Archuleta County’s Stevens Field, located just 3 miles west of downtown Pagosa Springs, is one of the most scenic airports around.
In addition to beauty, the airport boasts a fully lit asphalt runway that is 100 feet wide and 8,100 feet long. That runway has aircraft weight capacities of 70,000 pounds for dual-wheel gear and 59,000 pounds for single-wheel gear. Flight safety at the high-altitude, general aviation airport is reinforced with a Precision Approach Path Indicator system.
The airport has seen a great deal of improvement over the years. In 2006, workers widened and resurfaced Runway 10/19 and built a new fixed-base operations building at midfield to provide fuel and services to local and visiting aircraft. In 2008, a new 3,000-foot parallel taxiway was constructed. In 2013, Archuleta County acquired additional snow removal equipment solely to be used at the airport. Alongside the other improvements, new hangars have appeared, an Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS) has been installed, and the airport identifier became KPSO.
In keeping with its commitment to Archuleta County and Stevens Field, the Federal Aviation Administration also completed and published a GPS instrument approach for pilot use during nighttime and low-visibility landings.
In 2015, nearly $6 million was spent to extend the parallel taxiway and complete other associated projects, further increasing the efficiency of aircraft movement and safety.
Those improvements have not only increased safety, but have also helped solidify the airport’s status as an economic driver for the community. According to an Economic Impact Study completed by the airport’s advisory committee, for every dollar Archuleta County invests in the airport, the county receives a return of $10.86.
The airport property also boasts a private, on-site maintenance shop in one of the hangars.
For more information on the airport, visit www.archuletacounty.org. For specific airport management questions or concerns, call the airport manager at (970) 731-3060.
The AWOS system is available on frequency 127.175, or by phone at (970) 731-0365.
For aviation services or to visit Avjet Corporation, the fixed-base operator, travel 3 miles west of town, then approximately 1 mile northwest on Piedra Road (CR 600). Turn right (northeast) on Cloman Boulevard and proceed to 61 Aviation Court.
The FBO offers a number of amenities, including restrooms, telephone, shower facilities, a flight planning room, pilot snooze room, Internet, vending machines, concierge and catering services, coffee, a lounge area, heated hangar and more. Avjet also provides fuel, Avgas and Jet-A rated fuel.
For more information about these and other airport services, call Avjet at (970) 731-2127.
La Plata County Airport
The Durango-La Plata County Airport offers daily service with multiple airlines. The airport offers a full range of services within the terminal to make your visit comfortable. The airport has short- and long-term parking, full rental car services and shuttle/taxis.
The airport is located 60 miles from Pagosa Springs at the intersection of Airport Road and County Road 309A, approximately 1 mile from County Road 309.
For more information about flights and ancillary services, visit www.flydurango.com.
Owning property in Pagosa Springs may inspire you to think outside the box
Strong real estate sales across Pagosa Country have recently led to some unique and creative development projects proposed by property owners.
Those projects range from creating new business in the community to others helping to add to the inventory of much-needed workforce housing.
The Pagosa River Domes project includes 14 individual geodesic lodging domes to be constructed overlooking the San Juan River just east of town along U.S. 160.
The project was approved by the Pagosa Springs Town Council in July. One of the domes will be ADA accessible.
The project will also include a 1,500 square foot hospitality building equipped with a diner and also a railroad car for dining. Each dome will be approximately 426 square feet, built on wooden decks. Domes will have access to the Riverwalk trail when a trail extension is completed.
Exterior lighting for local projects is required to be night-sky compliant allowing for neighbors to be able to gaze at the stars free from light pollution. City dwellers are in awe of the breathtaking night sky views in Pagosa Country.
A first-of-its-kind project for Pagosa Country consisting of six duplexes or 12 container homes has been proposed for Majestic Drive. Across the United States, container housing is gaining in popularity. There is even a series on HGTV featuring unique modern homes built from shipping containers.
Another popular HGTV show features tiny homes. This year, the Pagosa Springs Town Council approved plans for Legacy Village, a tiny home village off of Alpha Drive near Walmart. The proposed village includes 50 or less tiny home lots, community gardens, fire pits with seating, grill and seating areas, a hammock area, hiking trail, storage and laundry areas and a must-have for most locals will be a dog park.
