The sweeping San Luis Valley of Colorado pops year-round, but fall in the valley is special… and not just because the leaves are golden. Find even more elbow room on the trails, in the taprooms, and around the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. These are some of the most important reasons to fall in love with autumn in Alamosa, Colorado.
This article was created in partnership with the Alamosa Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, Colorado. Photos by Emily Sierra Photography.
Downtown Alamosa: the perfect place to stay
Alamosa is the pulse of the San Luis Valley. There are plenty of hotels to choose from, many within walking distance or a short drive of downtown. Speaking of which, the historic downtown is lined with artscapes and sculptures that guide travelers to restaurants, shops, coffee houses, and breweries. The authentic eats around town make for an even more memorable experience. Downtown Alamosa also hosts events and festivals throughout the fall. Additionally, the local farmer’s market runs into early October so you have plenty of time to enjoy the abundance of the San Luis Valley. Finally, travelers in the fall will enjoy the reduced lodging rates.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Imagine this: the Great Sand Dunes glowing in the morning sun and cottonwood trees blazing yellow at their base. Behind the dunes, a fresh dusting of snow graced the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Fall is one of the most spectacular times to visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, especially for photography and nature enthusiasts. You’ll never see the the dunes surrounded by fall color and snow any other time of the year. Oh, and the generally calmer weather in the fall makes for a more enjoyable experience. (If you’ve ever spent a windy day at the dunes and walked away with sand in your teeth, you know what I am talking about.)
The Night Skies
The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve was recognized as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association in 2019. With little light pollution, higher elevation, and dry air, the dunes are an amazing place for late-night entertainment. On nights when the moon is high and full, the sand alights brilliantly. On the contrary, the amount of stars on moonless nights is dizzying. August through October are the most ideal months for night skies on the dunes when the Milky Way is most visible in the sky.
Alamosa Wildlife Refuge
The Alamosa Wildlife Refuge is a hot spot year-round for, well, wildlife! Each season is unique, and one of the most exciting migrations that happens during the fall is that of Sandhill Cranes. Tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes pass through the San Luis Valley. Photographing this migration is exciting for amateur and professional photographers alike. Additionally, migrating deer and elk move from higher elevations to the valley floor this time of year.
Zapata Falls, near the Great Sand Dunes
One of the most famous hikes in the area is that to Zapata Falls, out near the Great Sand Dunes National Park. For good reason, visitors flock to this beautiful natural attraction year-round. Come autumn, the number of people on the trail reduces to a fraction. Zapata Falls isn’t the only beautiful hike in the area though—find yourself on one of area’s many trails.
It’d be hard to not fall in love with the San Luis Valley and the natural beauty surrounding Alamosa, Colorado. Year-round, this destination is wonderfully beautiful and quiet, but autumn in the area is especially charming.