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La Garita Caldera - 13 Things to Know Before Visiting

La Garita Caldera, Colorado 81130, USA

1 Day Treks

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About La Garita Caldera

La Garita Caldera is a huge volcanic crater in southwest Colorado, about 45 miles wide. It is one of the largest known volcanoes on Earth. Today, the caldera is mostly filled with sedimentary rock, but it still has active geothermal features such as hot springs and fumaroles. The caldera is also home to a number of rare plants and animals. The caldera is located within the La Garita Wilderness area, and it is a popular destination for hikers and climbers.

Things to Do at La Garita Caldera

There are several things to do in and around the caldera, including hiking, camping, fishing, and sightseeing. Hiking trails wind through the area, offering views of the surrounding landscape. Campgrounds provide a place to set up basecamp for exploring the area. And there are several lakes and streams in the vicinity, making it a great place to fish or just enjoy the scenery. La Garita Caldera is also home to a variety of wildlife.  In addition, the area includes several hot springs, which are perfect for soaking after a long day of exploring.

History of La Garita Caldera

The La Garita Caldera is one of a number of calderas that formed during a massive ignimbrite flare-up in Colorado, Utah, and Nevada from 40–18 million years ago, and was the site of massive eruptions about 28.01±0.04 million years ago, during the Oligocene Epoch. The resulting eruption column reached an estimated height of over 50 miles (80 km), making it one of the largest eruptions in Earth's history. Today, the caldera is largely obscured by younger rocks and sediments, but its size and age are still evident in the surrounding landscape. Despite its size and prominence, La Garita Caldera is relatively unknown compared to other volcanoes, due in part to its remote location.

Best Time to Visit La Garita Caldera

The best time to visit La Garita Caldera in Mineral County, Colorado is from late June to early September. During this time, the weather is generally mild and the days are long, allowing visitors to enjoy all that the area has to offer.

Tips for Visiting La Garita Caldera

  1. Start your hike early in the day. The caldera is located at an elevation of 12,000 feet, so it can get very hot during the summer months. Avoiding the midday heat will help you stay comfortable and avoid dehydration.
  2.  Respect closures and posted signs . There are parts of La Garita Caldera that are closed off for safety reasons or to protect fragile ecosystems . Please respect these closures and do not go beyond posted signs or barriers.
  3. Bring a map, as cell phone service is spotty at best within the caldera.
  4. Allow plenty of time to explore, as there's a lot to see and do within the caldera.
  5. The ranger station is a great resource - be sure to stop by and chat with the helpful staff before heading out on any hikes.
  6. campgrounds fill up quickly during peak season - make sure to book your spot in advance if you plan on camping overnight.
  7.  Fishing is allowed in certain areas of the park - be sure to check with the ranger station before wetting your line. 

Interesting Facts and Trivias About La Garita Caldera

  1. It is surrounded by a ring of mountains, including the San Juans, Sangre de Cristos, and Culebra Range.
  2. La Garita Caldera is part of the San Juan Volcanic Field, which includes over 500 volcanoes.
  3. The area devastated by the La Garita eruption is thought to have covered a significant portion of what is now Colorado.
  4. The scale of La Garita volcanism was the second greatest of the Cenozoic era.
  5. La Garita is also the source of at least seven major eruptions of welded tuff deposits over a span of 1.5 million years since the Fish Canyon Tuff eruption. The caldera is also known to have extensive outcrops of a very unusual lava-like rock unit, called the Pagosa Peak Dacite, made of dacite that is very similar to that of the Fish Canyon Tuff. 

How Much Time Did Visitors Spend at La Garita Caldera

If you want to really explore the area and do some prospecting and ruins collecting, you'll need to set aside a full day and more. 

How to Reach La Garita Caldera

 The most common route is to take Highway 160 west from Alamosa, Colorado. This road leads directly to the caldera's rim. Alternatively, visitors can take Highway 149 south from Gunnison, Colorado. This route takes longer but provides stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

Entrance Fee of La Garita Caldera

The entrance fee to the caldera is $10 per person. 

Opening Hours of La Garita Caldera

The caldera is open to the public all year around and visitors can access the caldera via a number of trailheads. 

Attractions Near La Garita Caldera

Rio Grande National Forest
Rio Grande National Forest4.43km from La Garita Caldera

The Rio Grande National Forest spans over 1.8 million acres in a forested ring around the San Luis Valley in south-central Colorado. It encompasses the San Luis Valley, which is the world's largest agricultural alpine valley, as well as one of the world's largest high deserts located around mountains.

Wheeler Geologic Area
Wheeler Geologic Area19.39km from La Garita Caldera

Wheeler Geologic Area is a preservation area located in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. The area is known for its striking geological features, including hoodoos, human-like figures made of rock, and a variety of other sedimentary formations, and interesting geology, which includes a variety of volcanic rocks, as well as minerals and fossils. The area was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1976, and it is now managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Halfmoon Pass
Halfmoon Pass20.77km from La Garita Caldera

Halfmoon Pass is a scenic mountain pass located in Saguache County, situated at an elevation of 12,059 feet and provides stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The area around the pass is popular with hikers, campers, and mountain bikers, and it is also a popular destination for backcountry skiers. Halfmoon Pass is one of several high mountain passes in Colorado that remain open year-round, and it provides access to a number of beautiful alpine lakes.

North Clear Creek Falls
North Clear Creek Falls21.61km from La Garita Caldera

North Clear Creek Falls is a dramatic waterfall near Lake City. In its peak spring and summer season, this waterfall rages over the cliff side. It is a 100+ foot waterfall carved into the landscape of southwestern Colorado. This is not so much a hike as a great place to pull off for a picnic and take in views of what become the most famous waterfall in the Rocky Mountain State.

Rio Grande National Forest
Rio Grande National Forest22.99km from La Garita Caldera

The Rio Grande National Forest spans over 1.8 million acres in a forested ring around the San Luis Valley in south-central Colorado. It is located in southcentral Colorado and remains one of the true undiscovered jewels of Colorado. There are four officially designated wilderness areas lying within Rio Grande National Forest that are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. All of them extend partially into neighboring National Forests.

La Garita Wilderness
La Garita Wilderness23.17km from La Garita Caldera

La Garita Wilderness is a federally protected wilderness area established in 1980 and covers a total of 37,000 acres. The area is known for its rugged mountain terrain, as well as its abundant wildlife. Visitors to the region can enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, and horseback riding. It is also home to several rare plant and animal species, including the Gunnison sage grouse. With its diverse landscapes and abundant recreation opportunities, this Wilderness is a cherished natural treasure.

Where is La Garita Caldera

Discover More Attractions in Mineral County, Where La Garita Caldera Is Located

Mineral County
Mineral County
7 attractions

Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Mineral County is a popular tourist destination for outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes. Hiking, biking, fishing, camping, and birdwatching are all popular activities in the area, and there are plenty of opportunities to view wildlife in their natural habitat. The county is also home to several hot springs, making it a perfect place to relax and rejuvenate after a long day of exploring. In addition to its natural beauty, Mineral County also boasts a ri