Colorado Scenic Byways Map
Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway
Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway
The south central region of Colorado was originally settled as part of requirements for getting and keeping a Spanish or Mexican Grant which called for establishing centers of population and developing the land. However, when the United States obtained this land, San Luis was the first permanent town in Colorado and was founded in 1851. The Los Caminos Antiguos Byway goes through this first town, as well as Fort Garland, Antonito, Alamosa, and into Chama, New Mexico, following the trails of the Spanish Conquerors (see our San Luis Valley Area Map). The byway is 129 miles long and takes about three hours to travel.
As you're traveling the byway, be sure to visit the oldest church in Colorado, Our Lady of Guadelupe Parish church. Joseph Machebeuf (1812-1889), spread Roman Catholicism throughout Colorado. A French missionary, he said first Mass in Colorado in a crude adobe chapel in Conejos in 1858. It was later replaced by Our Lady of Guadeloupe Church, Colorado's oldest church. The church is located in Conejos, Colorado, just off US Highway 285.
Yau can also find The Sacred Circle Mission Churches, the Stations of the Cross, and the Capilla de Todos los Santos (chapel of All Saints), which sits high on top San Pedro Mesa, also known as the Mesa de la Misericordia, or Mesa of Mercy. The Trail of the Stations of the Cross is a series of powerful bronze sculptures along the path that ascends the mesa. This depiction of Jesus' journey was created by local artist, Huberto Maestas. The Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center, 41 Church Place, includes contemporary murals, historic "Santos," wooden carvings by local Hispanic Artists, and a replica of a Morada; structures utilized as places of worship before churches were built.
Another interesting historical spot is the Jack Dempsey Museum. Jack Dempsey, born in Manassa, Colorado, June 24, 1895, went on to become the heavy-weight boxing champion of the World. At age 14, Jack began fighting at mining camps under the name "Kid Blackie." At age 24 Jack was the first superstar of the ring, and one of the most popular champions ever. Jack died in 1983. The Museum opened in the 1960s in a one-room log cabin near the spot where Jack grew up. Displayed are boxing mementos and pictures donated by locals and the Dempsey family. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Also in the path of the byway is Fort Garland, one of the first military posts in the region. The 100+ men who manned this fort protected the early settlers of the San Luis Valley.
The Smith Reservoir, The San Luis Lake State Park and Mountain Home Reservoir offer many water activities. Hiking is also available at Zapata Falls. The falls also offers spectacular views of the entire San Luis Valley, the San Juan Mountains, Mount Blanca, and the Sangre de Cristo range of the Rocky Mountains. These areas also boast fabulous wildlife viewing opportunities. Also along the byway is the Blanca Wetlands, a birder's paradise. Also in the area is the Great Sand Dunes National Park. This Park also provides many recreational activities.
Travel back in time on one of the two historic trains: Rio Grande Scenic Railroad or the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad, recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 2012. These historic remnants of years gone by will take you through the Rio Grande National Forest crossing over the New Mexico State line several times, or to La Veta for the Mountain Rails Live Music Concerts at the top of La Veta Pass, or the Rails and Ales train in late June.
Places to Stay & Fun Things to Do
An Inn with a touch of Old New Mexico in Chama: handmade furniture, family suites, gas-log fireplaces, jetted tub. Trails nearby: ATV, hike, snowmobile. ROMANCE PACKAGES: flowers and private label wine.
On 7 acres with green lawns and shade trees: modern cabins, spacious camp sites: RV and Tent. WiFi! Mogote Meadow Park is 5 miles west of Antonito in the Conejos Canyon with trout fishing. Pets Allowed.
Fish our Rio! In Chama, New Mexico along scenic Highway 17. Watch the TRAIN steam over the bridge by our RV Park. BIG RIG Friendly: 60 foot pull-thrus! Camp in shade along the Chama River. Free WiFi!
At the base of the beautiful Conejos Canyon near Antonito. Beautiful mountains and valleys: waterfall hikes, fish 3 reservoirs and the main river. Twin Rivers Cabins and RV Park is 4.5 miles from train depot.
More Activities & Information
Alamosa, Colorado includes: Blanca, Capulin, Center, Fort Garland, Hooper, Mosca, San Luis, Sanford
Antonito, Colorado includes: Conejos, Mogote