Scenic Byway 12
Unusual geologic formations, breathtaking vistas, and a rich history are showcased on The Highway of Legends in Southeastern Colorado.
The 70-mile Scenic Byway 12 is easy to navigate and winds through some of the state’s most unique geological formations, peaceful landscapes, and idyllic small towns. Pastoral valley meadows are encircled by towering mountain ranges still capped with snow in late summer.
Scenic Highway 12 loops west of Trinidad then north through Stonewall, Cuchara, and La Veta before ending at Walsenburg. The Culebra, Sangre de Cristo, and Spanish Peaks Ranges in the Los Carlos Ranger District of the San Isabel National Forest provide a constant backdrop of majestic mountains.
Spanish Peaks Wilderness and SWA and Cuchara River Recreation Area and Pass provide access to camp, fish, and hunt.
The Spanish Peaks Wilderness
Prominent landmarks along the eastern front of the Southern Rockies are the twin peaks of Los Cumbres Espanolos (Spanish Peaks). Known by the Ute and Comanche American Indian tribes as Wahatoya (“the breasts of the earth”) the peaks are where the rain gods create life-sustaining clouds and rain.
Great dikes radiate out of the mountains resembling spokes of a wheel.These were created when molten rock intruding layers of sedimentary rock pressed up and out spreading through radial cracks like wheel spokes. Erosion later revealed the dikes.
Towering up to 200 feet high and 17 miles long, nearly 400 separate dikes have been identified by geologists.
Camping and Hiking
Spanish Peaks Wilderness was established in 2000, encompassing almost 20,000 acres of steep, rough backcountry with little water and few trails. That also means fewer people within the Wilderness boundaries and more vying for campsites.
There are four designated campgrounds and nine trails in Spanish Peak Wilderness Area. All of the camps took reservations and were packed even during the week in late July. Folks lined chairs next to each other fishing both Bear and Blue Lakes.
Close to Heaven and Down to Earth Country Lifestyle
While a true wilderness getaway in public land may be difficult, a day trip through the scenic byway is worth it.
Most of the land in this area is privately owned and reflects rural lifestyle at its best. Small towns flow with music, art, and festivals creating a relaxed country lifestyle with family-friendly charm.
Large ranches with green, flower-filled meadows provide ample habitat for herds to graze creating an idyllic landscape and life where people are connected to each other, the land, and Nature’s cycles.