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Pagosa Springs, Colorado: Mother Nature in All Her Glory!

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Pagosa Springs, Colorado:  Mother Nature in All Her Glory!

The spectacular vistas and impressive ancient cliff dwellings make Mesa Verde National Park an excellent day trip from Pagosa Springs. Credit: Jeff Orenstein, Simply Smart Travel

Pagosa Springs is a picturesque little resort town in the heart of Colorado’s beautiful San Juan mountains only 35 miles north of New Mexico. With many impressive mountain peaks in the San Juan range nearby, it is where the high desert plateau meets the western slope of the continental divide. It is also adjacent to the I.8 million-acre San Juan National Forest with extensive recreational opportunities including extensive recreational trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

The Spa, on the San Juan River in downtown Pagosa Springs houses is one of the town’s namesake hot springs. Credit: Jeff Orenstein, Simply Smart Travel

Over the last few centuries, the area has been inhabited or attracted a mélange of native Americans, fortune seekers and Spanish explorers and each has left its mark and given the region some of its flavor. Remnants of ancient cave dwellers can be found at Chimney Rock and at Mesa Verde National Park, both accessible in a day trip.

The city is bisected by the San Juan River, which can range from tame trickle to a torrent, depending on the season. Swimming, tubing and fly fishing (stocked trout) are all common as the river flows through town. The city is also situated atop the largest and hottest thermal field in the U.S., hence its name and the source of the town’s justly famous hot springs spas.

Our advice is to plan to explore Pagosa Springs shops, restaurants and activities and enjoy the uncrowded Western ethos in town. You should also plan to tour nearby attractions since the entire region is filled with delights for tourists of every level of agility and a wide range of interests.

Check out:


The Durango and Silverton Railway offers a spectacular steam-powered train ride trough the Rockies. It is in nearby Durango, a recommended excursion. Credit: Jeff Orenstein, Simply Smart Travel

Getting There

  • Pagosa Springs can be reached by highway, air or train.
  • By car, Pagosa Springs is at U.S. Highways 160 and 84, 277 miles from Denver.
  • By air, the nearest airport is Durango, CO (DRO at 56 miles away. The Albuquerque Sunport (ABQ) has extensive connections at 207 miles distance.
  • By train, the nearest Amtrak stations are Albuquerque at 205 miles and Pueblo, Colorado at 211 miles.
  • There are no cruise ports near this inland location.


Must-Sees For A Short Trip

  • Enjoy one of more of the town’s three downtown hot springs. Each has a different character.
  • Explore Chimney Rock National Monument, 17 miles away.
  • Walk along the scenic San Juan Riverwalk Trail adjacent to the river as it flows through town. Tubing the river is also popular.


The road from Pagosa Springs across Wolf Creek Pass has some spectacular vistas and several scenic turnouts. One of the most memorable is beneath towering Treasure Falls. Credit: Jeff Orenstein, Simply Smart Travel

If You Have Several Days, Some of Your Best Options Are:

  • Taking a ride through the mountains and history on a narrow-gauge steam-drawn train. The Durango and Silverton in Durango and the Cumbres and Toltec in Chama, New Mexico are both superb choices.
  • A day trip to Mesa Verde National Park.
  • Enjoy fine dining at the Alley House for fine dining and sample the local brew pubs.
  • Visiting Durango, Colorado, a pretty little Western town.
  • Seeing Treasure Falls (East on Highway 160) and driving up through Wolf Creek Pass.
  • Visiting Rocky Mountain Wildlife Park, especially at feeding time.
  • Taking the historic buildings walking tour (

Ginny O’s Tips For Dressing The Simply Smart Travel Way For Pagosa Springs:

Bring a bathing suit and clogs for the hot springs, plan on wearing nice casual with accessories providing a western panache. Nice jeans are always in order. Weather can change quickly at this altitude, so be prepared to layer clothes.


This Destination At A Glance

Over 50 Advantage: Great scenery, easy walking and good shopping and dining make this a great place to relax.

Mobility Level: Moderate. There are some hills in town, but none are steep.

When To Go:
 May through September has the nicest weather. Winter skiing is also popular.

Where To Stay: Pagosa Springs has several nice bed and breakfast inns and the usual national lodging chains.

Special Travel Interests: Hot springs, mountain hiking, mountain scenery.

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Editor’s Note:  Jeffrey Orenstein, Ph.D. and Virginia Orenstein are husband and wide travel writers from Sarasota, Florida. Their Simply Smart Travel column appears in newspapers and magazines in eight states. Reach them at They publish travel ideas, article, photos and blog at and at


Jeffrey Orenstein, Ph.D. and Virginia Orenstein are husband and wife travel writers from Sarasota, Florida. Their Simply Smart Travel column appears in newspapers and magazines in nine states and online.

Reach them at They publish travel ideas, articles, photos and blog at and at

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