New rental cabins have also received approval for 151 South 5th St. in downtown Pagosa Springs. A unique feature of this property will be geothermal-heated parking and sidewalks, which means no shoveling snow. This property will also connect to the existing downtown Riverwalk trail.
The Pagosa Springs Planning Commission gave the green light to a density bonus request for the Pagosa Inn and Suites Residential Apartment Conversion, which would allow for converting a lodging facility into 98 rental apartments if approved by town council.
Some people have purchased unique Pagosa Country properties and added their own personal touches. One of the more popular homes listed on Airbnb is the Wonder Haus, which is a “passive solar home” with a star-gazing observation tower.
The Wonder Haus has been featured on the Netflix series “World’s Most Amazing Vacation Rentals” and prides itself on being “intentionally unconventional.”
The Gazette in Colorado Springs featured the vacation property and noted that “Conde Nast named it one of the best Airbnb stays in Colorado. The clothing retailer Anthropologie called about getting photos there for its fall catalog.”
The home’s designer and builder, Jim Milstein, informed The Pagosa Springs SUN, after the Gazette’s article was reprinted locally, that “Asterisk is the house’s true name. It is so called because its floor plan of six barrel vaults radiating from a common center resembles an asterisk.”
He also pointed The SUN to an NPR feature, which reads, “Listener Jim Milstein of Pagosa Springs, Colo., built a stone tower. When he strums the steel guard rails inside, the parts of the cylindrical structure vibrate, making the whole thing a musical instrument.”
Living in Pagosa Country’s picturesque mountain setting inspires many to think outside of the box and create new beginnings. Moving to the region might just inspire you to do the same.
Since long before it was incorporated as a town, Pagosa Springs, and the whole of Archuleta County, has experienced the booms and busts associated with numerous industries, including trading between Hispanics and Native American tribes, prospectors seeking gold, lumber mills and railroads. Over time, the flags of several nations have flown over the area, and multiple Native American tribes have inhabited the region.
But, through it all, Pagosa Springs stood firm, not falling to the same fate as many towns now listed as ghost towns.
Instead, Pagosa grew into a mountain town better known to many for its natural resources and wealth of public lands than its former industries.
Thanks to the varied history and natural beauty and resources in Pagosa Springs and Archuleta County, Pagosa — the county seat — now not only stands firm, but is packed with character, much of which is reflected in the goods you’ll find for sale throughout town.
Shopping in the Pagosa Springs area, though, can be a treat in and of itself.
From cabin decor to signs that embody your views on life, natural products of all sorts, on-trend apparel and quirky T-shirts, unique pajamas, western wear and goods that epitomize the western way of life, handmade jewelry with a southwestern flair, antiques, art and seasonal sporting goods, you’ll find it and more in Pagosa Springs.
And where you find the goods might surprise you. For example, you’ll find coffee shops and what you might think is a hardware store that carry things like home goods, clothes, toys and more.
And that’s part of the fun: heading into a shop not knowing what might be around the next corner or what perfect gift you’ll find for a loved one (or for yourself!). Even if you’ve been to a shop before, it’s likely to be an adventure next time, too, since business owners like to keep things fresh and new. Or, in the case of antique stores, something you’ve never seen before or haven’t seen in years.
And, in true small-town style, you won’t often find the people working the stores (often the owners themselves) simply waiting at the register for you to bring them money. Instead, they’re often striking up conversations, finding that shirt in just the right size for someone, or letting someone know that if they don’t have what you want, where in town will. In short, they’re usually going above and beyond to make the shopping experience the best it can be for their customers.
And while you’re walking in between shops, you can admire and explore parts of Pagosa’s past — like the former hotel that now houses shops and offices and the historic movie theater — just check for signs around the buildings indicating their historical significance.
Shopping in Pagosa, like much of our county’s history and current character, is about exploration — seeing what’s around the next corner.
Kick back with dinner and live entertainment after a day of fun
Now that you’ve spent the day playing in the snow, staying warm in area geothermal pools, shopping or whatever else you’ve found to do and explore in Pagosa Country, are you looking for a nice bite to eat and some evening entertainment?
In addition to being host to a number of delightful eating establishments, the Pagosa Springs area is home to many talented performers, ranging from youth just polishing their chops to Grammy winners and award-winning actors, making it easy to plan a night out featuring dinner and live entertainment.
