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Original photo by Océane Renoud
Experiences

What To Do If You Ever Find Yourself in Pagosa Springs CO

In the southwest corner of Colorado, two hours away from the nearest target and four hours away from the closest Trader Joes, lies the town of Pagosa Springs: population 2,057 and elevation 7,126’. Rain or shine, summer or winter, I’ve got you covered with all the best things to do if, for whatever reason, you ever find yourself in this pocket of the world.

We’ll start off with some activities that are available year round.

All year round:

  1. The Springs Resort:

Pagosa got its name from the infamous hot springs. In fact, it’s home to the world’s deepest hot spring according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Located right behind the Hot Springs Resort, you can view it there at no additional cost. However, it’s too hot and too deep for soaking. If you want the real hot springs experience, you can purchase a day pass to the Springs Resort for $45. This gives you access to 20 safe hot springs to heal your mind, body, and soul. 

Right on the river, you can enjoy some beautiful scenery and a smoothie from the cabana as you soak your worries away. The mineral rich waters are said to have therapeutic benefits that promote healthy skin, lower blood pressure, strengthen bones and muscles, increase energy, and more. Perfect for a snowy day or a summer night, every time is a good time to be at the hot springs.

However, if you’re not down to drop $45, or if the sulfuric smell is a bit much for you, I have plenty of other activities.

  1. The River Walk and Mainstreet

Right downtown, the riverwalk snakes along the San Juan River. This path is perfect for an easy stroll, and not to mention beautiful. Town park, Root House Cafe, and a great view of the hot springs can be found as you go. 

Above the riverwalk is mainstreet. Dozens of cute shops with souvenirs, unique antiques, and handmade goods line the road, and several amazing restaurants can be found nearby. My favorites are Kips (known for their baja style tacos), Riff Raff on the Rio (the best brewery in town), The Rose (perfect breakfast/brunch option), and the Pagosa Baking Company (incredible bread and pastries). 

  1. Night Life and Art

I’ll be honest, there’s not a whole lot of nightlife available. Almost everything closes by 9 pm except for walmart. However, there are a few bars (if you are above the legal age of course). The Neon Mallard is popular and has a really unique ambience, while Coyote Moon Bar and Grill is more your classic bar scene (they also have 75¢ tacos on Tuesdays). 

If you’re looking for Art and Culture I highly recommend the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts.They have occasional events going on, ranging from broadway quality live theater to local art pop up galleries. If you’re more in the mood to be creative try a Picasso and Vino painting class!

While there are things to do year round, Pagosa is also full of season specific activities fit for any adventurer. If you find yourself visiting in the summer check these out:

Summer:

  1. Hiking!

There are so many amazing hiking trails around the area. If you’re a beginner hiker looking for something easy I recommend treasure falls. This beautiful hike is only about a half mile, and great if you just want to take it easy. 

For more intermediate hikers try the Piedra River Trail. You can hike for as long or as briefly as you desire. Just park and follow the trail until you’re ready to turn around. Personally I love to make it just across the bridge where there are some perfect picnic spots. 

If you’re really up for a challenge try hiking Pagosa Peak. You’re going to need a 4-wheel drive car to even make it to the trail head. The trail is just about 11 miles, and a bit sketchy at certain points. Make sure you plan your day in advance to make sure you have the time to complete it (about 7 ½ hours).

  1. Rafting/Tubing

If you feel the urge to drift down the San Juan River in the heat of the day, try renting a tube or booking a raft tour. Pagosa Outside has everything you need to enjoy the river safely.

They have three different types of guided raft tours depending on the time and energy you have. Personally I’m a fan of tubing, you just sit back and let the water take you. However, if a kayak or paddleboard is more your speed they’ve got you covered as well! Whatever you decide, the water is always crisp, clear, and ready for a good time.

If you happen to miss out on the warmer months, don’t even fret, the winter brings its own share of fun.

Winter:

  1. Ski/Snowboard at Wolf Creek Ski Area

The perfect activity for any mountain town, no winter in Pagosa is complete without either skiing and snowboarding. You can rent equipment at the mountain, but I recommend renting from Ski and Bow Rack in town so you can skip the line up at the mountain.

Wolf Creek gets some of the best and most fresh powder of any ski resort in Colorado. There are runs for every experience level, from green to double black diamond. Feel free to pack your own lunch, or grab a bite at the lodge. 

After a long cold day of fun, stop by Higher Grounds Coffee Co on your way home to grab an amazing hot chocolate. If you’re craving a coffee, ask for a Honey Surprise or Mistletoe latte.

  1. Sledding or Ice Skating

If you don’t want to spend the money on a lift ticket, there’s plenty of snow fun to be had for significantly cheaper or even free. Every winter, an ice skating rink is set up in south park to add to the winter fun. However, if you’re as clumsy as I am and skating isn’t your thing, there are so many perfect places to test drive your sled.

Reservoir Hill is always a great sledding spot, or find Brookhill Drive. This street is so steep and makes for a fantastic sledding hill (just watch out for cars)! 

Before I come to an end, here are a few additional things to keep in mind: 

  • My absolute favorite restaurant in town is Thai Pagosa, and it’s essential that you stop at the Malt Shoppe at some point (the food is sub par, but it’s a town staple).
  • Watch out for deer! They are everywhere and have zero self preservation when it comes to crossing the road. 
  • If you have basically any cellular plan besides verizon or cricket you can count on the absolute worst service of your life. 
  • Don’t bother trying to keep your car clean, the dirt roads and dust will make it impossible. 
  • If the Broncos win a Sunday football game, you can get a free donut from the City Market on Monday morning. 
  • If the altitude is too much for you, you can buy a can of oxygen from the City Market as well (they have a variety of flavors). 
  • If you happen to go into labor, the closest hospital that delivers babies is in Durango, 1 hour away, so that’s tough. 
  • 6th street is really pretty to drive on, but it will probably be closed due to construction. 
  • And most importantly: do NOT drink the hot springs water, despite what people may tell you. 

There you go: everything you need to know if you ever, somehow, for some reason, find yourself in Pagosa Springs Colorado.

I'm a freshman at Seattle Pacific University originally from Colorado. While I am still exploring different career opportunities, my current major is PPE (politics, philosophy, and economics) and I hope to do something social justice oriented post-graduation. I joined Her Campus to be a part of an inclusive and progressive community as well as to write about things that I'm passionate about or bring me joy.
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