Located in the heart of Colorado’s expansive San Juan Mountain range, Pagosa Springs offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the cities and tourist hot spots. Here, the annual temperatures are mild, and you’ll find year-round outdoor adventures, from hiking and horseback riding to kayaking, skiing and fishing. Of course, the town’s big draw is its all-natural, geothermal hot springs. In fact, Pagosa Springs translates to “healing waters” in the language of the Southern Ute Indian tribe that has called this area home for many years.
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in small-town charm and Colorado’s natural beauty, here are some must-do experiences while visiting Pagosa Springs.
At Healing Waters Resort & Spa, “warm waters, warm welcomes and comfy rooms” has been their mantra since opening in 1950. Located in the heart of Pagosa Springs, this family-run spot offers several types of accommodations, including spacious hotel rooms, suites with kitchenettes and park-model cabins, each charmingly decorated with lots of warm wood and vintage details. Their hot springs pools — outdoor swimming pool, outdoor hot tub, and indoor men’s and women’s hot baths — are filled with 100 percent natural mineral water, which ensures maximum benefits from the healing waters such as increased energy and healthy skin. Add to the relaxing vibe and book a massage customized to what ails you.
Or perhaps you prefer your steaming hot springs experience paired with spectacular views of the San Juan Mountains and San Juan River? At the aptly named Overlook Hot Springs Spa, you’ll find a variety of tubs and soaking areas featuring all-natural hot spring water, including rooftop tubs and those stunning views. Sporting a Victorian-style décor, Overlook also offers individual soaking tubs for the ultimate in relaxation. For those looking for a quieter experience, visit between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. After 6 p.m., the atmosphere becomes more social. Up the good feelings and book one of their four 60- or 90-minute massages, including therapeutic, deep-tissue, and hot stone – add on the CBD treatment for the ultimate relaxation experience.
If your idea of a relaxing vacation includes some luxurious touches here and there, then The Springs Resort should be on your list. Nestled along the banks of the San Juan River, the resort features 79 rooms and suites just steps from its 25 geothermal pools, which are accessible 24 hours a day and include VIP admittance to the adult-only Relaxation Terrace. Dining options include The Café for sweet and savory crepes to start the day and the Barefoot Grill, which features live music and views of the river to go along with its menu of impeccably made comfort food. At the spa, choose from a variety of massages — a tension-relieving hot stone massage, perhaps? — as well as facials and body treatments. Other amenities include aqua yoga, forest bathing hikes and a deep sleep tray that features aromatherapy towelettes and sleep techniques from the resort’s medical director. The Spring Resort also offers day passes to enjoy the many healing benefits of its hot spring pools.
When you have close to 3 million acres of national forest and wilderness in your backyard, making the most of it should be a given, whether it’s via peaceful, leisurely hikes or more vigorous activities. Horseback riding at Pagosa Springs provides a wonderful way to explore the natural beauty of the San Juan National Forest and mountains.
Founded in 1990, Crazy Horse Outfitters prides itself on providing quality equine recreational services in the Werminucke Wilderness and the San Juan National Forest. Guided horseback trail rides provide a peaceful ride through the forest paired with amazing mountain views. If you’re looking to experience the peace and quiet of the outdoors fully, wilderness drop camps are the perfect option. Led by one of their guides, you’ll arrive by horseback at your campsite fully outfitted with cots, pads, lanterns, a cook stove, a heat source and all the basic kitchen gear you would need for your week in the mountains.
Elk Heart Outfitters, another family-owned and -operated Pagosa Springs business, has horses to fit every level of riding experience for its trail rides, which range from one-hour to half-day. Scenic mountain trails, gurgling streams, green meadows and views of Treasure Falls are some of the highlights riders will see. Additionally, they offer fully furnished drop camps in which Elk Heart Outfitters provide hunters with fully furnished campsites and include pack-in, set up, pack out and game packing. Semi-guided hunts for elk, mule deer and black bear are also available.
At Astraddle A Straddle you’ll experience a gradual climbing horseback ride that includes stunning mountain views, pines, dense brush and open meadows. During the colder months, when the landscape becomes a lovely white wonderland, horse-drawn sleds provide transportation as you take in the hills and valleys blanketed in snow.
Beyond horseback riding, Pagosa Springs is home to breathtaking hiking trails and thundering waterfalls. Enjoy a 3.5-mile hike to Fourmile Falls, a stunning waterfall north of Pagosa Springs. Your effort will be rewarded with scenic views, including those of Eagle Mountain and, yes, waterfalls. Along the way, you’ll pass a waterfall at Falls Creek that drops nearly 300 feet before encountering the main attraction: the big, roaring waterfall of Fourmile Creek. Celebrate your hike with a picnic and Instagram-worthy photo ops.
There’s nothing more peaceful than encountering wildlife in their natural habitat, which is why a visit to Rocky Mountain Wildlife Park is an absolute must. Hidden away in the San Juan Mountain Range, 15 minutes from Pagosa Springs, this privately owned zoo open to the public houses animals that are non-releasable due to not having the skills to survive in the wild. Wolves, mountain lion, bears, elk and coyote all call Rocky Mountain home. Learn about them from the informational signs along the trail or join a one-hour-long daily feeding tour along with one of their caretakers.
Looking to cast a line? Pagosa Springs is happy to oblige with many opportunities to catch a variety of warm- and cold-water fish, including catfish, bass, Kokanee salmon and a variety of trout. But before you bait your hook, be sure to purchase a permit at local outdoor retailers or online. Lake Capote, Williams Creek Reservoir, Echo Lake and Big Meadows Reservoir are just a few of the pristine fishing spots to be found at Pagosa Springs.