For having the lofty claim of being Colorado’s oldest town, San Luis is easy to miss. Between Alamosa and Walsenburg but not exactly close to either, it’s one of those places you have to want to go to, knowing to veer off U.S. 160 for Colorado 159. And not many from the state’s populous Front Range want to go to San Luis, a tight-knit community of fewer than 700 that doesn’t have much in the way of tourist attractions.
People do come, though, for a proud shrine.
A short trail ascends the Stations of the Cross, a series of 14 bronze statues depicting Christ’s crucifixion. Every Good Friday before Easter, locals and visitors come together for a pilgrimage ending atop the trail at a sparkling chapel. The structure’s domes and spires can be seen from afar — a bold symbol of San Luis’ sacred heritage.
The town traces its history to a Catholic church built in 1851. Religious reminders are seen all over town, even in the distance beyond the sage fields: The mountain range’s name, Sangre de Cristo, means “blood of Christ.” Those peaks lend the humbling views along the trail. And the sculptures, done with detail and emotion by local Huberto Maestas, demand respect, no matter your creed. The Sangre de Cristo Parish, which led the building effort in the 1990s, calls the site “a place of prayer and solace open to members of all faiths and people of good will.”
The Stations of the Cross reside on a mesa that the valley people know as la Mesa de la Piedad y de la Misericordia, “Hill of Piety and Mercy.” The trail shows mercy to all, steadily rising but never steep.
Trip log: 1 mile (out and back), 160 feet elevation gain
Getting there: The trailhead is across the street from the visitor center, 408 Main St., San Luis 81152. Going south on Interstate 25, exit for U.S. 160 west through Walsenburg and continue on the highway until turning south on Colorado 159 in Fort Garland. Continue about 16 miles to San Luis.
FYI: Hiking only. Dogs on leash.
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