Seemingly, Colorado’s got a breathtaking natural landmark around every turn in the Rockies. However, some are more unique than others, like the Natural Arch close to Del Norte in La Garita, a rural village in the San Luis Valley.
You can visit this incredible natural landmark year round, though the forest road back is not plowed in the winter and the area can get a decent amount of snowfall. 2WD, low-clearance is suitable for non-winter driving, but 4WD and/or snow tires is recommended if you’re looking to chance it in the snowy season.
You can park at the base of the Natural Arch, within about a quarter of a mile hike uphill to reach it. It’s easy going and the sights become more spectacular the higher you gain. 360° views afford you lots to see, including the staggering Sangre De Cristo Mountains, part of the Continental Divide, miles and miles across the San Luis Valley.
Other sights in the Penitente Canyon area include numerous petroglyphs, hikes, rock climbing, camping, and a nifty Trading Post serving the best burgers in the San Luis Valley. The closest real town is Del Norte, which offers a small amount of lodging, shopping and dining, including a microbrewery, Three Barrel Brewing.
Getting to Del Norte’s Natural Arch
You’ll see a sign for La Garita off Highway 112 about five miles north of Del Norte. It’s 11.5 miles from 112 to the Natural Arch.
After turning from 112 on County Road 33, follow for 6 or 7 miles, then take a left on Forest Road 660, you’ll see a sign for Natural Arch/Old Woman Creek/FR 660. It’s also marked A32 by a road sign. Follow that to Forest Road 659, marked by a Natural Arch sign, take a right. Follow that back to the parking area and the trailhead.