3 Things to do in Colorado’s Undiscovered Paradise: Westcliffe
It’s no secret that Colorado is one of the United States’ premier vacation destinations. Whether you’re looking for winter adventure on some of the finest ski mountains on earth or you’re eyeing some summer fun hiking, biking, fishing, and rafting, most agree that Colorado is the place you want to be. However, few know that there are destinations in Colorado, which are not exactly on the nation radar. Everyone knows about Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge, and the other most popular mountain towns, but what about Westcliffe? That’s right, Westcliffe.
What the heck is Westcliffe?
Westcliffe is a small town about 70 miles southwest of Colorado Springs and located in the valley of the majestic Sangre De Cristo mountain range. The town was originally settled during the silver rush in the late 1800’s, and was at one time among Colorado’s most populated cities. Today, Westcliffe’s population is numbered at just 417! But don’t let this fool you. There are some amazing things to do and see in this unknown Colorado paradise. Below are 3 of my personal favorites:
1. 4-Wheeling to the Great Sand Dunes
Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes are truly a wonder not to be missed, and from Westcliffe, you can make one heck of a day trip out of it. A few miles south of the town of Westcliffe, is access to an awesome 4×4 road called Medano Pass. If you have a 4×4 vehicle, I highly recommend packing a picnic basket full of your favorite food and drinks, and heading up the pass for about a 3 hour excursion though the Sangre De Cristos, which spits you out at the eastern portion of the Sand Dunes. Spend the day hiking on the dunes and visiting their awesome visitor center.
WARNING: There are some areas of very deep water, even in the middle of the summer. I have actually gotten stuck because I drove too fast through one particularly large puddle! As long as your vehicle has standard 4×4 clearance and you go nice and slow, you’ll be fine!
2. Mission Wolf
If you love animals like I do, this one is not to be missed. Mission Wolf is a sanctuary for Wolves and Wolf-Dogs, whose owners were simply not fit to take care of a wild animal. The sanctuary is located about 50 miles from the town, and is nestled in a beautiful mountain ranch. Make a day out of it, and if you’re lucky enough, the founder of the mission, Kent Weber, will actually take you in the wolves’ gated areas where you get to interact with and pet them! I was lucky enough to go during a feeding, and man was it a sight to see!
3. High Mountain Hay Fever Bluegrass Festival
Every July Westcliffe is home to the High Mountain Hay Fever Bluegrass Festival. Even if you aren’t a fan of Bluegrass music, this festival is one heck of a time! The performance tent is set-up on a grassy field right at the base of the Sangre’s. The festival draws some prominent bluegrass musicians, along with featuring some outstanding local talent. There is also vending galore with food, beer, and merchandise. For a festival of its caliber, the price of admission it quite reasonable; go check it out!