Skip the campground crowds for this private site with absolutely stunning mountain and valley views in this rock-lovers paradise. Located high on a questa ridge, just 3 miles from Fort Garland, you are far enough out to enjoy a quiet night of full-blown milky-way star gazing and dazzling sunsets, but close enough to town for easy access to tasty restaurants, groceries, gas,
Skip the campground crowds for this private site with absolutely stunning mountain and valley views in this rock-lovers paradise. Located high on a questa ridge, just 3 miles from Fort Garland, you are far enough out to enjoy a quiet night of full-blown milky-way star gazing and dazzling sunsets, but close enough to town for easy access to tasty restaurants, groceries, gas, and recreation. This is one private site with multiple camping pads in case you have more than one tent.
This site is filled with the gorgeous smell of pinion pine and sagebrush, which provide a little early morning shade. It is also home to many small paddle cactus that bloom in late June and bring out our hummingbird friends. To minimize the nasty pricks of the cactus and the impact on the eco-system, please stay in the camping area, a perimeter marked with stones. Close-toed shoes are required.
Flying into CO to enjoy the great outdoors? Rent an SUV for some cozy car-camping. Camping in a tent or van? Check porta-potty availability from Ernie at Mondragon Portable Toilet Rental, for roughly $150 per stay for two units (same price as one). For a cheaper option, bring along your Luggable Loo to pack out waste. The site includes 4 level tent camping pads for your small group and a level 10'x18' parking pad for a small camper or van.
3 miles to Fort Garland and Rio Grand Scenic Railroad
3 miles to Mountain Home Reservoir Wildlife and Recreation
11 miles to Smith Reservoir and Recreation
20 miles to Blanca Peak Trailhead
28 miles to Zapata Falls Trailhead
28 miles to Alamosa
33 miles to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
35 miles to La Veta
58 miles to Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad
76 miles to Crestone
82 miles to Taos
Health and Safety:
In 2018, this high-desert region suffered one of the largest forest fires in the state, covering over 108,000 acres. The fire started just several miles away from a campfire (although you can't see the damage from here.) Due to dry conditions, unpredictably high winds, and likelihood of wild fires, open flames, campfires, and smoking are not allowed at this site. Just one stray spark and gust of wind is all it takes.
We are located over 8,300 ft above sea level. If you are not used to this elevation, give yourself a little time to acclimate to the altitude. Altitude sickness is a thing. The Denver airport is at 5,430 ft above sea level and Albuquerque is at 5,310 ft, so spending a day or night in that area will help you get acclimated more gradually. Stay hydrated and get plenty of rest to help with any symptoms.
This is a high-desert area which means temperatures can fluctuate by 40 degrees from day to night. Average summer highs during the day are 70-90, with hot afternoons and not much shade. Brimmed hat, sunscreen, light long-sleeved layers, sunglasses, water bottle, chap stick with SPF are highly recommended. At night temperatures can dip into the 40's and even the 30's night. Bring a warm layers and appropriate camping gear to fend off the night-time chill.
The neighborhood has graded dirt roads and get pretty steep at one point. We are about 3 miles off the pavement. While we have accessed the land many times with our 2WD vehicle, you may feel more at ease with 4WD.
There are no RV hook-ups or electricity. We recommend some solar powered Edison bulbs to light the night or stick to the star-lit sky and twinkling valley.
While the neighbors very are spread out, they may pull over to check on the area and make sure you're not squatting. Just give a friendly nod and a hello to anyone you see on the road. Please be respectful to anyone you meet and keep noise to a minimum. Sound carries easily through the ravines and over the ridges.
Some of the property in this area is used for private hunting. While there is no hunting allowed on our property, if you don't know the area, you may wander into someone's hunting ground. Please stay in the designated camping area.
Great Sand Dunes National Park: The dunes are definitely worth a visit, and they're part of the reason we first started exploring this area. Wade across the ankle deep Medano Creek to reach the dunes and hike to High Dune or Star Dune. Hike along the ridges for the easiest route. A round trip hike to Star Dune will take about 5 hours; High Dune is roughly 2 hours round trip. Rent a sand board or sled for a unique experience in the dunes. To avoid the up-to 150 degree heat coming off the dunes in the summer, go just before sunrise, wait to hike til evening or in the dark by starlight. You don’t have to hike the big dunes to enjoy the park. Just walk out to the dune field around sunset, scramble up a small dune, and take it all in. This is one park that can best be experienced at night.
