March 12 @ 10:30 am - 2:30 pmFree
BLM Penitente Canyon Recreation Area: Explore the rock walls and pinnacles of the Penitente Canyon Recreation Area, which is managed by the San Luis Valley BLM Field Office, located in Monte Vista. Penitente Canyon harbors nearly 300 world-class climbing routes that test the abilities and endurance of technical rock climbers some of whom may be present during our visit. The rocks in Penitente Canyon are remnants of up to 18 volcanic eruptions that took place in the San Juan Volcanic Field between 20 and 30 million years ago. The largest of these eruptions spewed 1,000 cubic miles of ash 27.8 million years ago, creating a huge underground chamber. Rocks overlying the chamber collapsed to create the La Garita Caldera.
There is an extensive trail system at Penitente that offers excellent hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. The trails wander through juniper, pinion, and ponderosa pine woodlands where resident wildlife species associated with these habitat types may be present for viewing during our tour. Keep your eyes open for unique species such as canyon wrens and prairie falcons. The expansive view of the San Luis Valley and Sangre de Cristo range to the east is sure to be awe-inspiring. For an extended stay, a developed campground and primitive camping are both available.
Penitente Canyon has a unique history as a spiritual haven for a Spanish religious group long ago. In the more recent past, the “Virgin de Guadalupe” was painted onto one of the canyon walls. In addition, the Old Spanish National Historic Trail, formerly a 19th-century Mexican trade route, passes by this area. Pictographs made by Ute, Jicarilla Apache, and Puebloans are visible in the area.