by Owen Woods |
Outdoors Writer

WHEN you’re not checking out the car show and other events over Labor Day weekend, there’s plenty to keep you appreciating the outdoors of the San Luis Valley. Here’s a list of  seven things to do that will bring fun for the whole family, and even the dog!

Float the Rio Grande. With summer still in full swing, grab a kayak or floatation device of your choosing and drift down the calm currents of the Rio Grande. There is plenty of open water space in South Fork and Del Norte, or hop in at one of Alamosa’s new boat ramps right here in town off the State Street Bridge or Cole Park.

Enjoy silence and wildlife at the Monte Vista and Alamosa Wildlife Refuges. With access to an easy, one-way trail, take in all the wildlife and wildflowers you can in two expansive areas of wildlife conservation. These locations are home to thousands of different species. This is ideal for when you need a quiet place to get away, and be sure to bring your camera and binoculars.

Zapata Falls. Off Highway 150, on your way to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, take the winding road to Zapata Falls. Here you’ll hike a mile through ponderosa pine and juniper trees until you get to a slot canyon. Tucked back in that slot canyon is a natural waterfall that flows cold, clear water. You’ll have to hike through the water over slippery rocks, or follow the right side walls until you reach the cool, cool falls.

Take an easy bike ride in the Limekiln Trail Systems. There is a lot of mountain biking around the Valley, and if you’re looking to ride some easy trails and get a great view of the San Luis Valley, the Limekiln trails in the Old Spanish Trails System is a sprawling area that accommodates all different types of riding styles. Just beware of the rattlesnakes!

Hike Big Meadows and Shaw Lake, then relax with plenty of fishing real estate. The San Luis Valley’s reservoirs can be difficult to get to, but if you’re itching to catch some fish and want plenty of space and opportunity for it, just off highway 160 on your way up Wolf Creek Pass, you’ll find the tucked away fishing holes of Big Meadows Reservoir and Shaw Lake. These two places are bountiful and accommodate long shorelines for plenty of fishing opportunities. (Shaw Lake, pictured above.)

Fly Fish the Conejos River. Even though the water is running low this time of year, there is still miles and miles of river to throw a line into. Step back in time in Conejos Canyon by following the winding hairpins of the river. There are plenty of eddies for fish to hide and for you to wade in.

Climb or hike in the rock gardens of Penitente Canyon. For the climbers who are traveling west to California or East to Red River Gorge, get your fill at Penitente Canyon where there are over 300 established routes that accommodate bouldering, sport and trad climbing.

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