At over 200,000 acres, the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness is the third largest wilderness area in Colorado. Located northeast of Alamosa, the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness was designated as a national wilderness area by the United States Congress in 1993.
This massive wilderness is managed by both the United States Forest Service and National Park Service. It resides in both the Rio Grande and San Isabel national forests, as well as the Great Sand Dunes Park & Preserve.
In Spanish, Sangre de Cristo means “Blood of Christ”. Although there is no clear source for why it was named as such, the name still stands as a testament to the historical significance of the wilderness area to Spanish settlers who came to this land.
National Wilderness Area near Alamosa County
The most notable aspect of the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness is undeniably its ferocious topography. Within this wilderness can be found four fourteener peaks all grouped together in close proximity to one another.
Crestone Group – These peaks are known as the Crestone Group and amongst these fourteener peaks is the Creston Needle, rising to 14,197 feet. It’s considered by many hikers to be the most difficult peak to climb in the state.
While hikers will enjoy the challenging peaks in the Crestone Group, anglers will also enjoy a visit to the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness as it features several melted snow-made lakes and creeks where they can sit back and fish to their heart’s content.
Lake of the Clouds – Stunning backcountry spot found about an hour’s drive west of Westcliffe, plus a 10+ mile hiking loop to reach the lake and back. Nestled at 11,500 feet of elevation, this lake sits between two others, making the trio known as the “Lakes of the Clouds”.
Wildlife – Wildlife is abundant in the wilderness. Bighorn sheep, elk and mule deer are all common sightings within the Sangre de Cristos, but be careful as predatory animals such as lions and bears also wander around.
With its impressing depth and breadth, the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness will surely have something for everyone. It can be accessed from a variety of points, including both the west and east sides.
Season: Year round
Management: USFS & NPS