Western Trips

Western Trips

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Historic Antonito Colorado

steam train hotel antonito
Steam Train Hotel, Antonito, CO
Like so many settlements in Colorado, historic Antonito owes it's early growth to the arrival of the railroad.

 Located in the southern part of the San Luis Valley and at an elevation of 7,888 feet, the town was once on the mainline of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. The once sheep herding camp of San Antonio Junction, the settlement incorporated as Antonito Colorado in 1889. The change in names occurred about the same time that the railroad built it's line south from Alamosa Colorado to Antonito.

Today, Antonito Colorado is a tourist destination as well as a railroad shipping point.  The popular Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad runs between Antonito and Chama New Mexico. Antonito actually served as the switching point between the regular gauge Denver & Rio Grande Railroad that went north to Alamosa and the narrow gauge railroad running down to Chama.

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

Vacations in Colorado always offer unique and scenic adventures. The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad has been one of these adventures for years and you can access the train from Antonito.

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, originally built in 1880, offers all day excursions on their narrow gauge train powered by a coal burning steam locomotive. The route the train travels is a very scenic one which is common in this beautiful area of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Terrific views are offered of the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountain Ranges. Along it's route, this scenic railroad runs over the 10,000 foot Cumbres Pass.

cumbres and toltec railroad locomotive
Cumbres & Toltec steam locomotive
The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad offers excursions from the train depot in Chama New Mexico as well as the depot in Antonito Colorado. Trains depart each morning from both depots. Passengers can ride all the way between both towns or return to where they departed on the other train at Osier, an old stagecoach stop, where lunch is served. The steam locomotives used by the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad are engines that once worked on this line and on the Denver & Rio Grande Western.

The 1911 Steam Train Hotel

Located on main Street in the center of Antonito is the Steam Train Hotel. Many people stay at this charming old red brick hotel in conjunction with their excursion on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. The Steam Train Hotel overlooks the spot that Indiana Jones jumped off the steam train and ran into the movie set film home of the Jones family in the blockbuster film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Renovations were made in 2010 and accommodations include everything from basic singles to doubles with kitchenettes to entire two bedroom family suites.

Each hotel room is individually decorated with antiques that are tasteful but comfortable. You will feel as though you stepped back in time, as luxury is present at every turn.

historic church antonito colorado
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church
Colorado's Oldest Church

Just a two mile drive north of Antonito is the settlement on Conejos. Here you will find Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church was founded in 1856 and it’s parish is the oldest in Colorado. The very first church on the site was constructed of logs put plastered with adobe. In 1863 a larger adobe church was built. Renovations took place through the years but the building was burned down in 1926 by an electrical fire. The walls and towers were saved but new brick towers and a brick entrance were built in 1948. When you visit the church you’ll see a niche above the front entrance up near the roof line containing the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This is the original statue brought by the first settlers of the area.

Below are links to Western Trips articles about more southern Colorado trip destinations...

Historic Fort Garland

Beautiful Manitou Springs Colorado

A Visit to Mesa Verde National Park

train station antonito colorado
Antonito CO Train Depot
Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway 

Running directly through Antonito Colorado is the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway. This 129 mile long connection of highways. The name of this scenic byway in Spanish means “the ancient road” and it is true that this roadway winds itself through an area that was once home to the ancient Indians of the southwest as well as the territory of Nuevo Mexico which was once ruled by Spain.

Travel on the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway for an opportunity to explore the culture and traditions of some of Colorado’s oldest communities.

You’ll view the spectacular San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountain ranges as well as the high, fertile San Luis Valley which is today Colorado’s largest agricultural area. Also, along this highway among other interesting stops you’ll explore the town of San Luis Colorado and the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross, the historic frontier military outpost of Fort Garland, Alamosa Colorado and it's Rio Grande Scenic Railroad and the Great Sand Dunes National Park, the site of the highest sand dunes in North America.

frontier carbines
Authentic frontier carbines exhibit, Fort Garland, CO
For more information on Colorado's Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway and a map of the route see website www.coloradodot.info/travel/scenic-byways/south-central/los-caminos.

The entire region of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico is filled with a tremendous amount of historic sites, National Parks, National Monuments, wildlife refuges, and museums. Vacations in Colorado offer something for everyone. If you have an opportunity to travel southern Colorado you'll find many fun and educational sites to add to your road trip planner.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Western Trips)

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