Adventures for Every Season in Pagosa Springs

Photo Courtesy of Visit Pagosa Springs.

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From scenic drives in the fall and dog sledding in the winter to wildflower hikes in the spring and summer – Pagosa Springs, Colorado, offers a breathtaking backdrop for year-round adventures. Nestled between Durango and Alamosa in Southern Colorado, this mountain town is home to bubbling hot springs, the towering peaks of the San Juan Mountains and hiking trails that lead to cascading waterfalls.

Here is how to make the most of every season while visiting Pagosa Springs.

Spring and Summer

The warmth of spring and summer offers great opportunities to explore Pagosa Springs’s great outdoors.

ATV Tour in the San Juan Mountains surrounding Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Photo Courtesy of Visit Pagosa Springs.

Take a 4×4 off-road vehicle over the San Juan Mountains’ rugged terrain with San Juan ATV Tours or Wilderness Journeys. You’ll ride through hidden canyons and explore backcountry areas that are not always accessible on foot. Whether you choose one of the shorter scenic tours or an all-day adventure, you’ll witness plenty of wildflowers and diverse wildlife such as elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and possibly even a moose!

Piedra Falls, an hour north of Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Photo Courtesy of Visit Pagosa Springs.

There’s an abundance of waterfalls in the Pagosa Springs region – perfect for an Instagram photo op. Treasure Falls can be seen from Highway 160, or you can take a short hike to the Misty Deck for views of the 100-foot cascades. Piedra Falls is an hour north of Pagosa Springs and is a popular spot with locals thanks to its unique terrain of volcanic cliffs. Just east of downtown towards Wolf Creek Pass, you’ll find Silver Falls on East Fork Road, or head north for a hike to Fourmile Falls – a double waterfall with views of Eagle Mountain and Pagosa Peak.

Level up your adventures and experience the thrill of whitewater rafting on the San Juan River with Pagosa Outside or Wilderness Journeys/Pagosa Rafting Outfitters. Choose from guided tours, including the Splash and Dash, West Fork San Juan River, and Mesa Canyon. Each comes with unique rapids and obstacles, making for a memorable experience no matter your rafting level.

Pagosa Springs also offers many hiking trails for all skill levels. For views of aspen groves and spruce fur forests, hit the Cimarrona Trail, which winds through the Weminuche Wilderness up to the Continental Divide. Hike to Williams Creek Reservoir, a spectacular lake offering panoramic views of the San Juan Mountains. Or, explore the Coal Creek Trail over miles of diverse terrain, from meadows to mountain summits.

Events are abundant during the summer. The July Fourth Celebrations are great for the entire family, with a colorful parade, impressive fireworks display and the Park to Park Arts and Crafts Show. In June, the Folk’n Bluegrass Festival is a wonderful way to enjoy live music in the great outdoors. So pack your blankets and lawn chairs, and prepare for three days of fantastic music, delicious food and brews from local vendors, and workshops for the kids.

And don’t miss out on the Colorfest Weekend in September, when dozens of hot air balloons take to the skies. A triple threat of an event, this three-day festival is part wine, part beer festival and a hot air

Fall

There’s something magical about fall in Pagosa Springs, when the foliage transforms into a kaleidoscope of colors, making scenic drives, hikes, activities, and events even more spectacular.

Plumtaw Road in the fall. Photo Courtesy of Visit Pagosa Springs.

If you’re looking for relaxing scenic drives with optimal photo opportunities, the windy roads of Pagosa Springs are where it’s at. Blanco Basin is picture-perfect with its blanket of vibrant leaves in gold, orange and red hues that transform Square Top Mountain, Oil Mountain and the Continental Divide as you drive on Highway 84. Another can’t-miss drive is Mill Creek to Nipple Mountain. Roughly 32 miles round trip, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the upper San Juan Valley, all against a backdrop of Oil Mountain and Square Top Mountains. And, of course, you can’t skip the trek along Plumtaw Road to Williams Creek Reservoir. Along the way, you’ll pass a historic schoolhouse, trailheads and gorgeous views of the reservoir from high in the mountains, all painted in red, orange and yellow.

Beyond the scenic drives, fall leaves enthusiasts seeking picture-perfect landscapes should stop at Opal Lake. Surrounded by the San Juan Forest, this lake provides spectacular views of the aspen and ponderosa pine trees as they explode in hues of gold and yellow and reflect off the lake’s milky surface. Take a morning hike or pack a picnic for lunch with a view.

