snowmobiling in Pagosa Country

Photo: Michael Pierce Photography

For some, making snow angels just doesn’t cut it for winter fun. Nor does a downhill sled taken to any of the area’s popular sledding destinations. Or soaking in the hot springs as the steam rises around you, immersing you in warmth.

Some need a little more adventure and adrenaline. 

But not to worry, if you want to rev it up, snowmobiling might be the activity for you. 

Pagosa Country offers plenty of opportunities for snowmobile adventures and travel. Thanks to the San Juan National Forest Pagosa Ranger District, among others, there is a wide selection of designated snowmobile routes. The routes follow unplowed forest roads and trails, many of which are groomed by a local volunteer group, the Wolf Creek Trailblazers Club, under authorization of the Forest Service. 

Grooming frequencies vary due to conditions and resources, and most routes are only minimally marked, making route-finding skills, maps, avalanche awareness and good pre-trip planning essential for a safe expedition into the Pagosa backcountry during the winter months.

Trail descriptions have been developed to assist visitors in locating snowmobile opportunities in the Pagosa area. Mileages are approximate and do not represent round-trip distances from trailheads. Please be familiar with the rules, regulations and tips for safe winter travel and be respectful of the other trail users such as bikers, skiers, walkers and snowshoers you’ll see out on the groomed trails.

Rules and regulations

• Cross-country winter travel is generally permitted in the Pagosa Ranger District. However, there are areas in which snowmobiles are prohibited or restricted to designated routes.

• Snowmobiles are prohibited in the Weminuche Wilderness, the South San Juan Wilderness and the Piedra Area.

• Please refer to the San Juan National Forest Visitor Map and reference the area table for information about the location of areas where travel is restricted to designated routes.

• Each over-the-snow vehicle that is operated on public land in Colorado must be registered with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Out-of-state residents who bring snowmobiles into Colorado must purchase a Colorado nonresident OHV permit. For more information, contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife at (303) 791-1920 or www.cpw.state.co.us.

• Per Colorado law, it is unlawful to operate a snowmobile on some plowed public roads, including plowed roads located on national forest lands. It is also unlawful to pursue, drive at or otherwise intentionally disturb or harass any wildlife. For more information regarding state law, go to cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/SnowmobileLawRegs.aspx.

Pre-plan and prepare

The Forest Service does not manage or post signs for all hazards. That said, always be prepared for and aware of:

• Changing weather conditions.

• The potential for altitude sickness and hypothermia.

• The need to find your own way or turn back if conditions become too difficult for your skills, ability or equipment.

Avalanche danger

• Carry essential equipment and know how to use it.

• Be familiar with accepted winter travel procedures and rescue techniques.

• Daily avalanche forecasts can be obtained online at http://avalanche.state.co.us or (970) 247-8187.

• More educational information, including a listing of available training, can be obtained at www.avalanche.org.

Route finding

Before setting out on untracked snow, remember that some trails are minimally maintained or unmarked. Route-finding skills are necessary. Always carry maps, such as the San Juan National Forest Map and current topographic maps. Avoid trespassing on private property adjacent to, or surrounded by, national forest lands.

On ungroomed trails, users will be relying upon their own route-finding skills, maps and, perhaps, the knowledge and skills of those who traveled before them.

Parking 

Parking areas may not be plowed; therefore, parking space is often limited and may not be available after snowstorms when snow removal is in progress. Please park considerately without blocking gates or other vehicles.

Grooming conditions

There is not a set schedule for grooming and some trails may not be groomed for an entire season. For information about grooming conditions or to learn how you can help, go to www.coloradosledcity.com and click on “Trail reports/Maps.” When the map loads, select Pagosa Springs, then scroll down through the Groomer Reports.

Search and rescue

In an emergency, call 911. The local sheriff’s office is the lead agency for search and rescue. Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue Cards cover search and rescue mission costs, support Colorado search and rescue volunteers. and contribute to well-trained and equipped search and rescue teams. Cards are available at outlets that sell hunting and fishing licenses. Anyone with a current hunting/fishing license, or boat, snowmobile or ATV registration is already covered by the fund.

Pagosa Ranger District Office

For maps and additional information, the Pagosa Ranger District Office is located at 180 Pagosa St. in Pagosa Springs. Call (970) 264-2268 or go to www.fs.usda.gov/sanjuan.

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