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On top of the world

Discover Westcliffe in the Colorado Mountains

Article by Kathy Slemp

Photography by Kathy Slemp

Originally published in Tulsa Lifestyle

Longing for some time away from the hustle and bustle of Tulsa life and stress of social distancing? There’s a tiny, picturesque town named Westcliffe enveloped in between the Wet and Sangre de Cristo mountain ranges in the Colorado Mountains with unbelievable views, an old western vibe and plenty of time to relax. If relaxing isn’t on your list of things to do, there is plenty to keep you busy.

If driving, you’ll have to take a break at the Gloss Mountain State Park near Fairview, Oklahoma for a hike up Cathedral Mountain offering a spectacular view of the valley floor. “Miles of prairie floor stretch out as far as the eye can see, broken up only by the native red dirt and sparse green shrubbery.”-TravelOK. I had to stop twice, on the way to and from Colorado, as the scenery changes with the sun depending on the time of day. If you prefer to fly, there is a small airport that accommodates jets and small planes. Visit SilverWestAirport.com for more information.

When you drive into Westcliffe, you are greeted by a quaint main street dotted with restaurants, galleries, a local grocery store, and places to stay with gorgeous views of the mountains.

The sky at night is amazing. “Since the mountain ranges shield Westcliffe and nearby Silver Cliff from light pollution in the region, the communities are the first in Colorado to be recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association for their exemplary stargazing opportunities.”-Colorado.com.

If mountain climbing is on your bucket list, there are five 14,000-foot peaks, known as the Crestone Group. If you need equipment, visit All the Range Mountaineering and Outdoor Gear store for the best equipment for what you are planning to do. Ask for owner Thomas Dimler who is extremely knowledgeable and can help you plan your excursion or visit them on facebook.com/AlltheRangemountaineering.

The area is also home to 200 miles of hiking and biking trails and 54 alpine lakes so if you enjoy camping, cross country skiing, boating, hiking, mountain biking, exploring, and just about anything outdoors, this is the place for you.

You’ll have to take a side trip to Bishop Castle. This quirky castle, a bizarre feat of architecture and engineering, has lots to explore, hundreds of stone and metal spiral stairs to climb and amazing views. Jim Bishop has been building the mid-evil castle by hand since 1969 and it’s free to visit and explore.

There are several day trips that can be planned. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is “open all day and night year round, the tallest dunes in North America are the centerpiece in a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra.”-NPS.gov.

Take a breathtaking journey on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, well worth the two hour drive to get there. “Built in 1880 and little changed since, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is the finest and most spectacular example of steam era mountain railroading in North America. Its equipment, structures and vast landscape exist today as if frozen in the first half of the twentieth century.”- CumbresToltec.org.

Depending on the time of year, you can also visit the Monarch Mountain ski area if you enjoy skiing the slopes and sipping on hot chocolate.

Complete your visit by staying at Uluru Ranch, a dome shaped Airbnb home just outside of town situated on 40 acres across  from Lake DeWeese in the  DeWeese Reservoir State Wildlife Area. The boating and fishing lake is within walking distance. The views from the deck surrounding the home are breathtaking and if you hike up the mountain behind the house, the views give you the feeling of being on top of the world. The inside is spacious and rustic with 3 levels. The owner can answer any questions you may have about the area and can recommend various things to do and see. Visit airbnb.com/rooms/39590219 to see more information.

Places to eat while visiting Westcliffe

1. Chappys Mountain View Bar & Grill

A great downtown Westcliffe restaurant and bar with flame cooked steaks, burgers, chicken, dogs and brat's, served with homemade sides or fresh cut french fries.

2. Hunger Buster

A little jewel for the best hamburgers and milkshakes in the area.

3. Tony’s Mountain Pizza

Offers a wide variety of specialty pizzas and "build your own" as well as appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches and more.

4. Sugar & Spice Mountain Bakery

A bakery that has fresh-baked pies, pastries, freshly baked breads and delicious quiches as well as delicious sandwiches, ice cream and souvenirs.

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