The variety of entertainment options make it easy to vary your experiences during your stay, allowing you to have some nights where you combine a dinner followed by a show and others where your apres-ski time is spent kicking back at a bar or laid-back restaurant featuring live musicians, DJs or karaoke.
If you’d like to grab a quick bite before kicking back with some live entertainment, depending on when you plan your trip to Pagosa, you may be lucky enough to catch a show put on by one of Pagosa’s theater groups (we have both an award-winning theater company and a decades-old community theater group who put on regular productions).
Or, you could be lucky enough to catch one of the Pagosa Springs Choral Society’s annual Christmas concerts or another local nonprofit holding a fundraiser that makes for a great night out with a live band or storied performer.
Too, several venues around town work to regularly feature local musical talent, dancing and more.
Perhaps you’ll catch Tim Sullivan, an award-winning singer/songwriter who’s played venues such as Carnegie Hall and with the likes of Vince Gill and Willie Nelson. Maybe you’ll catch Bob Hemenger, a saxophonist and local teacher who has played with people like Victor Wooten and Darrell Scott.
Or, you could also catch any number of business owners, retirees and more who rank as local favorites.
Several of the area’s restaurants and bars also seek to feature live entertainment several times a week, making dinner and entertainment a combination that’s typically easy to find and enjoy, with a wide variety of musical genres featured to suit your tastes.
If you’re more into letting loose by being the entertainment, watch for DJs to host karaoke nights and dance parties, and scope out restaurants and venues with a dance floor.
For more information on live entertainment happening during your stay, pick up a copy of The Pagosa Springs SUN, visit www.PagosaSUN.com or www.visitpagosasprings.com, ask a local for their suggestions, or just pop into a restaurant or bar — who knows what you might find.
Enhance your vacation experience with the Pagosa Springs Visitor Center and Visit Pagosa Springs
The Pagosa Springs Visitor Center and Visit Pagosa Springs app are here to help you get the most out of your Pagosa Springs vacation.
Both sources will help you find information on lodging, restaurants, area activities and all things Pagosa Springs.
Located along the banks of the San Juan River just across the Hot Springs Boulevard bridge in downtown Pagosa Springs, the Visitor Center features picnic tables along the river, free Wi-Fi, free area maps, a wealth of area information and a genuinely local perspective.
A team of fantastic staff and volunteers are available daily to assist you in making the most of your visit. The Visitor Center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., though the days and hours may be subject to change depending on local conditions. For after-hours information, multiple brochures are available outside.
The Visit Pagosa Springs app, available free for smartphones, can also provide information 24/7 and can help you with your vacation planning both before arriving and while you’re here. Visit Pagosa Springs also has a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
You’ll also find different ways to explore the community.
There is a bike planter scavenger hunt year-round. Local businesses host flower planters that look like old bicycles. Follow the map in the app, keep track of the letters, unscramble the clue to complete the phrase, and spin the wheel for a chance at several awesome prizes.
For the adventurous youngsters, pick up a Kid’s Activity Book from a volunteer, with free crayons. Children who complete the activity book during their stay can redeem it for a fun and unique Pagosa Bear.
Free, reusable water bottles are available at the Visitor Center to help you stay hydrated on your adventures.
You can reach the Visitor Center by calling (970) 585-1200 or (800) 252-2204. To learn more about Pagosa Springs, visit www.visitpagosasprings.com or download the Visit Pagosa Springs app.
The locals aren’t exaggerating— Pagosa Country really does have some of the best natural snow in Colorado, and the most of it!
If you don’t believe the local lore, check the stats; nearly every winter, an average of 39 feet falls on the area’s 12,000-foot alpine summits surrounding Wolf Creek Pass. One year, the total snowfall exceeded 75 feet.
There’s no question; this is the reason powder hounds love Wolf Creek Ski Area. No other Colorado ski mountain can predictably offer as much untracked powder and packed powder as Wolf Creek.
Meteorologists attribute Wolf Creek’s consistent snow accumulation to the ski area’s location within the San Juan Mountains and to numerous high peaks around Pagosa Springs.
