities goes on. 

Guests stay in a beautifully appointed, but quirky, bright yellow guest house. At Mill Creek Ranch, every detail has been considered, down to the antique lamps, a tiny chapel with a bell and a ragtime player piano in the dining hall.Continue to 5 of 11 below.05of 11

Visit Indiana Jones’ Home

The Indiana Jones house
Aimee Heckel

Another fun roadside attraction in Antonito is the Indiana Jones Home B&B, where young Indy lived in the third movie. This former movie set is now a bed-and-breakfast where travelers and movie buffs can stay the night. It’s a short drive from the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, too, which makes it a popular overnight destination for train-goers. 

Make sure you book a ride on this historic railroad, which crosses between Colorado and New Mexico more than 10 times in a single journey. 06of 11

Look for Aliens

UFO Watchtower
Aimee Heckel

It’s not exactly a “tower,” but this stretch of land is said to have a strange magnetic pull. As the stories go, more than 25 psychics have visited the UFO Watchtower since 2000 and have all claimed it is the site of two massive vortexes. One spins clockwise and the other counterclockwise. 

Watchtower signs claim there have been documented UFO sightings in the San Luis Valley since the 1600s. Visitors can browse the tiny, dome-shaped gift shop or walk through The Garden, which is a pathway of items people have left behind to ask for help from the two large beings that supposedly protect the area. You will see displays of coins, foil-covered stuffed animals, alien statues, clothes, photos — even drivers’ licenses, letters, tutus, jewelry, and toys. 07of 11

Sip a Hand-Shaken Root Beer

San Luis Brewery
Aimee Heckel

The San Luis Brewing Co. does great beer, but it also serves up old-fashioned-style root beer. Barrels here are shaken by hand, to create carbonation. 

The brewery is also connected with the coffee shop next door, where they grind their own beans. So you can start your day with a cup of joe and end it with a cup of beer.

Located in an old bank building, it calls itself Colorado’s first “roastery-brewery-restaurant.” 08of 11

Pet a Friendly Bison

Zapata Ranch
Aimee Heckel

Head to the stunning, sprawling Zapata Ranch, set on 103,000 open acres, for an authentic taste of the Old West. The grounds are home to about 2,000 wild bison, including Gordon, the domesticated bison who has been the ranch mascot since he was young. He used to roam the ranch free, but now that he’s grown larger, he stays behind a fence and acts like a massive puppy, unaware of his size.

You can also stay at the all-inclusive ranch, which serves five-star dining (to live music played by a cowboy with a guitar) and can arrange a variety of adventures for guests. Accommodations are rustic, but spacious. You can see the sand dunes and mountain ranges from the picnic tables on the patio and the hot tub. Continue to 9 of 11 below.09of 11

See the Nation’s Tallest Sand Dune

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Danita Delimont/Getty Images

Of all of the unusual sites in San Luis Valley, this has to be the weirdest of all: massive dunes below the mountain peaks, lining a warm, trickling creek. 

The Great Sand Dunes National Park is no hidden secret in Colorado, but it should be at the top of every traveler’s bucket list. Rent a sled or special snowboard and cruise down the sandy peaks. Build sand castles and go camping on the banks of the vast, calm Medano Creek.

If you’re ambitious (and wearing sneakers; sandals are useless on these scalding hot surfaces), climb to the top of the highest dune in the country, which reaches 750 feet. With the hot sand below you and the snowy mountain peaks in the distance, this park feels otherworldly.10of 11

Ride an Ancient Steam Train

Cumbres and Toltec historic train
Aimee Heckel

Take a trip back in time—and across the Colorado/New Mexico border 11 times—on the stunning, scenic Cumbres and Toltec steam train.

Get a seat in the luxurious Tourist Car, where a personal guide will share history and landmarks, in between bringing you drinks and snacks. This ride goes through multiple pitch-black tunnels, above a nearly 900-foot gorge, through a ghost town and stops for a Thanksgiving-style lunch halfway.

Kids love the open-air car, while adults will enjoy the caboose, which has a full bar. 

This train ride is totally entertaining with unbeatable views that track landscapes and wildlife from the desert to the mountain tops. This ride is especially popular in the fall when you can see the aspen tree leaves changing color as you climb altitude. 11of 11

Smoke Weed in the Steam Train Hotel

Steam Train Hotel
Aimee Heckel

Not many hotels in Colorado openly advertise as 420-friendly, but the Steam Train Hotel in downtown Antonito isn’t shy about appealing to “cannabis tourism.”

Rent a Silver Surfer Vaporizer and stay in a 420-friendly room, right across the street from a marijuana dispensary. No joints, bongs or other kids of smoke allowed. But you can enjoy your vape right in your room. 

This historic hotel is located in the quiet, small town (population: less than 800), a short drive from the incredible Cumbres and Toltec steam train depot. Guests get 15 percent off their train tickets.  

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