Sleep Under the Stars: 4 Incredible Camping Spots in Pagosa Springs

Photo Courtesy of Visit Pagosa Springs.

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Nestled at the base of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, just under the Continental Divide, Pagosa Springs is the perfect place to pitch a tent and immerse yourself in nature. From backcountry trails and RV hookups to secluded spots on the San Juan River, Pagosa Springs’ untamed beauty offers a diverse selection of camping areas to serve as a home base for your adventures.

Experience Southern Ute Culture & History at Lake Capote

Lake Capote is a gorgeous 400-acre recreation area owned by the Southern Ute Tribe, surrounded by lush, green rolling hills and offers breathtaking views of Devil Mountain. The campground is open from March to October and has 30 spacious and well-shaded tent sites and 10 RV sites. Prices are also reasonable –$18 a night for tents and $25 for RVs.

A view of Lake Capote in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Photo Courtesy of Visit Pagosa Springs.

After you’ve settled, you’ll find a variety of amenities available, from bathhouses with public toilets and showers with unlimited hot water – is this camping or glamping? Fire rings are also available for an evening cooking out under the stars or enjoying a camping must-eat, sweet and sticky s’mores.

Of course, the lake is the shining star of this campground and offers plenty of activities to enjoy throughout your stay. Cast a line for rainbow trout, brown trout, catfish or largemouth bass. Or, rent a paddle boat for a day out on the water from the onsite bait shop.

Just three miles from Lake Capote, Chimney Rock National Monument is home to more than 200 archaeological sites, including the Great House Pueblo. Spend the day exploring the upper mesa and walking along the ancient pathways – watch for wildlife such as mule deer, elk and bighorn sheep. For a short road trip, drive 30 minutes to the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum. Here, visitors have the unique opportunity to learn about the Núuchi (Ute People), including their culture, language, and history – and gain insight into their lives.

Your Basecamp for Fishing and Hiking Close to Downtown

On the shores of the San Juan River, Pagosa Riverside Campground is just two miles from town and offers a picturesque Rocky Mountain retreat. Open from April to November, the campground is home to 30 and 50-amp RV sites, tent areas and three cabins available for rent with different scenic settings. Pitch your tent by a private pond, park your RV riverside or enjoy the seclusion of the wooded sites. Even better, this campground is pet-friendly, so feel free to bring your canine companion along (or feline friend if you prefer cats). Rates vary depending on whether you’re looking for full hookup sites or a tent site.

Need supplies? The on-site Camp Store has groceries, snacks, fishing supplies, firewood and ice. They also offer an extensive selection of RV supplies.

A tent and campfire in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Photo Courtesy of Visit Pagosa Springs.

Thanks to the diverse landscape in the region, outdoor enthusiasts will find much to do when staying here. Spend an afternoon fishing for trout at the campground’s private access on the San Juan River, or enjoy free fishing on the private pond for the kids. Paddle boats are available for a leisurely afternoon on the pond or cool off with a swim.

You can explore the region’s natural beauty on horseback with one of several outfitters just minutes away. With Elk Heart Outfitters, you’ll explore the San Juan National Forest with an experienced guide – they even offer horse-drawn wagon rides! Or, hit the trails with Crazy Horse Outfitters.

Love to hike or bike? With Jackson Mountain and Coyote Hill trailheads just miles away, adventure calls. Whether you hit the trails on foot or rent a mountain bike at nearby outfitters, both of these experiences offer gorgeous views of the mountains and surrounding forests, and you might even see grazing cattle in the meadows. 

Hike Countless Waterfall Trails at Bruce Spruce Ranch

Bruce Spruce Ranch is nestled in the flourishing foothills of Wolf Creek Valley’s Sheep Mountain. Operated by the Hinger Family since 1966, this camping spot is open from May to October. It is home to 15 rustic log cabins with pot-bellied stoves, gas ovens, a toilet, bathroom facilities and kitchen appliances. The ranch also offers RV sites with sewer and electric hookups and traditional tent sites with firepits, water spigots and picnic tables.

A cabin at Bruce Springs Ranch in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Photo Courtesy of Visit Pagosa Springs.

You won’t have to worry about being without the basics at this campground, including hot shower and laundry facilities, charcoal barbecue grills, campfire rings and even a playground for the kids. Dogs are welcome for a small fee.

The ranch’s location is central to hiking trails like “Old Pass Road,” Windy Pass, and BootJack. West Fork Trailhead, which leads to natural hot springs, is just a five-minute drive. The area has three magnificent waterfall trails: Falls Creek & Fourmile Falls, Piedra Falls, and Treasure Falls. At an elevation of over 12,000 feet, Fourmile Falls is a hidden gem that takes a moderately skilled hiker to get to, but the rewards are worth it. Take in the magnificent views of mountain-ringed valleys, gushing cascades, and spectacular rock outcroppings that make up Pagosa Springs’ unique geological structures.

Other nearby activities include horseback riding, fishing, and ATV rides in the Elwood Pass. For a fun evening, visit Bar D Wranglers in Durango for a delicious chuckwagon dinner and live entertainment.

Take in the Weminuche Wilderness at Williams Creek Campground

Williams Creek Campground boasts mountain views among aspen, cedar, and ponderosa pines. The campsite is open from May to September, with the busiest time between Memorial Day to Labor Day. They offer 61 camps, some located on the banks of Williams Creek. A few spaces can accommodate more prominent coaches and fifth wheels.

Amenities include vault toilets, picnic tables, fire grates, potable water, and trash pickup. Firewood can be purchased from the camp host. Dogs are welcomed on the campground but must be leashed or restrained.

Williams Reservoir, one mile from the campground, has top-notch trout and salmon fishing with easy access. Other activities include kayaking, boating, biking, off-road ATV trails, and multiple hiking trails. Cimarrona Trail is an 8.3-mile one-way hike on a winding path through the dense spruce-fir forest and up to a sensational view of Cimarrona Peak.

Williams Creek Trail is 19.7 miles round trip through the Weminuche Wilderness and connects with the Continental Divide for a more challenging hike. This trail features some of the most breathtaking views in the area as it winds through thick forests and open meadows. Wildlife such as bighorn sheep, mule deer, and elk are also commonly spotted in the area.

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