|Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service and the Pagosa Nordic Club
Plentiful are the opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in Pagosa Country. The routes described below 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, Alpen Haus Ski Center 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, snowmobiles, and in some areas, even snowboards. 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 some play areas, but their first priority is to clear the road.
Cross-country skiers may find all manner of winter recreation enthusiasts on trails in the Pagosa Springs area. When possible, leave room for parallel tracks to allow each type of user to retain their own tracks. When on groomed Nordic trails, please don’t walk or snowshoe in the set track. 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. Pack out everything you pack in and remove dog defecation from the ski trail.
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 all of your search and rescue costs are covered. 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, 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 probes are essential. In addition, be prepared to repair equipment and carry a simple field repair kit that includes supplies for common breakdowns.
The routes established by the Pagosa Nordic Club are rated for difficulty: routes along Forest Service roads are not. All directions begin in downtown Pagosa Springs. The numbers in parentheses next to road names are Forest Service road numbers and may be found on the San Juan National Forest map.
Ski options east on U.S. 160
Jackson Mountain Road
(Forest Road 037)
Gradual, uphill four-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.
Travel 7.3 miles northeast on U.S. 160. Parking is on the left at Jackson Mountain Road.
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 and is great for skate skiing.
Travel 9.5 miles northeast 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.
Fall Creek Road
(Forest Road 039)
Beginning at about 9,600 feet in elevation, this route climbs gradually for about six miles. Great early and late season snow conditions.
Travel 19 miles northeast on U.S. 160 to Fall Creek Road. Once cleared, there is a large parking area on the south side of the highway.
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 accent.
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.
Wolf Creek Road (On Wolf Creek Pass)
There are three routes on about five miles of road with some fairly open, moderate terrain in this area. Views are spectacular. This area is popular for snowmobiling.
To trailhead: Travel 20 miles northeast on U.S. 160 to Wolf Creek Road.
Alberta Lake Loop
A beautiful 10 km loop route down to Alberta Lake with some loops through the forest. Wolf Creek Ski Area has groomed this cross country ski trail for many years now with no use fees required.
• Easiest 50 percent. More Difficult 50 percent
• 5-7 kilometers groomed for skate skiing, classic cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Travel 24 miles northeast on U.S. 160 to the Wolf Creek Ski Area. The parking attendant can guide you to the far east end of the upper parking lot where the Alberta Park cross country ski trail starts.
Ski Options south on U.S. 84
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.
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 (CR 302), drive 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.
Travel 11 miles south on U.S. 84 to Blanco River Road. Parking may be limited.
Kenney Flats Road
(Forest Road 006)
This road through open, fairly level terrain is good for beginners and provides several possible routes.
Travel 14 miles south on U.S. 84 to Kenney Flats Road. Parking is located on the east side of the highway.
North of Pagosa Springs
Fourmile (645) and Plumtaw Roads (634)
The first 1.5 miles of this route is uphill. At the junction, one can continue on Fourmile Road or go left on Plumtaw Road. For a long trek, continue on Plumtaw Road to its junction with McManus Road in the Upper Piedra, a distance of about 17 miles. This route is popular for snowmobile use and is great for skate skiing.
Turn east on Lewis Street, north on Fifth Street, which becomes Fourmile Road. Travel 6.5 miles north on Fourmile Road to the closure point near the national forest boundary.
Pagosa Hut and Trail System
There are three huts and several miles of trail in the Turkey Springs area, however the huts will not be operated this winter and are not available for use this year. Check back next year for more information.
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.
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 Williams Creek Reservoir.
Note: Grooming has ceased on the Turkey Springs and Williams Creek Campground trails. Contact the U.S. Forest Service for more information on winter recreational opportunities in those areas.
General Trail Map Disclaimer
Nordic ski track maps should not be used for navigation — use a topographical map for terrain navigation. Trails shown on maps are general locations. Trails may change course, be omitted or added due to snow conditions. Trail distances are approximate.
Visit www.PagosaNordic.com or the Pagosa Ranger District office on Second 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; 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; avalanche beacon for each person with test equipment and make sure all beacons are compatible; avalanche cord; probe poles or ski poles that convert to probes.
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 (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 [CAIC]).
Maps and trail information are available from the U.S. Forest Service Pagosa Ranger District, 180 Pagosa St. or call (970) 264-2268.