According to weather experts, as relatively warm, subtropical moisture from the Pacific pushes east over the southwestern deserts and eventually rises up to surmount the southern San Juan Mountains, it cools and further condenses, thus creating additional moisture. Because colder air holds less moisture, heavy winter precipitation falls in the form of light and powdery snow. The surrounding topography actually funnels this precipitation — referred to as “upslope weather” — to the ski area, thus producing some of the most and best snow anywhere in Colorado.
For winter sports enthusiasts, this means world-class skiing on the runs at Wolf Creek Ski Area, and outstanding cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling throughout Pagosa Country.
Thirty-seven people were killed by avalanches in the U.S. in the winter of 2020-2021, including 12 in Colorado.
While avalanches are a serious threat to winter backcountry travelers everywhere, they are particularly so here. In fact, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Colorado has recorded more avalanche-related deaths since 1950 than any other state. Therefore, knowing how to recognize the elements that cause avalanches is essential for remaining safe while traveling in the mountains.
As a long spine of high inland peaks, the Colorado Rockies usually accumulate a colder, shallower snowpack than that of the mountain ranges nearer to the west coast. As a result, certain physical characteristics merge to create persistent fragile layers ripe for avalanche, once sufficient stress develops. The San Juan Mountains, for example, possess abundant steep terrain while receiving ample annual snowfall. As simple gravity increases stress, combined forces routinely elevate the risk of an avalanche.
A combination of weather, steep terrain and existing snowpack structure may give rise to avalanche danger. Weather factors typically include heavy snowfall, high winds and wildly fluctuating temperatures. Avalanche terrain is mainly determined by slope steepness and slope orientation to the wind and sun. Relevant snowpack characteristics include the formation and presence of weak layers vulnerable to increasing stress.
As stress on a slope overcomes the strength of its snowpack, an avalanche can result. Stress can increase dramatically under the weight of new snowfall, the sudden release of a cornice (or snow overhang), or, as an individual or group of skiers, snowboarders or snowmobilers moves across unstable snow. Most often, avalanche victims trigger the slides that overtake them or other members of their group.
Travelers should move singly in avalanche terrain to reduce stress on the snowpack, while possessing the equipment and the skills necessary to successfully affect an avalanche rescue. Because a victim buried just 30 minutes stands less than a 35 percent chance of survival, time is of the essence. To aid in location and rescue efforts, each well-equipped party member should carry an electronic avalanche beacon, probe pole and lightweight shovel. In too many cases involving unintentional slides, ignorance, arrogance, fatigue or peer-group pressure can result in backcountry travelers ignoring obvious warning signs.
Backcountry travelers caught in an avalanche may not fare well. Whether being buried alive and deprived of oxygen for several minutes or being carried over cliffs, into trees, rocks or other large objects, serious injury — or worse — can result. Therefore, an immediate rescue is essential to increasing a victim’s odds of survival. An individual’s beacon helps companions locate him or her quickly, while a probe pole and shovel allow individuals to pinpoint and uncover companions buried in the snow. Backcountry enthusiasts can purchase this equipment from various recreational retailers in Pagosa Springs.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center provides daily mountain weather and avalanche hazard forecasts available on the Web at avalanche.state.co.us. Daily forecasts begin in early November and continue through most of May. Backcountry travelers should use this information as a basis for their own risk assessment and trip planning.
Educate yourself. Seek out knowledgeable people, read books, take an established avalanche course and — most important — always pay attention to the clues nature provides, as you travel the backcountry.
Also, watch The Pagosa Springs SUN and local outdoor shops for announcements about community avalanche awareness talks from the experts who monitor and forecast local avalanches for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and Colorado Department of Transportation.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is a program within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Executive Director’s Office, and is a partnership between the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Transportation and the Friends of the CAIC.
This route climbs generally uphill for 1.5 miles to the Lobo Overlook, the Continental Divide Trail (and the microwave tower). Skiers will be rewarded with breathtaking views at the top. Snowmobiles are allowed on the forest service road and provide a packed trail for the ascent.
Getting there: Travel 23.2 miles northeast on U.S. 160. Parking and the road to the overlook are north of the highway just past the Continental Divide.
Nipple Mountain Road – (Forest Road 665)
In addition to traveling Nipple Mountain Road, there are a few other options in this area. The hardy person with a map and backcountry skills may identify lengthy or loop trips.
