Las Animas County has a lot of square footage and a lot to see
Writer’s note: For the next several weeks we will be focusing on Southern Colorado counties where they came from, what they have to offer and why more Coloradoans should pay them a visit. In this fifth edition we explore Colorado’s largest county, Las Animas County.
With a bounteous 4,749 square miles Las Animas County is the largest county in Colorado. One of the original counties in Colorado, the Southern Colorado behemoth was one of the main stops along the Santa Fe Trail for trappers, miners and migrant workers heading west. The county seat is in Trinidad, which has significant popularity of its own as Al Capone, Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp all played a part in making up the city’s history.
The name for the county is derived from the Spanish named of the Purgatoire River, which is El Río de las Animas Perdidas en Purgatorio or “River of the Lost Souls in Purgatory.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the most recent population estimates place Las Animas at 14,058, one of the most populated counties in Southern Colorado. That total is down by almost 10 percent from the 15,507 in 2010. Demographically 42.6 of the population are Hispanic while 52.4 percent are Caucasian.
As many Southern Colorado counties, the expansive Las Animas County relies heavily on agriculture as its main economic source. According to the county website it’s the idea of farming ones own land and rural living that has attracted many newcomers to the area. That said, many more have left over the decades as population booms from coal mining and exploration brought in thousands of residents during the early 1900s. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county’s population peaked in the 1920s with a reported 38,975 residents more than double the county’s current population.
Though the average elevation of 6,005 feet in Las Animas isn’t much higher than cities and towns that make up Metro Denver, the area enjoys a decent amount of precipitation throughout the year, according to Sperling’s Best Places. Its 263 sunny days are on par with the rest of the state while its snowfall of 95 inches per year is on par with some of the states more mountainous counties. With a comfort index of 72, the county ranks among the most comfortable in the state.
Much of Las Animas County’s recreation lies in the city of its county seat, Trinidad. To the west of the city is lake country, making it ideal for fishing, boating, swimming, water skiing, wind surfing, camping, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and wildlife watching. Numerous trails take visitors through mountain peaks, which during the summer can create impressive views of the pine, spruce, cedar and aspen trees that make up surrounding forests.
To the east of Trinidad visitors will find the mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail. As one of the three major trails in western history, the Santa Fe Trail served as one of essential passage through Trinidad and Las Animas County. Another highlight of the region is the wildlife. Visitors to the Comanche National Grasslands can often catch glimpses of golden eagles and the swift fox.
Further south visitors can hike into an extinct volcano and follow sky-skimming roads across the mesas.
Professional and novice singers make up Trinidad’s Community Chorale, which presents free spring and winter concerts in the city. Their programs run the musical gamut from Handel’s “Messiah” performed with an accompanying orchestra to “100 Years of Broadway” with an accompanying band.
The Trinidad Area Arts Center (TAAC) cooperates with other local groups to create, sponsor, promote and stage cultural activities in all the arts. The program sponsors the Children’s Summer Arts and Theatre Programs; coordinates the Art in Schools Program, which provides more than 1,000 student hours of art instruction by local artists in Trinidad schools; and cosponsors with Trinidad State Junior College, which features a public event that showcases K-12 poetry, short stories and essays.
For more information on Las Animas country visit