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Sand, scenery, and steam train adventures in Alamosa, Colorado

SmarterTravel

Far from the glitz and glamour of Colorado’s resort towns, Alamosa is humbly tucked away between the towering peaks of two mountain ranges. This little city, 230 miles southwest of Denver near the New Mexico border, is an ideal place to get lost among uncrowded natural wonders.

Spend the weekend camping and exploring the Great Sand Dunes National Park, the tallest sand dunes in North America. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another country. Locals say it’s like a scene right out of the epic film Lawrence of Arabia.

Hop aboard one of the area’s two scenic and historic railroads and see some of the eight 14ers, (14,000-foot mountains) that surround Alamosa. On the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, you can ride the rails in a luxury dome car or a historic steam train. Day trips ($20 to $50 round-trip) run to various destinations, including Great Sand Dunes National Park.

The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad’s “Sunday Express” ($49 round-trip) is a memorable themed ride—think Wild West, gospel music, mariachis, and more—from nearby Chama, New Mexico, to Cumbres pass and back.

Explore by foot in and around Alamosa and you’ll find excellent chances to spot wildlife at three refuges: Monte Vista, Baca, and Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge.

Refuel at Calvillos, the restaurant with the best Mexican food in Colorado, says CBS’s Doug Whitehead. Then stroll down the street to the San Luis Valley Brewing Company to sample hand-crafted brews.

For more planning tips, go to the Alamosa Convention & Visitors Bureau website.

Read more of the 50 Affordable Stateside Escapes.

Have a recommendation for Alamosa, or another great getaway in Colorado? Post your comment below.

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