Fall Tarantula Trek on the Comanche National Grassland
Each fall, large numbers of tarantulas skitter across the landscape in La Junta and southeast Colorado. Yes, tarantulas!
While this phenomenon has traditionally been called a migration, it is actually an annual mating ritual performed by male tarantulas who roam across the 443,000-plus acres on the Comanche National Grassland looking to mate.
Whitney Cranshaw, Entomology Professor/Extension Specialist at Colorado State University, explains that the spiders, which are of the Oklahoma brown variety, are common in Southeast Colorado because the females like to make their burrows in undisturbed prairie rangeland. Those females then stick close to their burrows for the entirety of lives, which can be 25 years long.
The male tarantulas — when they reach about 8 years old — gang up in groups and set out, using their senses of touch and vibration to locate the females.
For species that are present in Southeast Colorado the migration of the adult males take place from mid-to-late September (into early October) and it is at this time of the season when Colorado tarantulas are most often observed.
- September is the ideal time of year to view the tarantula trek.
- There will still be some in October, and some are crawling about before that.
- Venture out on a day that is warm, and preferably not too windy.
- Some tarantulas will be active in late afternoon.
- Things really pick up in the hour before sunset.
- Around 5:45 p.m. -6:00 p.m. or so, and peak lasts about an hour.
- Scout area where there are tarantula hawks, the spider hunting wasps that prey on tarantulas.
- Ideal viewing south of La Junta on Highway 109 on the Comanche National Grassland
- There are cars and trucks traveling the road at all times. People have to keep them on their radar!
Where to Find Tarantulas
Popular sites include: Vogel Canyon (15 miles from LJ), Sierra Vista & Timpas Picnic Area (about 20 miles from LJ along HWY 350) and Delhi (36 miles from LJ on HWY 350).
Vogel Canyon is a short drive from La Junta and always a popular destination because it has something for everyone - from short hikes to quiet picnics. Vogel Canyon Picnic Area has 3 picnic shelters, a vault toilet and 4 hiking trails with a variety of difficulty and length that take you to the mesa top or canyon bottom.
A great driving route to consider - La Junta to Timpas (on HWY 350), East on County Road N, South on County Road 25, East on Forest Service Road 2200, North on HWY 109 back to La Junta.
Contact the Comanche National Grassland Resource Office for additional ideal viewing locations in and around La Junta at (719) 384-2181 or email@example.com for additional information.
Tarantulas may be seen skittering across highways. Please do not stop in the middle of the road to view the tarantulas. It is important to follow all traffic rules and pull over in a safe viewing area where there is ample room for cars to continue on the highway.
Do not enter or park on private land for tarantula viewing. Make sure you remain on public land and public roads.
Be aware of passing traffic while outside of your vehicle. And be sure to keep an eye on any children.
Don't forget to stop by one of the many Farm Markets along Highway 50 when you come to view the tarantulas! Arkansas Valley farmers work hard on their farms all season to grow a wide variety of produce – corn, watermelons, cantaloupes and much more. Farm Markets are typically open between July and October to the delight of residents and visitors alike seeking the good bounty from this fertile land.