Getting there: From downtown, go east on U.S. 160 to the junction with U.S. 84. Travel 1/8 mile south on U.S. 84 and turn left on Mill Creek Road (County Road 302), drive approximately 5 miles to trailhead parking before the junction with Nipple Mountain Road (665).
Blanco River Road – (Forest Road 656)
Blanco River Road is closed at the highway. The route generally parallels the river for 2.5 miles from the highway to Blanco River campground.
Getting there: Travel 11 miles south on U.S. 84 to Blanco River Road. Parking is limited.
Kenney Flats Road – (Forest Road 006)
This road through open, fairly level terrain is good for beginners and provides several possible routes.
Getting there: Travel 14 miles south on U.S. 84 to Kenney Flats Road. Parking is located on the east side of the highway.
Williams Creek Area
Open, fairly flat area that is good for beginners. Enjoy spectacular views of mountains and large, open parks. Unplowed road continues past Williams Creek Reservoir to Poison Park and Williams Creek trails.
Getting there: From downtown, travel two miles west on U.S. 160, turn north on Piedra Road. Travel 22 miles, and then turn right on Williams Creek Road, continue to reservoir.
Jackson Mountain Road – (Forest Road 037)
Gradual, uphill, 4-mile route to the end of an unplowed road with additional opportunities to travel other roads in the area. Jackson Mountain is a popular area for snowmobiles.
Getting there: Travel 7.3 miles northeast on U.S. 160. Parking is on the left at Jackson Mountain Road.
Wolf Creek Road – (On Wolf Creek Pass — Forest Road 725)
There are three access points along approximately three miles of road with some fairly open, moderate terrain in this area. Views are spectacular. This area is popular for snowmobiling. Skiers typically use Lobo Overlook, 1/2 mile east of the Wolf Creek Pass summit, on the north side of the road.
Getting there: To trailhead: Travel 20 miles northeast on U.S. 160 to Wolf Creek Road.
Groomed Nordic skiing Trails
Groomed Nordic ski trails are for classic cross-country skiing and skate skiing only. Other users should avoid groomed surfaces.
A beautiful 10km loop that starts at the end of the Alberta parking lot of Wolf Creek Ski Area and travels through the forest. Wolf Creek Ski Area has groomed this cross-country ski trail for many years with no use fees required.
• The Wolf Creek Ski Area grooms up to 10km for skate skiing and classic cross-country skiing.
• The first km is an intermediate access to the Alberta Meadow Nordic loop. Beginners should be aware of the slope and that speed control is needed.
• There is no ability level signage.
Getting there: Travel 24 miles east on U.S. 160 to the Wolf Creek Ski Area. The parking attendant can guide you to the far east end of the Alberta parking lot where the Alberta Park cross-country ski trail begins.
Fall Creek Nordic Trail – (Forest Road 039)
Beginning at about 9,600 feet in elevation, this popular ski route climbs gradually for about 5.5km. Great early and late-season snow conditions. 5.5km groomed for cross-country skiing typically groomed early in the season only, prior to other trails opening for the season.
Getting there: Travel 19 miles northeast on U.S. 160 to Fall Creek Road (Forest Road 39). Once cleared, there is a large parking area on the south side of the highway. Avoid parking along highway travel lanes.
West Fork Nordic Trail
With an abundance of flat, groomed and natural terrain, the West Fork area provides fantastic cross-country opportunities for beginners and families as well as experienced skiers. The area offers skiers the chance to ski through stands of giant conifers, as well as scenic views of the valley floor and the headwaters of the San Juan River.
• The Pagosa Nordic Club grooms up to 15km for skate skiing, with set tracks for classic cross-country skiing.
Getting there: Drive 14 miles east of Pagosa Springs on U.S. 160 — look for the Bruce Spruce Lodge sign on the left side of the road. Turn left onto West Fork Road (Forest Road 648). Drive to the end of the road (.25 miles). Park on the side of the road where it is plowed. The trails are groomed exclusively for cross-country skiing. Walkers and snowshoers are prohibited on the groomed trails.
Coyote Hill is another great family and beginner area with three levels of loops. The Pagosa Ranger District grooms up to 14km for skate skiing, with set tracks for classic cross-country skiing. The first level — just off the parking area — offers 3km of beginner, groomed trails. From the main trail, skiers can continue up to the second level for an additional 3km of intermediate terrain. The upper loop offers another 6km of intermediate terrain and 2km of advanced terrain.
