Cielo Vista Ranch
Cielo Vista Ranch is one of the largest, most pristine and distinctive private properties in North America. Stretching 23 miles across the ridgeline of the famed Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the ranch includes the 14,053’ Culebra Peak (the highest privately-owned peak in the U.S.) and eighteen peaks over 13,000.’
- Deeded ownership of Culebra Peak (14,053′) and eighteen 13,000+ foot peaks
- 83,368 deeded acres encompassing 4 life zones, from foothills, montane, sub-alpine to alpine
- Thousands of Elk (many 380″+ have been harvested here)
- Resident herd of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
- Eastern boundary is top of the Sangre de Cristo Range ridgeline for over 22 miles
- Over 100 miles of creeks harboring several species of trout including the indigenous and increasingly uncommon Rio Grande cutthroat
- Mature forest canopy covering 80% of the property (Aspens, Spruce, Fir, Ponderosa, mixed conifer with upland shrubs)
Cielo Vista Ranch spans 83,368 deeded acres of pristine mountain wilderness, with elevations ranging from around 8,000 feet along the western boundary to 14,053 feet at the top of Culebra Peak. The deeded property includes 18 peaks over 13,000 feet in elevation. The ranch enjoys an abundance of critical riparian habitat throughout its numerous high country lakes and 100+ miles of creeks and streams. A magnificent old-growth forest canopy covers approximately 80% of the property. Cielo Vista contains 130 square miles of diverse topography balanced between four distinct life zone ecosystems:
Foothills/Montane Shrublands (8,000’)
This lowest, and westernmost zone of Cielo Vista Ranch rises from the semidesert shrublands of the San Luis Valley. This ecosystem is characterized by low rolling hills covered with Ponderosa and pinon pine, juniper woodlands, open sage/grassland flats, and gambel oak. This life zone offers critical winter habitat for a variety of mammals including elk and mule deer.
Montane Forests (8,000’-10,000’)
Cielo Vista’s montane forest ecosystem dominates the lower-middle quarter of the ranch and is characterized by dense mountain forests of aspen, fir, spruce and ponderosa pine interspersed with small ponds and grassy meadows. Cielo Vista is home to some of the largest aspen stands in the world. Extraordinary old-growth coniferous forests here include Colorado Spruce, Ponderosa Pine, white fir and Douglas Fir (many of which reach heights in excess of 200’ and age between 500 and 1,000 years.) This ecosystem provides critical spring, summer, and fall habitat for a variety of large mammals, including elk, mule deer, bear, and mountain lion. Notable small mammals include lynx, bobcat, coyote, red fox, American Marten, and snowshoe hare.
Subalpine (10,000’ – 11,500’)
Cielo Vista’s upper/middle quarter subalpine ecosystem stretches from the upper edge of the montane forest to the lower edge of the timberline, or alpine ecosystem. Summer in Cielo Vista’s subalpine zone is blessed with a beautiful canvas of wildflowers, including Rocky Mountain Columbine, Indian Paintbrush, Wild Iris, Larkspur and Parry’s Primrose, among others. This life zone provides critical year-round range for a healthy populations of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, and spring-fall range for a variety of other large mammals, including elk, mule deer, bear, and mountain lion. Notable small mammals include lynx, ermine, yellow-bellied marmot, and pine marten.
One of the most unique and compelling aspects of Cielo Vista ranch is its abundance of deeded alpine country, including the imposing 14,053’ Culebra Peak. There are 18 peaks on the ranch with elevations in excess of 13,000’, and numerous 12,000’+ peaks. This imposing chain of rocky peaks, for which the ranch is aptly named Cielo Vista, or “view of heaven,” besets the eastern quarter of the property. This is not a “backdrop.” This is the property itself.
Cielo Vista Ranch is located in south Central Colorado, and borders the New Mexico state line about 10 minutes east of San Luis, Colorado in Costilla County. Alamosa, Colorado, with commercial air service and all general services including a hospital, hotels, and restaurants, is a 45 minute drive northwest of the ranch. 4 hours to Denver and 2.5 hours to Santa Fe, fun and skiing can easily be had in Taos, an hour down the road.
Cielo Vista is located along the southeastern edge of the San Luis Valley in south Central Colorado. The San Luis Valley is one of the largest high altitude basins in the United States. The valley is over 120 miles long and 75 miles wide, and is flanked to the west by the San Juan Mountains and to the east by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The primary land use is grazing and agriculture. Principle crops include potatoes, barley and alfalfa. The San Luis Valley is bisected by the headwaters of the Rio Grande River. The valley provides an important stop for migrating sandhill cranes, occasional whooping cranes, and a variety of other waterfowl.
