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      Close to Heaven… Down to Earth

 



The Scenic Highway of Legends
A Colorado & National Forest Service Scenic Byway

From Stonewall to Cuchara Pass

Monument Lake
Monument Lake

From Stonewall, the Scenic Highway of Legends goes through the Dakota Wall
and turns north, climbing steadily and shortly passing Monument Lake Park
(the lake is named for the Dakota Formation monument that was sticking up in the
middle of it. The monument fell over in the winter of 1999-2000). Monument Lake
is owned by the City of Trinidad and is part of its water supply. The lake is a
natural body of water made deeper by man. The buildings surrounding the lake are
part of a resort built by the WPA in 1937.

Mt. Maxwell
Mts. Mariquita, Maxwell and Cuatro

From Monument Lake the Byway continues north a couple of miles to North Lake State
Wildlife Area (trophy fishing lake and Trinidad city water supply). Just south of
North Lake is the Forest Service Access Road leading to Purgatoire Campground and
the south end of the San Isabel National Forest. You might miss the first road west
to Purgatoire but you won’t miss the beaver ponds before the second road west. The
North Fork Trail leaves out of Purgatoire Campground along the streambed of the
North Fork of the Purgatoire River, going north to the Trinchera Peak trail. About
a mile up this trail is where access to Cuatro Peak is easiest. If you want to climb
Maxwell, it was that jeep trail heading up the hill to the west, about 1/4 mile
below the campground.

North Lake State Wildlife Area
North Lake

Constructed in 1907, North Lake was created to supply water to the City of Trinidad.
The lake is also a State Wildlife Area and is home to four species of trout: Rainbow,
Cutthroat, Kokanee and Brown.

Aspens in the fall

The highway continues past North Lake and continues climbing almost steadily to
Cuchara Pass (elevation: 9,995 feet). There are very few buildings along
this stretch of road but the views are gorgeous. Lots of wildlife, lots of wildflowers.
Except for the North Lake and Monument Lake areas, nearly all of the land along
the highway is private.

The highway doesn’t touch National Forest until the summit of Cuchara Pass. At the
summit of the pass is where the other branch of the Scenic Highway of Legends: from Aguilar over Cordova Pass to Cuchara Pass, comes out.

The route the Byway takes over Cuchara Pass was a Native American trail used as
early as 1779. In 1865, Henry Daigre hired Hiram Vasquez to construct a wagon road
from La Veta to Stonewall over the pass. In 1883 this road became a mail route connecting
the several little post offices upstream of Trinidad along the Purgatoire River
in Las Animas County to the Cuchara Valley, La Veta and points beyond.