It's easy to drive right past Pagosa Springs, a small, 1,700-resident community in the middle of nowhere, er, nature in southern Colorado.
Slow down. Stop time. Stay here a while.
Pagosa Springs, about an hour away from Durango, centers around natural hot mineral springs and the (much cooler) San Juan River. The community is naturally tranquil, by size and location, so it's a wonderful destination for a relaxing wellness vacation or a nature-centered family excursion.
Here are five of the best things to see and do in Pagosa Springs.
1. Stay at the Springs Resort & Spa
This luxurious resort is our favorite place to stay. The rooms are walking distance to 23 hot spring pools spread along the banks of the river, almost like a peaceful water park. The pools all have different temps and atmospheres, so you can find the mood that best fits your needs, or pool hop if you can't decide.
Beyond the mineral water, The Springs is a full-service spa and its EcoLuxe Hotel was Colorado's first LEED Gold certified hotel.
For lodging with a Victorian experience, check out the Overlook Spa on Pagosa Street.
Visitors who want an authentic, Western experience in Colorado should stay at the High Country Lodge, conveniently located in the beautiful San Juan Mountains between Pagosa Springs and the Wolf Creek ski area. This location also makes High Country Lodge a popular home base in winter, for guests who want to alternate their cold skiing with toasty waters.
Request a cabin for a true Colorado adventure.
2. See The Mother Spring
The "Mother Spring," also called "The Great Pagosah," located at The Springs Resort & Spa, was named the world's deepest geothermal hot spring by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2011. It's more than 1,000 feet deep (the measuring line ran out before it found bottom) and reaches temps of 144 degrees.
No swimming is allowed in this hot spring. Not that you would want to (or be able to) at these temperatures, not to mention the terrifying depth. Ask about its sacred history as a healing center for native residents.
3. Visit Chimney Rock National Monument
You'll know it when you see it. Chimney Rock is marked by an odd-shaped, skinny rock mound perched atop a narrow mesa.
Here, you will find thousands of acres of artifacts and archaeological remnants from the Ancestral Puebloans who used to live here. See ancient buildings, an underground kiva, a pit house and homes.
Chimney Rock is one of the nation's newest national monuments. It is considered sacred and still has spiritual meaning to many tribes.
For something special:
- Look for the Chimney Rock Full Moon Program, where visitors can watch the full moon rise at the Great House Pueblo site to the live sounds of the Native American flute.
- On special occasions, like the fall equinox, you can watch the sun rise from amid the ruins and listen to stories about the ancient residents here.
4. Attend the ColorFest
Every fall, the town of Pagosa Springs comes to life with live music, wine, beer and hot air balloons. Try food from the region at the Pagosa Passport to Wine and Food event, witness a "battle of the brews" between local microbreweries, sign up for a 5K color-run race and take photos of not one but two hot air balloon ascensions.
At the wine and food festival, visitors can pair locally made wine with local food.
5. Jam Out at Folk Music Festivals
Music is big around here. FolkWest organizes a summer and a fall folk music fest in Pagosa Springs. One highlight is the Four Corners Folk Festival in early September. In June, Pagosa Folk 'N Bluegrass brings more folk musicians to town for a three-day event.
In the summer, kids can also sign up for a bluegrass music camp. Even musical adults can improve their pickin' at the Pagosa Folk 'N Bluegrass Jam Camp for Adults.