Hiking, walking, wildlife watching and other nature-based activities. View All
Dress for the season, and bring bug spray and water. View All
South-central Colorado: near the town of Mosca in the San Luis Valley
The ranch is not far from the Great Sand Dunes National Park, site of the tallest sand dunes in North America.
Because it provides landscape-scale conservation of a biologically significant area containing several rare animal and plant species - some found nowhere else in the world.
In 1999, The Nature Conservancy made conservation history by acquiring this preserve, its largest in Colorado.
The Conservancy manages the ranches for two reasons: to protect their significant natural values and to demonstrate how cattle and bison operations can co-exist with conservation efforts.
Staff at the Zapata Ranch focus on:
What to See
Wetlands here provide habitat for numerous bird species such as
Birds: Other species
Imagine seeing thousands of acres of meadows, wetlands, sand dunes and cottonwood groves set against majestic 14,000-foot mountain peaks.
Imagine exploring a stone-age bison-kill site, a prehistoric Native American camp and a historic cattle ranch (still in operation) - all in one place.
If those prospects don't intrigue you, how about walking amidst sand dunes that soar 700 feet into the air?
The San Luis Valley harbors the Great Sand Dunes National Park and constitutes the most biologically significant landscape of its size in Colorado. Wetland ponds can be found among these huge dunes.
This preserve lies within a vast, high-elevation (7,500-foot) basin flanked by not one but two impressive mountain ranges: the San Juans and Sangre de Cristos. Elk share the landscape with a resident bison herd.
There are a couple of ways to see the ranch:
The 1-mile scenic trail is open March-October, dawn to dusk.
If you're scheduled to visit during the summer, dress for extreme heat, pack bug repellent and bring plenty of water. The preserve is best seen via automobile, stopping for short walks along the way. Expect to see both cattle and bison grazing on the Zapata Ranch.
From Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver, & Colorado Springs:
It takes approximately 4.5 hours from Boulder, 4 to 4.5 hours from Denver, about 5 hours from Fort Collins and 2.5 to 3 hours from Colorado Springs.