Soar to new heights and take in the beauty of Pagosa Springs in the fall with a hot air balloon ride. Both Rocky Mountain Balloon Adventures and Pagosa Adventure offer incredible experiences where you’ll ascend above the tree line and see the changing landscape below. Of course, there’s nothing better than the crisp autumn air as you drift over valleys, canyons and lakes. Watch for local wildlife; you may spot a red-tailed hawk, bald eagle or even turkeys and elk.  

A hot air balloon soars over Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Photo Courtesy of Visit Pagosa Springs.

Immerse yourself in nature with a day of fly fishing. Echo Lake is great for rainbow trout, bass and yellow perch if you’re visiting in early fall. However, in late fall, check out the San Juan River – not only does it run through Pagosa Springs, but you can cast a line for brown trout. The river is also a great spot because the lakes tend to freeze during the late fall/early winter.

If you are in Pagosa Springs for Thanksgiving, don’t miss the annual Pagosa Turkey Trot at Yamaguchi Park. This 5K run/walk is open to the public with a small entry fee and is a fun way to exercise for the day before loading up on turkey and stuffing. You’ll weave your way through town, seeing sights such as the San Juan River and the hot springs. Participants are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items for local food bank donations.     

Winter

Winter in Pagosa Springs brings a sense of wonder as the San Juan Mountains are blanketed in snow, and tourists flock to the ski areas.

Dog sledding in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Photo Courtesy of Visit Pagosa Springs.

One unique way to take in the sights is via a dog sledding tour. Join San Juan Sled Dogs or Mountain Paws Dogsled Tours for an unforgettable journey in the San Juan wilderness, pulled by a team of strong, loyal sled dogs. Take turns mushing, or just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. The tours range from one to two-hour rides, so there is something to suit all experience levels. Plus, you’ll even get to drive your team for 6-7 miles through the backcountry of Pagosa Springs.

If you have ever wanted to ski through untouched snow-covered land, then cross-country skiing is the perfect activity for you. Pagosa Springs boasts 31 miles of meticulously groomed ski trails, ideal for every skiing level and style. In addition, free cross-country clinics are hosted by the Pagosa Nordic Club for novices seeking to learn the basics. You can even participate in guided events, such as a moonlit cross-country skiing adventure in Cloman Park – bring a flashlight just in case the moon isn’t bright enough!

Looking for a thrill? Experience the adrenaline rush as you speed across Pagosa Spring’s snow-covered trails and backcountry via snowmobile. Join a guided tour with Wolf Creek Snowmobile Tours or Snow Country Snowmobile Tours that will take you through Elwood Pass, Quartz Meadows, and Turkey Springs – watch out for wildlife such as deer, bobcats, coyotes and foxes.

A snowmobile tour in the wilderness surrounding Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Photo Courtesy of Visit Pagosa Springs.

For a more relaxed adventure, spend the day ice fishing at Echo Canyon and  Williams Creek Reservoir. Head out with your fishing gear and bait early in the morning when the temperatures are still low, and the sky is clear for a quiet day on the lake. If you’re lucky, you may snag a bite from fish such as trout and perch.

Santa on a sleigh ride with Buckaroos Horse-Drawn Rides in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Photo Courtesy of Visit Pagosa Springs.

Santa’s not the only one who needs a sleigh ride in the winter! Treat yourself to an old-fashioned horse-drawn sleigh ride with Buckaroos Horse-Drawn Rides. Embark on an unforgettable half-hour journey where you’ll enjoy a meet and greet with the driver and horses before seeing the sights, from the San Juan River to the steaming hot springs.

Two participants brave the icy waters of the San Juan River during Winterfest Weekend in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Photo Courtesy of Visit Pagosa Springs.

Of course, if you’re visiting during the winter, check out the fun events between November and February. The Old Fashion Christmas Celebration takes over downtown Pagosa Springs every December with Christmas-themed displays, musical performances, games and free hot chocolate! November through December, visitors can enjoy a self-guided driving tour through town to see the holiday lights on display. And don’t miss out on Winterfest Weekend, taking place in late January or early February for winter-themed events, from cross-country skiing clinics to the famous Penguin Plunge, where residents jump into the freezing San Juan River for charity!

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