If sand isn’t your thing, the park and preserve has over 40,000 acres of forests, alpine tundra, and mountain lakes. For a shady day hike through the forests, try the Mosca Pass trail, 7 miles round trip or hike along Medano Creek. You can access the Medano Lake trailhead with a 4wd vehicle to hike to the 7.4 miles to the lake below Mt. Herald (13,297 ft). It’s a steep 1.5 miles to the top of the mountain from the lake.If you’re looking for a quick and easy hike (less than 30 min and minimal elevation gain), try the Monteville Nature Trail or Wellington Ditch Trail. You can also check out the afternoon ranger talks on the back porch of the Welcome Center or an evening program at the amphitheater.
During peak hours (usually 8am-5pm) the park collects an entry fee at the entry station; it’s $25 per vehicle, but it’s good for 7 days. If you’re thinking of hitting up other national parks on this trip, like Rocky Mountain or Mesa Verde, or if you plan to visit another park or two in the next year, it’s worth it to get the $80 National Park Pass—good for any national park or federally managed land for the whole year.
Zapata Falls: Eight miles south of the national park is Zapata Falls. To get to the trail head, you’ll want a 4wd vehicle for the very bumpy 3 mile road. (We actually made it in a 2wd rental car, but it was very slow and nerve-racking. Don’t even attempt the drive with 2wd if it’s rained recently.) From the trail head parking area, Zapata Falls is only a 1/2 mile hike. To see the falls in the narrow, cave-like structure, you’ll need to hike through the creek for a minute or two. There are some great views along the way and mountain biking trails as well. From Zapata Falls you can hike the challenging 10 mile trail to South Zapata Lake below Ellingwood Peak (14,042 ft).
Mt. Blanca: For another 14'er (mountain over 14,000 ft above sea level) hike close by, the trailhead to Mt. Blanca can be found up Lake Como Rd; 4wd is needed. Check the weather before attempting these high altitude hikes. Snow and hail are not uncommon in June at those elevations. What looks like rain below could feel like a blizzard up there.
Lakes: If you’d rather spend a day at the lake, check out San Louis Lakes State Wildlife Area (free admission) for a nice view of the dunes or Mountain Home Reservoir, three mile from our place.
Fort Garland: Sit back and enjoy the views of Mt. Blanca and the slow pace of this tiny western town. Check out the fort's Museum and Cultural Center for a look at this historic site. Admission is $5. Afterward, stop by the Old West Cafe for coffee and homemade slice of pie. For a beer and dinner, try the Silver Sage. If you're up for more adventure, rent a jeep for some off-roading adventures at YaYa's Jeeps and Coffee. They also rent sand boards for the dunes and offer jeep tours. Fort Garland also has a small grocery store, hardware store (with camping section and fishing licenses available), post office, two pot shops, gas stations, liquor store, thrift shop, diner, and a few other restaurants. Even in this small town, you can find a few vegan and vegetarian options.
Alamosa: In need of civilization? The nearest large town is Alamosa (about 35 minute drive), where you'll find a few breweries, coffee shops, great Mexican restaurants, music venues, movie theater, grocery stores, bowling alley, thrift shops, sporting good shops (to rent bikes and sand boards), and a typical southwestern main street.
A great day trip without much driving would be taking a scenic railway. The two main scenic railways are the Cumbres & Toltec steam train or the Rio Grande Le Veta Pass Route. For the Cumbres & Toltec rail, you'll need to drive to Antonito to hop on the train. The train moves at a slower pace to let you take in the absolutely stunning scenery. It just gets better as you go. We've ridden the whole way, but we recommend taking Trip 3, which returns by 3:45. This avoids a lot of the smelly breaking toward the end of the train ride and still gives you the best views through the Toltec Gorge and a homemade lunch. Everyone is assigned a seat in a cabin, but there's also a great open air car called the gondola that everyone has access to. There is a concession car for coffee, snacks, beer, and wine. If you want to splurge, you can ride in the restored Parlor Car which comes with a continental breakfast or the Deluxe Car with table service. We recommend wearing layers due to the change in temperature/elevation, sunglasses to keep any tiny pieces of coal from getting in your eyes, and some bug spray just in case mosquitos are out. On Father's Day, if you call ahead, all dad's ride free with the purchase of an adult ticket. Check out the Geology Train option if you're into an educational exploration.You can hop on the Rio Grande route right in Fort Garland or Alamosa and take it to the quaint little town of La Veta or Fir Summit in La Veta Pass. This ride is a little shorter and more affordable than the Cumbres &Toltec line. They have a "wine train" ride on Fridays and Saturdays in the summer and they also have a Mountain Rails Live Saturday and Sunday train that takes you to a concert (accessible only by train) at Fir Summit.
