Day Trip: Cuchara Pass
This day trip takes you along the Highway of Legends Scenic Byway. (2 Scenic Byways Bingo Points).
Absolutely incredible views. You'll pass through LaVeta where there are remnants of a an ancient Rocky Mountain volcano and fantastic views of Spanish Peaks.
Near the summit is Monument Lake, it used to actually have a rock formation sticking out of it, (it fell into the lake several years ago), but there are really cool rock formations around the lake if you walk the trail. Just past the Summit heading South on Hwy 12, as you round a corner, you will encounter an amazing view of the Southwest Canyonlands in all their glory. Have your cameras ready and make a U-turn if you are headed toward the North, yes it is worth it!
The wildlife is plentiful through this trip, and small mule deer appear to be fearless along the road side, so watch for them at dusk and dawn.
Best Time: Morning if headed South, late afternoon if headed North.
Drive time: 1.5 hours as a straight drive through. To see all the really cool stops along this ride, pack a lunch, this trip is a good 4 - 6 hours driving, but well worth the time spent.
From the North:
Take the US Hwy 160 exit from I-25 at Walsenburg and head West. You will pass Lathrop State Park and the Walsenburg Reservoir.
Take the Hwy 12 turn off toward La Veta. A Charming little town with many art galleries and a fine bakery. Hwy 12 winds its way through Cuchara, where you will begin to see the old volcanic dykes of Stonewall, Colorado. The Cuchara river will accompany you through most of your Northern journey.
You can detour onto CO 422 to the Blue Lakes and/or Bear Lake for a wonderful picnic, but make sure you have plenty of daylight left to continue the get-away (for safety and for your view pleasure). Camping in the San Isabela National Forest may be available, check on the park site for more information, reservations, fees and restrictions. Note: Cell service may not be available as you get deeper in to the forest.
Continue along Hwy 12 along the winding hills until you reach the Summit. Do stop and enjoy the view because it is an unexpected wonder to be sure.
As you desend from the pass you will pass through Cokedale and the coal mining areas. The coke ovens stretch across the scenery and look very out of place with a backdrop of Trinidad Lake State Park, they are white stone that resemble old Romanesque type structures.
Photo Opps: Monument Lake, Spanish Peaks, The White Peaks, La Veta, Old La Veta Cemetery, Stonewall, The Summit of Cuchara Pass, Cuchara River, The Coke Ovens at Cokedale, Overlooking Trinidad, Just past mile marker 35, headed South you will come to a sweeping left curve, there is a turn out on the Northbound side, as you enter the curve the view is breath taking.