The Ute loved it first -- this broad Wet Mountain Valley, alive with game and grass. Then the trappers and the mountain men; Kit Carson camped on Grape Creek, Zebulon Pike's expedition wintered here, and how many others? Spaniards too, who named the ranges: the Sierra Mojadas to the east, and the soaring Sangre de Cristos to the west. The Ute left the area with the arrival of the settlers. The miners came in the great boom of the 1870's and 1880's and made Silver Cliff a town and a legend, and for a short time the third largest city in Colorado. They mined, some got rich, some went broke, and they too left the area. The railroads came, and with them development of the town of Westcliffe. No trains remain, but the towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff continue as vital rural communities nestled in the lovely valley.
The Wet Mountain Valley is situated between the Wet Mountains (Sierra Mojadas) on the east and the northern one-third of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the west. The area is uniquely beautiful. The Sangre de Cristo range contains numerous peaks stretching above 13,000 feet, several that go beyond 14,000 feet, rising from the valley floor at 7,800 feet. Fifty-two alpine lakes and 370 miles of winding streams tempt the angler; hiking/back-packing trails ascend each peak/drainage from The Rainbow Trail that runs along the length of the range. The wilderness area is a magnet attracting enthusiasts from near and far to experience the wonders of this magnificent country.
"Wet Mountain Valley" is a misnomer, as the area has relatively low humidity and an average precipitation of 17 inches. The climate is normally pleasant, with over 320 days of sunshine per year. Even so, the snow melt and high ground water table keep the valley floor green most years.
Great stands of aspen carpet the ranges and contrast beautifully with the variety of evergreens, scrub oak and cottonwood. Delicate fields of wildflowers make their home not only on the valley floor, but high in the alpine tundra: wild iris (blue flags) in early June; lupine, columbine and Indian paintbrush in mid-summer; fairy trumpets, cattails, and sunflowers later. Autumn with the rusty oak, spun-gold aspen, and deep green conifers below that first snow on the Sangres is indeed a striking visual impression.
Custer County is in south-central Colorado. Westcliffe, the county seat, is 56 miles west of Pueblo and 80 miles southwest of Colorado Springs. Access to the valley is not difficult, but it is certainly off the beaten track and has escaped the discovery of most of the country's residents. The valley maintains its rural qualities while remaining within reasonable proximity to several urban areas. Denver and its airport are 3 hours by car to the north. Pueblo, Canon City, or Salida are just one hour away. Westcliffe is located two hours from the New Mexico border, and a day trip to Taos takes three hours. Despite the imposing mountain range, there are no mountain passes to contend with when visiting the valley. Westcliffe is not a "resort town." The valley is a ranching community, with the production of hay and livestock generating much of the valley's revenues. The current population is 4,000 or so. Locals and visitors enjoy music festivals, galleries, live theater, fiber arts shows, the annual stampede rodeo and the close proximity of rafting, snow skiing, and "big city" amenities.
Click Here to view a list of our business partners that offer goods and services in the Westcliffe area. Towns in Custer County include: Westcliffe, Silver Cliff, Wetmore, Greenwood, San Isabel, and several "ghost towns" from days gone by -- Querida, Rosita, Ula, Colfax and Fairview. For more information about the area or for a free buyer relocation packet, click here.