La Veta sits on the eastern side of La Veta Pass through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and at the northern opening of the Cuchara River Valley. A busy trading center a century ago, La Veta is now known for its community of artists and ranchers and breathtaking scenery.
La Veta may be small and laid-back, but it’s also the art hub of the Spanish Peaks Region. Galleries featuring local, national, and international artists dot La Veta’s quaint Main Street. Visitor and locals are also encouraged to explore the class offerings at the La Veta School for the Arts, where well-known, respected instructors teach anything from photography and painting to more unique offerings like Navajo sand painting and bronze clay jewelry making.
The Great Dikes of the Spanish Peaks—large, vertical granite formations that radiate outward from the Spanish Peaks—surround La Veta. The numerous walking and biking trails in La Veta showcase the town’s scenery, which is unique to this pocket of Colorado.
Visit La Veta in July for the Spanish Peaks Music Festival or during the first weekend in October to experience La Veta Oktoberfest, a more than 30-year-old tradition featuring a German Biergarten and dancing in the streets.
La Veta History
In 1862, a former sutler with the US Army at Fort Garland, Col. John M. Francisco, and Judge Henry Daigle built Fort Francisco on land purchased from the Vigil-St. Vrain Land Grant, significantly south and west of most of the San Luis Valley-bound traffic.
Originally, the Fort was a complete square built around an open plaza in the center. The only gateway opened to the north. The Fort was built of adobe one foot thick, with dirt floors and dirt roofs with parapets for defense.
As more settlers moved into this beautiful and fertile valley, the Fort increased in importance as shelter from Indians and as the commercial center for the area. The first Post Office, named Spanish Peaks, opened in the Plaza in 1871. By 1875 the Indian threat was almost completely gone.
In 1876, the narrow-gauge railroad came through La Veta several blocks north of the Fort on its way westward through the newly surveyed La Veta Pass. In 1877 the permanent rail depot was built beside the rails and the business community slowly moved north to it.
Cool fact: For many years, this stretch of line between La Veta and Wagon Creek was the highest in the world. The old grade can still be seen to the west of La Veta and higher up across Old La Veta Pass. The old depot building at the summit is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The 1877 La Veta Depot that stands next to Main Street by the tracks was brought down from the top of Old La Veta Pass and installed in town where it was refurbished and converted into the new La Veta Town Hall.