• The trails are groomed exclusively for cross-country skiing. Walkers and snowshoers are prohibited on the groomed trails. Snowmobiles are prohibited on Coyote Hill.
Getting there: Drive 6.3 miles north of U.S. 160 on Piedra Road (County Road 600). The trailhead is on the right, just after the cattle guard. Please park in the pull-off if it is plowed.
Cloman Park Nordic Ski Trail
10km groomed by the Pagosa Nordic Club for skate skiing with set tracks for classic cross-country skiing. Located 2 miles north of U.S. 160 on Piedra Road to Cloman Boulevard, then two miles to the trailhead (past airport and sawmill). Friendly dogs welcome, though some portions enter private property, which prohibits dogs. Snowshoeing allowed off of groomed ski trails please.
• Close proximity to town and has recently been expanded. Please respect private property and stay on groomed trails. Good parking and portable toilet available.
Laverty Ranch Nordic Ski Trail
10km groomed by the Pagosa Nordic Club. One mile east of town at 2197 E. Hwy. 160.
This area is for Nordic skiing only. Venue is private property and other winter uses are prohibited. No dogs allowed. Beginner terrain is accessible from the parking lot with plenty of intermediate and advanced terrain. Do not park on pavement during business hours Monday-Friday. Pagosa Nordic Club membership or trail-use fee required for this trail use.
Follows Fourmile Road (CR 400, FR 645) from the winter closure point to its end.
Length: 4.6 miles.
Trailhead: Fourmile Road (CR 400) at winter closure.
Grooming: Frequently groomed.
Connections: Plumtaw Trail (FR 634).
The trail is accessed via the Fourmile (Winter) Trail (FR 645). It follows Plumtaw Road (FR 634) to end at McManus Road (FR 633).
Length: 18.3 miles.
Trailheads: Fourmile Road (CR 400) or McManus Road (FR 633) at winter closure points.
Grooming: Frequently groomed.
Connections: The McManus-E. Toner Connector (5.8 miles) crosses the Middle Fork of the Piedra River. The route consists of a groomed trail to E. Toner Road (FR 637), then follows E. Toner Road to Middle Fork Road (FR 636) and continues southwest to a parking area at the junction with Piedra Road (FR 631).
East Fork Road – (Forest Road 667)
An enjoyable route for one or several miles, this route parallels the East Fork of the San Juan River. It is eight miles to the historic Silver Falls Guard Station. Please stay on the road as it passes through private property. This area sees significant snowmobile use, is groomed occasionally by the Wolf Creek Trail Blazers snowmobile club, and can provide a quality distance ski.
Getting there: Travel 9.5 miles east on U.S. 160, turn southeast on East Fork Road, then continue about 3/4 mile to the parking area at the end of the plowed road.
Turkey Springs Trail
Length: 8.5 mile loop.
Trailhead: Turkey Springs Trailhead on Piedra Road (FR 631).
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service and the Pagosa Nordic Club
The opportunities for snowshoeing, classic cross-country skiing and skate skiing in Pagosa Country are plentiful, no matter your level of experience. Some trails/areas cater to those attempting the sports for the first time, while others will challenge even the most experienced winter enthusiasts. The routes described are a mix of groomed trails and unplowed, ungroomed Forest Service roads closed to most vehicles except snowmobiles.
The U.S. Forest Service, Wolf Creek Trail Blazers Snowmobile Club, Wolf Creek Ski Area and the Pagosa Nordic Club all work in conjunction with each other to groom trails for the public to use for skate skiing, classic cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
The Forest Service roads listed below are enjoyed and shared by people on skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles. Check with the Pagosa Ranger District Office in downtown Pagosa Springs or go to PagosaNordic.com to learn more about groomed trail opportunities.
Parking may present a problem and at times may prevent the use of a particular route. Park considerately, taking no more space than needed to avoid blocking other vehicles or impeding access to trails, and without impeding access for emergency vehicles. Leave room for vehicles and trailers to turn around. Colorado Department of Transportation crews clear parking areas along state highways adjacent to trail access, but their first priority is to clear the road. Avoid parking along highway travel lanes.
