The world’s largest alpine valley lies in Colorado

This aerial image shows the contrast between the San Luis Valley and the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, which reaches an elevation of more than 14,000 feet. For reference, the valley floor is roughly 7,664 feet above sea level. Photo Credit: Pavliha (iStock)

Stretching 122 miles long and 74 miles wide, the San Luis Valley is the world’s largest alpine valley with a depositional basin of approximately 8,000 square miles. Making this massive valley even more unique is that it’s found more than a mile above sea-level – at an average elevation of roughly 7,664 feet.

The world’s largest alpine valley lies in Colorado

A hay field in the agricultural region known as the San Luis Valley of central Colorado, has been freshly cut, creating graceful patterns on the ground, with potato fields in the background and the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop. Photo Credit: chapin31 (iStock).

Said to be formed approximately 26 million years ago, this valley was once a large lake. That lake drained several hundred thousand years ago via the Rio Grande River.

The world’s largest alpine valley lies in Colorado

Picnic shelters dot the scrubby, open landscape of San Luis. Photo Credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The San Luis Valley is home to a number of attractions, including the Great Sand Dunes National Park and a large alligator rescue. A large number of UFO sightings also occur in this valley, which makes it no surprise that the spot is home to the UFO Watchtower.

The world’s largest alpine valley lies in Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Photo Credit: Christian Collins (Flickr)

Another feature that makes this valley unique is the size of the mountains that surround much of it. Reaching to elevations above 14,000 feet at several points, the Sangre de Cristo mountain range is one of the most beautiful geographical features found in Colorado.

The world’s largest alpine valley lies in Colorado

Downtown Alamosa. Photo Credit: Jacob Boomsma (iStock).

If you’re planning a visit to the San Luis Valley, stop by a town like Alamosa or Del Norte. You’ll also be able to find ample camping in this part of the state during warmer months of the year. Beware of a cold and windy winter.


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