Area Information

Come Visit Westcliffe!

The Wet Mountain Valley in south central Colorado lies between the Wet Mountains to the east and the Sangre de Cristo mountain range to the west. The towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff sit at an elevation of 7800', and look up to nearby peaks of 14,000' and beyond. The Sangre de cristo mountains receive the bulk of the area's snowfall, and the runoff results in vast mountainside forests of aspen, evergreens and wildflowers along with the lushness of the valley floor.

Though access is not difficult, Westcliffe is certainly off the beaten path. Via paved state roads which tie into US 50 and I-25, Denver is only 3 hours away, Colorado Springs 1 and 1/2 hours to the northeast, and Pueblo only one hour to the east. Most county roads are dirt and gravel, and maintained for year round access.

Westcliffe is not really a "resort" town, but essentially a ranching and farming community. Production of livestock and grains generate most of the valley's revenues. However, a substantial number of Westcliffe residences are seasonal or recereational. Although sparsely populated, the community offers a library, public school system and cultural events from rodeos to Jazz, art shows to live theater. There is a wide range of social, civic, and church groups in which to participate as a resident or as a visitor to Westcliffe.

Recreational opportunities abound due to the natural topography and pleasant climate: camping and hiking the hundreds miles of trails in the National Forests, including the Rainbow Trail and its offshoots; fishing the numerous pristine mountain creeks and lakes; water sports at Lake DeWeese in town or on the Arkansas River nearby; hunting large and small game throughout the area; mountain climbing; a day at St. Andrews public golf course; horsebackriding on your own or with one of the area outfitters; winter snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. Not too far away you can find hot springs or enjoy alpine skiing at some of the nation's most well known resorts.

To those who live here or just visit, Westcliffe is a special place indeed. The unspoiled beauty, friendly rural atmosphere, dry and sunny climate, numerous recreational opportunities and rich history combine to make a relaxed and comfortable lifestyle which draws and holds those who appreciate an alternative to city living.

About Custer County

"Nil Sine Numine" goes the official motto for Colorado. "Nothing Without Providence."

With that in mind, one could well conclude that the future of Custer County will be as intriguing, fulfilling and as providentially promising as the county's incredibly fascinating past.

Though it's 730 or so square miles make it one of Colorado's smallest counties, Custer County's heritage is out-sized and world-class. From mastadon-hunting bands of ancients to the Spanish conquistadors to the likes of Kit Carson, all have had good reason to spend time in this high mountain valley.

When the first settlers arrived in the Wet Mountain Valley less than 140 years ago, there were vast opportunites-and sometimes vast setbacks-awaiting. Miners, farmers and ranchers, and anyone else willing to work hard could scratch a living amidst this alpine splendor that has beckoned mankind from the beginning.

So it is today. Though ranching remains an important element of the local economy, real estate "for sale" signs have replaced prospector holes as a road to riches. There are no more livery stables or blacksmith shops; today it's the tourist gift shops and espresso cafes that fill the business district. And there's still gold in them thar hills, but now it comes from tourists drawn to our two federal wilderness areas.

In spite of these changes, today's Custer Countian has plenty in common with his or her predecessors: a Western conviction of self reliance and rugged individualism coupled with a strong connection to the great outdoors which defines Custer County as much as anything.

One hundred years ago, real-life threats here included severe weather, geographic isolation, and unstable mining and agriculture markets. Residents these days face not only those challenges, but more modern-day concerns like population growth, water demands and other issues which can impact the valley's very way of life.

Most residents and visitors agree that Custer County is one of the few places left where landscapes have changed little and where modern life meshes so naturally with the past. Protecting the land, the water, and the rural lifestyle here is a goal of nearly everyone.

There's no crystal ball to tell us what Custer County will be like in a decade or a century from now. But if providence continues to shine on us as it has in the past, it's not unreasonable to believe it will be as special a place then as it is now.

Westcliffe - The Wet Mountain Valley

High in the southern Colorado Rockies lies a valley steeped in the traditions and lore that have made southern Colorado inviting to people around the world. With the rolling hills of the Wet Mountains to the east and the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains rising to the west, the Wet Mountain Valley, home of Westcliffe, suggests a place where the pace is a little slower and the people are a little closer to the earth. Originally settled by the German Immigrants in 1869, this valley continues to thrive as a ranching community with many descendents still operating the original homesteads. During the 1870's, silver and gold were discovered in the surrounding hills, and several boom towns sprang up in the sheltered valleys of the Wet Mountains. While the mining days of lore are long gone, the small communities of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff remain with yesterday's buildings restored by private individuals.

Located within reasonable driving distance from the major metropolitan areas of Canon City, Pueblo, and Colorado Springs, Westcliffe offers both residents and visitors a wide variety of activities throughout the year, from hiking the Rainbow Trail in the summer to snowmobiling and ice fishing during the winter months. Fifty-two alpine lakes, accessible by foot, horseback or ATV, await those wishing to cast their lures or just relax and enjoy the purity of the air and the quiet of the forest. Water skiing enthusiasts enjoy scenic Lake DeWeese located 5 miles north of Westcliffe via a paved roadway. In the fall, the gold of the aspen contrast with the blue of the spruce and remind us of the harvest, hayrides, and bonfires to enjoy before settling in for the winter and the silent beauty of the freshly falling snow in the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

While an approximate forty percent of the land in and around Westcliffe is protected by the federal government through the U.S. Forest Service and the Wilderness Act, a wide variety of land and real estate is available for private ownership. The valley floor often reminds us of the gateway to the Great Plains with its wide open vistas while the surrounding Sangre de Cristo mountains offer shelter and seclusion with their aspens and evergreens.

Although the Wet Mountain Valley appears to have remained in times gone by, modern day amenities are readily available and with more than 300 days of sunshine, guarantee alternative solar energy for those choosing to live'off the grid'. Grocery stores, a bowling alley, and fitness/swimming facilities are recent additions to the Westcliffe community and a full range of area events and activities attract both locals and visitors to the area each year. Medical needs are served by a modern clinic, staffed with a full time doctor and nurse practioners. A highly trained EMT ambulance service and volunteer fire department respond to emergency needs.

We invite you to visit Westcliffe, CO. Perhaps your heart, like the hearts of so many others, will be touched by the scenic beauty of the Wet Mountain Valley and you'll decide that 365 sunrises and sunsets in this special place is an experience you don't want to miss.