The San Luis Valley and Cielo Vista Ranch are bordered on the east by the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. The Sangre de Cristo (“Blood of Christ”) Mountains were so named in 1719 by the Spanish explorer Antonio Valverde y Cosio; the name was inspired by the reddish hue of the snowy peaks at sunrise and sunset. The Sangre de Cristos are the southernmost sub-range of the Rocky Mountains, stretching from Poncha Pass Colorado south to Glorieta Pass, NM just southeast of Santa Fe. There are several sub-ranges in the Sangres; Cielo Vista lies in the area known as the Culebra Range. The Culebras run from La Veta Pass south to the headwaters of Costilla Creek in northern New Mexico.
Five miles west of the ranch is San Luis – the oldest continuously occupied town in Colorado. On June 21, 1861, Hispanic settlers from the Taos valley built and dedicated a church at the settlement for Louis IX (San Luis), a devout catholic and only canonized king of France.
The ranch is modestly improved with several homes and outbuildings all in good working condition with modern heating, plumbing, internet/cable and phone service.
There are two headquarters areas. The North headquarters includes a 4-bedroom modular home, a 2-bedroom cabin, a historic office with two attached apartments and two upstairs bunkhouses/bathrooms, a large barn/shop, and a skinning shed with walk-in cooler.
The South headquarters includes a 4-bedroom two-story home, a 4-bedroom one story home, a 3-bedroom modular home with breezeway and garage, a barn/shop, and skinning shed with walk-in cooler.
Both headquarters areas are grid-powered and have backup generators with large-volume fuel storage capable of powering all facilities.
The ranch is perimeter fenced on 3 sides (as the eastern boundary is the top of the range and does not need a fence) and pasture fenced. Improved gravel and two-track roads provide access to much of the property.
Cielo Vista Ranch is among the finest elk, deer, and sheep hunting properties in the world. The property is home to thousands of elk and deer, and huntable populations of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. For the last 10+ years the current owners have meticulously managed the property for trophy animals by imposing strict harvest limits and an archery-only hunting policy. These strict management principles have yielded impressive results.
Elk: Cielo Vista Ranch offers over 83,000 acres of ideal elk habitat, and is home to thousands of elk year-round. In September, it is not unusual to see 350” bulls almost daily. Several 380”+ bulls have been harvested on the property, and in 2011, a 400” bull was harvested at Cielo Vista. Archery bull elk tags are available over-the-counter, and the ranch may apply for and secure landowner rifle bull elk tags for all rifle seasons.
Deer: Cielo Vista is also home to some giant mule deer. Big bucks inhabit the high country bowls and basins above timberline during the summer and through September, and by the time the November rut rolls around these bucks are active in the lower pinon, cedar and sage country. Bucks in excess of 180” are commonly seen, and 200”+ bucks have been harvested on Cielo Vista. Rifle and archery buck tags are available through the Colorado Parks and Wildlife limited draw system, and through the landowner application process.
Sheep: Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep are commonly seen among the alpine ridges and glacial basins of Cielo Vista’s high country.The ranch is located in Colorado Parks and Wildlife Unit S65; the Culebra Range sheep herd is estimated at 250 animals. These sheep move up and down both sides of the Culebra Range between La Veta Pass and the headwaters of Costilla Creek in northern New Mexico. In an effort to increase public hunting opportunities for sheep, which primarily inhabit private lands, on September 10, 2015, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission approved a new Bighorn Sheep Access Program (BSAP). In accordance with this program, private landowners may, in exchange for providing public hunting opportunity, apply for private landowner bighorn sheep tags. Should the landowner apply for and be accepted into the BSAP, Cielo Vista could receive private landowner sheep tags. For details on the BSAP, please see provision # 211 (pages 9-14) in Colorado Parks and Wildlife FINAL REGULATIONS, CHAPTER W-2, AS APPROVED September 10, 2015.
Cielo Vista Ranch is home to over 100 miles of private fishable creeks and streams. Major streams include: El Poso, El Perdido, Bernadino, Carneros, Culebra, North Vallejos, South Vallejos, Alamocito, San Francisco, Torcido, Jaroso, and Cuates creeks. These streams host a variety of 8”-18” trout, including wild browns, cutbows, brookies and the treasured native Rio Grande Cutthroat. Cielo Vista is also home to many high country lakes and ponds with brookies and Rio Grande Cutthroats.
The ranch is suitable for limited grazing in the summer months. The ranch is perimeter fenced and pasture fenced. There are approximately 500 acres of irrigated meadow along the western edge of the ranch. There is significant timber value at Cielo Vista. All of the timber rights will convey with the ranch.
While the vast majority of Cielo Vista Ranch is not encumbered by conservation easements, approximately 1/3 of Cielo Vista Ranch is protected in perpetuity by a conservation easement with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF.) This easement protects the middle 1/3 of the property (see map above). Under this easement, the landowner reserves the right to place, after prior notice to RMEF, four single-family residences and associated improvements, each on a 20-acre lot.