Huerfano County, Colorado

Towns and Villages in
Huerfano County

Attractions in
Huefano County

Las Animas County, Colorado

Towns and Villages in
Las Animas County

Attractions in
Las Animas County


Southern Colorado
Your Guide to Las Animas County and Huerfano County in Southern Colorado

Photo courtesy of R. Michael Babnick Photography

Spanish Peaks

The Spanish Peaks are wwo isolated masses of granite that rise 7,000 feet above the plains between Trinidad and Walsenburg. Great dikes radiate out from these mountains like spokes of a wheel. The Indians called these peaks Wahatoya, meaning "breasts of the world." They predate the nearby Sangre de Cristo range by more than a million years.

The Spanish Peaks are among the most important landmarks of the southwestern United States, guiding Native American tribes, Spanish and French trappers, gold seekers, hunters, and settlers. The Ute, Comanche, Apache, and earlier Native Americans considered the Peaks a place of religious significance. Even the ancient Aztecs believed the Peaks were a source of hidden treasure.

The first Europeans to explore the Spanish Peaks region came north from Santa Fe in 1706, 100 years before Zebulon Pike discovered Pikes Peak. Then the area was quiet until after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Pike was sent to explore the new territory and just barely got here before the trappers and traders. The Santa Fe Trail was established in 1821 with the Spanish Peaks as guideposts to travelers along the Mountain and Taos Branches of the Trail. From Bent's Old Fort the Mountain Branch went southwest past the Peaks through Trinidad and over Raton Pass and on to Cimarron, Wagon Mound, Las Vegas, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Taos Trail passed north of the Peaks along the Huerfano River, up Oak Creek and over La Veta Pass to the San Luis Valley and then south to Taos, New Mexico. Explorers, lawmen, gunslingers, and mountain men with names like Kit Carson, Black Jack Ketchum, Wild Bill Hickock, John Freemont, Zane Grey, William Bent, and Bat Masterson traveled the area frequently.

Taking a breather half-way up the west Spanish Peak. Photo courtesy of R. Michael Babnick Photography

Sedimentary Rock

Millions of years ago the area that is now the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains was at the bottom of an inland sea. Thousands of feet of sand, silt, mud, clay, and marine fossils were deposited here over the years. When the mountain building process began and the area began to rise, these deposits emerged from the water as Sedimentary Rock.

Batholiths and Stocks

Between 30 and 25 million years ago, pressures and stresses built up by continental drift movements caused cracks to form in the sedimentary formations. Molten rock from the mantle beneath the Earth's crust began to surge upward into the lower areas of the cracked formations about 25 million years ago. When the magma cooled and hardened beneath the Earth's surface it formed huge horizontal "Batholiths" of granite. Smaller batholiths are called "Stocks", which is what forms the Spanish Peaks. Several miles of sedimentary rock covered the Spanish Peaks stocks. Over the last 25 million years, uplifts and folds have raised the surface of the land. The elements have eroded away the softer overlying sedimentary rocks and exposed the underlying hard, igneous stocks of the Spanish Peaks. While the surrounding area is marked by many lava flows and volcanic mountains (some of which have been active as recently as 10,000 years ago), the Spanish Peaks are not extinct volcanoes.

About 20 miles to the north-northwest are Mt. Mestas, Rough Mountain and Silver Mountain. All of these mountains are also stocks. In a line running north from Rough Mountain is Sheep and Little Sheep Mountains, also stocks from the same magma flows.


When the molten magma was rising in the Earth it was also moving through vertical cracks and joints, spreading out in all directions like the spokes of a wheel. As erosion has occurred these dikes have become exposed. They vary from 1 to 100 feet wide and up to 14 miles long. The dikes are a prominent feature of the landscape around the Spanish Peaks.

There are two systems of radial dikes and a separate system of semi-parallel dikes tending N80E in the area. One of the systems of radial dikes is centered on the West Spanish Peak. The other is centered on Silver Mountain. An area east of Silver Mountain, known as the Black Hills, is composed of the same materials as the dikes.


West Spanish Peak

Cities and Towns near Spanish Peaks


Aguilar is situated in the heart of the Apishapa River Valley in south central Colorado, midway between Trinidad and Walsenburg.

La Veta.  La Veta, Colorado is situated on the eastern side of La Veta Pass through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and at the northern opening of the Cuchara River Valley. Just south of town is the foot of the West Spanish Peak. At the southern edge of town is the eighteen hole, Tom Weiskopf designed Grandote Golf Course.

Walsenburg.  Walsenburg is the county seat of Huerfano County. Located between exits 49 and 52 on the I-25, Walsenburg also sits astride US 160, the primary east-west route in Southern Colorado. The town is just east of La Veta Pass, gateway to the San Luis Valley.

Click on a photo to see a larger version.

The Spanish Peaks have captured the imastevetions of travelers for hundreds of years. This souvenir, published in 1916, is a typical tourist promotion of the day. Photo courtesy of Trinidad Graphics.
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