Every year, as winter gives way to spring, the San Luis Valley in Colorado comes alive with the annual migration of sandhill cranes. The breathtaking sight of thousands of these graceful birds filling the sky as they fly overhead is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for photographers, bird watchers, and nature enthusiasts alike.
When and Where?
Timing is everything when it comes to the sandhill crane migration in the San Luis Valley. The migration typically takes place between mid-February and mid-April, with the peak occurring in March. During this time, up to 25,000 sandhill cranes descend on the San Luis Valley to rest and feed on the area’s abundant food sources, which include barley fields, potato farms, and wetlands.
One of the best places to witness the sandhill crane migration is at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, located just outside the town of Monte Vista. This 14,000-acre refuge is home to over 200 bird species, including the sandhill crane, making it a prime destination for bird watchers and photographers. The refuge offers a number of hiking trails, boardwalks, and observation decks, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with the sandhill cranes and other wildlife.
More to See
While in the area, another must-see destination for nature enthusiasts is the Great Sand Dunes National Park. This stunning national park, located just a short drive from the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America, towering over 700 feet above the valley floor. The park’s diverse landscapes, which include grasslands, wetlands, and forests, provide a habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, including black bears, bighorn sheep, and of course, sandhill cranes. The park offers a range of hiking trails, including an easy walk to the top of the sand dunes for breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valley.
If you’re looking for even more stunning scenery during your visit to the San Luis Valley, be sure to add North Clear Creek Falls to your itinerary. Located just a short drive from the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, North Clear Creek Falls is a 100-foot waterfall that cascades into a picturesque canyon. Visitors can take a short hike to a viewing platform that offers incredible views of the falls and the surrounding mountains. This hidden gem is a favorite among photographers and nature lovers, and is a must-see destination for anyone visiting the San Luis Valley.
Tours and Lodging
For those looking for a more immersive experience and/or some photography training, there are a number of photo tours and workshops available that focus specifically on capturing the sandhill crane migration. These tours are led by experienced photographers who know the best locations and times to capture the stunning sight of the sandhill cranes in flight. They also provide tips and techniques for capturing the perfect shot, whether you’re shooting with a DSLR or just your smartphone.
If you’re looking for accommodations near the San Luis Valley, there are a number of options available, including hotels, motels, and campgrounds. For those looking for a more unique experience, there are also a number of glamping options available, which offer all the comforts of a hotel room, while still allowing visitors to experience the beauty of the valley up close. Some of the most popular glamping options in the area include tipis, yurts, and Airstream trailers.
No matter how you choose to experience the sandhill crane migration in the San Luis Valley, one thing is for certain – it’s an experience you’ll never forget. The beauty of the valley, combined with the majesty of the sandhill cranes in flight, makes this a photographer’s paradise and a bird watcher’s dream come true. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a novice looking to capture the perfect shot, the San Luis Valley is the perfect destination for anyone interested in experiencing the wonder of nature up close.