Crestone is a tiny little town at the base of Mt. Crestone known as a spiritual center for many different types of religions and spiritual practices. The area is filled with spiritual retreat centers and a of couple stupas and shrines. The town has a nano-brewery, organic grocery store, golf and disc golf course, and a few fun thrift shops. Visit the Jangchub Chorten stupa, just a few miles from the center of town for valley views and a moment of meditation. Along the way to Crestone, you’ll pass through the town of Hooper which has a wacky little compound/campground with a UFO watch platform that's made it to the New York Times. Look for the homemade alien signs pointing the way. (The valley is known for UFO sightings.) Crestone is about an hour from Alamosa and an hour and 15 minutes from Fort Garland.Taos is a lively town with all the classically curving, adobe architecture of the Southwest, located about 1.5 hours south of Fort Garland or Alamosa. It’s a good spot if you like shopping and meandering through hidden courtyards or want to enjoy a beverage while listening to folk music. Check out the historic pueblos at Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for $16 /person.On the outskirts of Taos, down Rt 64, you’ll findTaos Mesa Brewing known for its cool outdoor live music venue, the Mothership. Just past the brewery, you’ll find the Rio Grande Gorge. Walk the bridge for spectacular views. There are hiking trails, too.A little farther down the road, visit Earthship, a surprisingly large, fully sustainable community built of recycled materials like glass bottles. With a group of a few people, you can schedule a guided tour of the community two weeks or more in advance for $18/person or just check out the little Visitor Center for $8/person.
Extending Your Trip:
Santa Fe is one of our favorite overnight trips in the area because of its charm and contemporary art scene. It's about 2 hours and 45 minute from Fort Garland with a very walkable downtown area full of little shops and restaurants. Visit SITE Santa Fe, a museum that focuses on land use in the Americas or IAIA MUSEUM of Contemporary Native Arts. The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum is located in Santa Fe as well. Taos is on the way and might be worth a stop if you’ve got the time.
The picturesque town of Crested Butte and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park make a good mountain escape. This park has a scenic drive and many interesting hikes into and around the canyon. After a day of hiking, eat at Secret Stash in Crested Butte for a killer artisan pizza. Crested Butte is just over 3 hours from Fort Garland.
Mesa Verde National Park is an amazing place to tour the ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings. Get to the park early in the day to book a $5 ranger-led tour. We visited the Long House which was awesome. There is some walking and hiking involved with this particular tour, but there are several tours to choose from.The park hotel at the top of the Mesa offers stunning views and clear star gazing. (Camping is available as well.) Stop for breakfast or lunch in nearby Mancos at Absolute Bakery and Cafe.The park is just under 4 hours from Fort Garland. Between here and there, you'll drive through the charming town of Pagosa Springs and the steep Wolf Creek mountain pass. To extend your trip into nearby Utah, head to Canyon of the Ancients or Bears Ears National Monument next.
Rocky Mountain National Park has a plethora of great trails and stunning mountain vistas. This is a busy park. Camp sites and area hotels fill up early; so reserve up to 6 months in advance to get the spot you want. High peak scenic drives are non-stop wow. Stop in Denver on the way to check out the city's great art museums and a brewery or two.
Garden of the Gods is a perfect stopping spot if you’re flying in/out of Denver. Located in Colorado Springs, this scenic walk/hike/drive is gorgeous and right in town. The Skirted Heifer downtown is a quick cheap eats stop for burgers or a frozen custard. Shuga's is a short drive from downtown and a good spot for brunch/lunch/cocktails.
- Check in: After 2PM
- Check out: Before 12PM
- Cancellation policy: Moderate
- On arrival: Go straight to camp
- Minimum nights: 4
- Accepts bookings: 3 months out
Offered on the Host's property or nearby.
Natural features you'll find at Spectacular Mountain View Terraces in Colorado.