South Central Colorado: Places to Explore

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Trinidad

If you're traveling on I–25 and want to stop for a night in a historic town with character instead of a motel on the outskirts of a bigger city, check out Trinidad. Walk around Corazon de Trinidad, the downtown area where some of the streets still have the original bricks—instead of pavement—and visit a few of the town's four superb museums, a remarkably large number for a town of about 9,100 residents. Trinidad was founded in 1861 as a rest-and-repair station along the Santa Fe Trail. Starting in 1878 with the construction of the railroad and the development of the coal industry, the town grew and expanded during the period from 1880 to 1910. But the advent of natural gas, coupled with the Depression, ushered in a gradual decline in population. Since the 1990s there’s been a modest increase in the population and a major interest in the upkeep of the city's rich cultural heritage. Although newcomers are moving in and Trinidad is coming to life again, with restaurants, cafés, and galleries, the streets in the heart of town are still paved with brick, keeping a sense of the town's history alive.

Southern Colorado played a major role in opening up the West, through the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail. Bent's Fort was the most important stop between the route's origin in Independence, Missouri, and its terminus in Santa Fe, New Mexico. U.S. 50 roughly follows its faded tracks from the Kansas border to La Junta, where U.S. 350 picks up the trail, traveling southwest to Trinidad. If you detour onto the quiet county roads, you can still discern its faint outline over the dip of arroyos, and with a little imagination, conjure up visions of the pioneers.

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