Cross-country skiers might find all types of winter recreation enthusiasts on trails in the Pagosa Springs area. Please don’t ride fat bikes, walk or snowshoe on groomed trails. Yield the right of way to downhill traffic. Use caution when approaching or overtaking another user. Do not interfere with or harass other users. Do not disturb wildlife. Only friendly dogs under voice control are permitted and all dog defecation should be removed from the ski trail. In addition, pack out everything you pack in.
Before venturing out onto unpacked snow, take the time to learn emergency procedures and backcountry travel and winter camping skills. Weather and snow conditions can change rapidly in Colorado’s mountains. Plan ahead and know what conditions to expect. Your trip will be much more enjoyable if you are physically and mentally prepared for whatever may arise. Be prepared for medical emergencies and leave a detailed description of your trip plans with a responsible person each time you go. Make sure the person you leave your plan with knows to contact the sheriff’s office if you fail to return. In addition, consider purchasing a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card to ensure that the county can recover all of your search and rescue costs. Cards cost $3 for one year or $12 for five years and are available at hunting and fishing license vendors.
When planning any backcountry trek, check current and forecasted weather conditions before you leave home and continue to monitor the weather throughout your trip. Dramatic weather changes can occur in minutes throughout Pagosa Country, especially in the mountains. Be informed about avalanche terrain and conditions. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center provides current information on weather and avalanche conditions at http://avalanche.state.co.us.
Stay within limits
Recognize and stay within your limits. Carry the appropriate gear for your trip, including extra clothing, a space blanket, sunscreen, sunglasses or goggles, matches or lighter, extra food and water. If traveling with a dog, carry plastic bags for cleaning up after your pooch. Carry a compass and topographical maps and know how to use them. For backcountry trips, avalanche safety skills and equipment, including a snow shovel, avalanche beacon and probe, are essential. In addition, be prepared to repair equipment and carry a simple field repair kit that includes supplies for common breakdowns.
Visit www.PagosaNordic.com or the Pagosa Ranger District office at 2nd Street and U.S. 160 in downtown Pagosa Springs for up-to-date trail status and conditions.
As a general rule, dress in layers so you can add and subtract layers as you become hot or cold. Remember, it can be quite cold in the morning, warm up considerably during the day, and get cold as soon as the sun moves behind the hills or a cloud. Avoid cotton clothing, especially next to the skin. You can be sure that you will get wet from sweat, from falling down, or from snow falling off trees. You may get cold if you stop for any amount of time. The weather may change dramatically if a front is coming in or if it starts snowing. In a group, some items can be shared.
Equipment and clothing
Skis, boots, poles — no-wax skis, maxiglide or other for sticking; waxable skis — waxes, cork, scraper and snow thermometer; sunglasses or glacier glasses; sunscreen; day pack or fanny pack; Swiss army knife; compass; maps; quart-size canteen or wide-mouth bottle filled with water; long underwear (polypropylene or other synthetic); intermediate layer — sweater (wool or synthetic) or shirt (wool or synthetic); windbreaker layer (nylon, 60/40 cloth, avoid garments that are heavily treated with waterproofing); pants or knickers (wool or synthetic, blue jeans are not recommended); socks (wool or synthetic); liner socks; hat (wool or synthetic) — you must be able to cover your ears; high-energy snacks and lunch, if appropriate; toilet paper and plastic bag for used paper; first aid kit; flashlight; vest (down or synthetic) or warmer jacket (down or synthetic); poncho and/or space blanket; extra hats, extra gloves; balaclava or ski mask; neck gaiter; ear band (knit-wool or synthetic); thin polypropylene or other synthetic gloves to operate equipment such as cameras; matches in a waterproof container; candle; whistle; duct tape; ski tip.
Be prepared for avalanche danger
Carry an avalanche shovel, beacon and probe for each person. Always test equipment and make sure all beacons are compatible and have adequate battery power.
Always check conditions with an avalanche forecasting group before going out. Daily avalanche forecasts can be obtained online at www.avalanche.state.co.us or by calling (970) 247-8187. More educational information, including a listing of available training, can be obtained at: www.avalanche.org and www.avalanche.state.co.us (Colorado Avalanche Information Center).
Maps and trail information are available from the U.S. Forest Service Pagosa Ranger District, 180 Pagosa St. or call (970) 264-2268.
For grooming reports, trail maps and events information, visit PagosaNordic.com.
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.
• 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.
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 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.
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.