Nestled in one of the southernmost counties of Colorado lays the town of Cuchara.
With just a few hundred people who actually live there, the town thrives off tourism and the beautiful nature all around it.
My family has come to Cuchara for generations. My father tells me stories about when his parents would take him there, and I’m hoping to one day pass stories along to my children.
We always stay at Yellow Pines Ranch. It’s log cabin-livin’ and surrounded by forests, streams, and mountains. It’s a beautiful place to hike and ride horses.
The picturesque scenery makes for perfect family photos down by the lake during the day, but just wait until it gets to be night time.
Another beautiful part about Cuchara is looking up at the mountains and seeing where the ski resort used to be. Part of me really wants that ski resort to open back up, because that would give me just another thing to do when I come to town. But we’ll see!
Never in my life have I seen the stars like I have in Cuchara. We take a drive up to Cuchara Pass where it’s quiet and there’s no people or lights. I swear, you can see the whole Milky Way. You’ll also see a bunch of confident cows standing near the road as you drive by. You just slowly drive on by and wave em’ hello.
The business owners are always friendly and welcome you in with open arms. We love going to the Dog Bar & Grill for a nice burger, wings, and pizza. Google says the restaurant is currently “temporarily closed,” but if you’re heading to Cuchara I’d recommend giving them a call at (719) 742-6366 or messaging them on Facebook.
My most recent trip in August of 2020 was different than all the others. We finally decided to hike the West Spanish Peak. This was one of those monumental moments for me. I used to tell my dad as a kid, “Dad, one day you and I are going to climb that mountain.” I made sure to fulfill that promise.
For months and months, my sister and I trained to climb the mountain. We’d go on hikes with my nieces strapped in to backpacks, and carry them up for extra resistance. We went fairly often, and couple that with regular walks and plenty of workouts in the gym, we thought we were good.
We were wrong.
I don’t have a ton of experience climbing mountains. I’d consider myself a moderate hiker and did some mountain climbing on high-school summer trips, but nothing like this. In total, the trip probably took us 7-8 hours. For roughly 1-2 hours, you’re walking through pastures, woods, and eventually a windy path up a hill to the tree line. That’s the easy part.
Now you’ve got an uphill battle on the mountainside. The hardest part isn’t even the steepness of the mountain, but the rocks shifting underneath your feet. If you’re going to climb the mountain, with an elevation of 13,631, you better have really good hiking boots. We also had a set of walking sticks each that came in handy. There comes a point where you wonder if you’re ever gonna make it. You don’t really know how close you are, but you just have to keep trudging on. You have to trust the hikers before you, who have kindly put together rock formations that guide you on the path to take.
Finally, you’ve made it to the top. Take a look around. Breathe it in.
Look down upon the East Spanish Peak and say “I’m higher than you.” Take a panorama photo on your cell phone. At this point, you’re even with the beautiful blue skies and the clouds. Enjoy the victory. But don’t forget, you have to walk back down.
At this point, your legs are sore and your ankles feel weak, but the trek down the mountain is much easier than the trip up it.
Also remember to bring plenty of water on your hike, snacks for along the way, and at least one “lunch.” We thought we brought enough water, which was 5 bottles each, we were wrong once again.
Funny story; my dad thought my mom packed him a lunch. He was ALSO wrong. That definitely caused the hangry bear to come out, but he survived, so that’s good at least.
I’d definitely train for months before attempting a hike like this. Spend the extra money on some legitimate hiking boots, and dress accordingly. When we left for the mountain around 5:30 in the morning, it was pretty cold. By the time I got up the mountain, I was hot and sweaty and wanted to take my jacket off. But then of course the wind picked up while we were hiking and caused us to cool back down. It’s truly a back and forth of warming up and cooling down.
All in all, I’d highly recommend anyone to travel to Cuchara, Colorado at least once in your life. It’s different than your typical Vale, Denver, Colorado Springs, Steamboat Springs, etc. It’s a great place to free your mind and truly take some time to relax. Once you leave, you’ll already be ready to come back.
Let me know about some of your 2022 travel goals, good luck to you, and Godspeed.