The Paw Print
Spring in the San Luis Valley offers many fun and affordable opportunities for college students to get out and explore. The busy schedules and limited budgets of many students may leave them feeling like they have to spend all of their days inside studying, but there are alternatives. Climbing, hiking and biking are among the many affordable ways students can get out and enjoy the warmer weather and abundant sunshine in the Valley.
Many students already take advantage of the indoor rock climbing facilities located in the Adams State College Rex Activity Center, but warm weather opens up several other climbing options in the area. Penitente Canyon is possibly the best known of the local rock climbing hot spots. The canyon has a long and complicated history, but now the many climbing routes of varying levels of difficulty draw climbers from around the world. Other routes can be found nearby in Witches Canyon and the Rock Garden. Climbers are asked to use established routes and to minimize chalk use.
Warmer spring weather also allows for mountain biking near Penitente Canyon on the seven miles of bike trails that wind along and around many of the canyons. Bikers can ride on both double track and single track trails in the area. It is advised that riders know their route before heading out on the trails or to ride with someone familiar with the area.
Other trails in the area include Limekiln Trail between Del Norte and Monte Vista and the Middle Frisco Trail. The Del Norte trail system will eventually connect trails across the Valley, but for now they offer trails around the town.
Another free and readily available outdoor activity in the Valley is hiking. At the lower elevations trails are occasionally muddy and at higher elevations hikers may still run into snow. There are beautiful trails and routes for hikers of all skill levels available all around the Valley. It is important to be prepared for any weather conditions and to pack enough water for all of the hikers.
Thrill seekers may be drawn to any of the ten 14ers located around the Valley. The highest of those peaks is Blanca Peak located to the east of the Sand Dunes. Hikers should be aware of their own abilities and plan accordingly before the start up the mountain. More information on the peaks and recommendations can be found at 14ers.com.
One of the most fascinating Valley traditions occurs when Medano Creek in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve begins to flow down from the mountains sometimes as early as April. The creek usually runs at its strongest during mid to late May and usually dries up in July.
The park offers many hiking trails and an interpretive center where visitors can learn about the history of the park and about the plants and wildlife found at the dunes. Just south of the Park on Highway 150 is Zapata Falls which offers beautiful views of the dunes as well as the Falls themselves.