Westcliffe, the Wet Valley, and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
“From a distance, the lofty peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Range resemble the razor sharp teeth of a giant cross-cut saw. A closer examination reveals a world of shimmering lakes, dense pine forests and countless miles of trails ideal for horseback exploration.”
Bear Basin Ranch is located in Custer County, Colorado (about 1.5 hours south and west of Colorado Springs). The ranch is nestled in the heart of the Wet Mountains, which overlook the Wet Valley to the west and run parallel to theSangre de Cristo National Wilderness Area. About 20 minutes away to the west, in the center of the Wet Valley lies Westcliffe, the capitol of Custer County.
Located in south central Colorado, Custer County is one of the least populous counties in the state. At an average elevation of 7,888 feet, the county stretches from the heights of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains on the west to the heights of the Wet Mountains on the east, and from the rim of the Arkansas River Valley on the north to the rim of the Huerfano River Valley to the south.
County residents include a mixture of cattle ranchers and hay growers, folks who enjoy rural mountain living, and of course, the folks who live in the towns. Over the past decade, our population has expanded to include a large number of “retirees,” some year ’round residents, and others with summer homes. The fresh mountain air, clear skies, andfriendly people make this Valley a favorite for folks to come for horseback riding Colorado from all over the world. Hiking trails are numerous, many leading to a secluded lake where fishing becomes a real joy. According to the U.S. Census, the population of Custer County in 2000 was about 3,500 – that’s about 4.7 people per square mile!
Westcliffe, and the adjoining town of Silver Cliff, were founded during the mining days of the late 1800’s. Gold and silver were found on the site of the Ghost town “Rosita” where many locals go horseback riding in Colorado and it is located about 10 miles southeast of Westcliffe. The town of Rosita quickly grew to have a population of more than 3,000 hardy individuals . Not long after, a major silver strike was made lower down in the Valley and Silver Cliff was born. The mining activities in the Valley grew to such proportions that Railroad spur lines were brought into the Valley from the north – initially along Grape Creek and later from Texas Creek. In the years that followed, after the mines played out, only Silver Cliff and Westcliffe survived. Today, the estimated populations of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff combined is about 2,000 people.
Sangre de Cristo National Wilderness Area
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains are one of the longest mountain chains on Earth. The mountains were pushed up about 27 million years ago, pretty much as one big chunk of rock. With major fault lines running north-south along both sides of the range, the Sangres stretch from Poncha Pass, Colorado, in the north to Glorieta Pass, New Mexico, in the south. On the west side is the San Luis Valley – a flat, unbroken plot of ranch and farmland the size of the state of Connecticutwith the Rio Grande river running right down the middle. On the east side is the Wet Valley and the Raton Basin with a quiet but still active volcanic field.
There are ten peaks over 14,000′ high in the range to go horseback riding in Colorado near Westcliffe and more than two dozen over 13,000′. Miles and miles of excellent alpine hiking trails through millions of acres of the San Isabel, Rio Grande, Carson, and Santa Fe National Forests. The Sangre de Cristo, Wheeler Peak, Latir Peak, Pecos, and Spanish Peaks Wilderness Areas are found here, as well as Great Sand Dunes National Park. Some of the best rock climbing, snow skiing, horseback riding and whitewater rafting on Earth are also right here. The Trinchera elk herd is one of the largest in the world. Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep are found all through the range and Fly Fisherman enjoy the Gold Medal waters.
Distances from Surrounding Cities and Towns
Directions to the Ranch
(from Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Howard & Walsenburg)
Map to Bear Basin Ranch
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