I recently heard that more than 60,000 people per year are moving to the Front Range of Colorado. That’s a NET number, and a LOT of people. It is easy to understand why: nature’s bounty, not to mention the climate, are big reasons why so many of us “come for the winters, and stay for the summers.” There is always something to do, and it is the only place that I have ever lived where snow is greeted with, “YAHOO!”
But with all of this interest comes increased demands on the usual hotspots, potentially harming fragile ecosystems and wildlife. The I-70 corridor is certainly dealing with the effects, as are the usual ski spots and Rocky Mountain National Park. It is getting harder to find the places that provide Colorado experiences instead of crowds.
Off the beaten path in Southern Colorado, you’ll find all kinds of destinations accessible from Highway 160. Nestled along the banks of the famous Rio Grande river and only about 20 minutes from the headwaters is where you’ll find Del Norte. At first, Del Norte may be a town that you pass through on your way to somewhere else – The Great Sand Dunes, Durango or Telluride. I encourage you to pause next time, and to look a little deeper: Del Norte is a diamond that’s only beginning to show it’s shine.
- Camp Along the Rio Grande
If spacious spots under a canopy of cottonwoods, the rolling river and a sea of stars are what you crave, check out Woods & River RV Park. Welcoming to climbers, cyclists, campers and pet owners alike, it has newly-expanded RV spaces, gazebos and fire rings along the Rio Grande, as well as a private riverside area just for tent campers. You can stroll along the paved pathways and bridges and explore adjacent paths to the town park areas. Bring your fishing gear and maybe even catch a wild trout or two to fuel your campfire tall tales.
2. If Camping isn’t Your Thing, Stay at the Historic Windsor Hotel
Del Norte is also home to the Windsor Hotel and Restaurant, an historic hotel of the Old West with fully refurbished rooms, storied antiques, fine dining and weekend music in its brick courtyard. The Windsor frequently hosts wine dinners and other events that sell out fast.
3. Explore the Hiking and Jeep Trails
More than 3,700 miles of public lands are awaiting any adventure that you can conceive, with breathtaking views of the La Garita mountains and the San Luis Valley. Penitente Canyon is a frequent destination for rock climbers, mountain bikers and hikers alike, attracting visitors from around the world.
4. Find Good Eats
To quench that thirst after a day exploring the area, it’s always fun to stop by Three Barrel Brewing Company for a local craft brew and a wood-fired pizza pie. It is a popular spot with indoor and outdoor seating, right along Highway 160.
Also make time for The Columbine, a local florist and gift shop. (Stop by the florist? Yes, you need to do that!) Pick up a few pastries from the local Mennonite bakery and devolve into pure decadence. Their fresh cinnamon rolls, pies and hand-pies made with Colorado-fresh ingredients are sinfully good. The Columbine also offer cards, gifts and unique sundries. (Fresh Palisade peach hand-pie below)
We enjoy the proximity and accessibility of the town to the riverside camp sites when we visit. I can also ride my retro bicycle freely and without judgement with Master Chief in the basket, along the many pathways and into town. (Well maybe I am judged, but it doesn’t really matter.) To us, Del Norte offers the best of both worlds: a private camping / fishing get-away in a truly beautiful location, with a ‘night on the town’ if we want to be among people. Del Norte is truly still an undiscovered Colorado gem.
Do you have a favorite spot along hwy. 160? Let me know in the comments!
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