From a hike up an ancient volcano to a stroll past a world-class skate park, expect the unexpected when you visit Trinidad, Colo., a town of 9,000 people on the edge of Colorado’s border with New Mexico.
Once a stop on the Old Santa Fe Trail and later a mining community, Trinidad’s historical buildings are worth seeing. Hop on the free Trinidad Trolley and get off at the Trinidad History Museum complex to see the Santa Fe Trail Museum, the 1882 Bloom Mansion and Kit Carson’s buckskin coat.
“It’s the coolest thing ever,” says Marty Hackett, Colorado Welcome Center and tourism manager, referring to Carsons’ coat. “It’s for real. It’s an old trapper’s coat with beautiful Indian beadwork.”
The Santa Fe Trail Museum covers the historic route that served as a 900-mile international trade route from Missouri to Trinidad and on to Santa Fe, N.M. Its use dwindled when trains reached Santa Fe in 1880. The Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail travels right through downtown Trinidad on Main Street. The Santa Fe Trail, which was officially established in 1821, turns 200 in 2021. Learn about the September events scheduled to commemorate the trail’s bicentennial at VisitTrinidadColorado.com.
Take a short walk down the block where the A.R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art showcases the town’s most famous artistic character, Arthur Roy Mitchell, who was a prolific painter of Western pulp magazine covers. Known by locals as “The Mitch,” its housed in a former department store built in 1906. Born in 1889, Mitchell sketched scenes of cowboy life as a young ranch hand, eventually becoming a prolific painter of Western pulp magazine covers. See his fantastically colorful work, early Hispanic folk art, photography and Old West artifacts.
In the Corazon de Trinidad Historic District, you’ll find 55 great examples of late Victorian commercial architecture in Colorado, housing eclectic locally owned shops, galleries, and restaurants, including Sita’s Kitchen, a delicious vegan bakery serving breakfast and lunch. Delicious food and cold brews can be found at both the Trinidad Smokehouse and Walter’s Beer Garden & Grill where you can also enjoy weekend entertainment.
Then head east to the Comanche National Grasslands where 150 million years ago dinosaurs roamed in a tropical forest that lined a lake and left 1,300 visible tracks behind. It’s one of the longest dinosaur track sites in North America.
Farther south you can hike along the rim of an extinct volcano at Capulin Volcano National Monument.
Highway of Legends Scenic Byway
Drive west to travel the 82-mile Highway of Legends Scenic Byway that circles the spectacular Spanish Peaks. This gorgeous two-hour loop circles the Spanish Peaks, leading you past historic towns, mining camps and up to 10,000 feet. Don’t miss the short side-trip to Ludlow Massacre Memorial, where a conflict between the Colorado National Guard and striking miners left 20 dead.
Download the TravelStorys app to hear stories as you drive. For a classic, old-fashioned breakfast or lunch, stop at Bob & Earl’s Cafe at the beginning of your drive.
Visit Trinidad’s State Parks
Head to Trinidad Lake State Park for great outdoor activities. Ten miles of trails await in pinyon and juniper forests at this 800-acre lake that also offers plenty of fishing to those with a Colorado fishing license. Look for ancient teepee rings on Carpios Ridge or Long’s Canyon watchable wildlife area.
Stop at the other state park in town called Fishers Peak. It’s Colorado’s newest state park. A small portion of the park is open to the public. For park updates, go to fisherspeakstatepark.com.
In addition, Trinidad holds bragging rights to one of the country’s best skate parks, a 14,000-foot slice of paradise for skateboarding fanatics.
For more information:
Colorado Welcome Center
309 Nevada Ave, Trinidad, CO
A.R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art
Santa Fe Trail Museum