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A CULINARY CROSSROADS

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Hiking & Horseback Riding
Sub Head
The incredible natural beauty of the surrounding mountains draws many visitors to the Pagosa Springs area. And although accessing the backcountry in Pagosa Country is easy, many visitors to this majestic environment do not take the opportunity to hike or horseback ride “back in” and enjoy the beauty in a more intimate way.

For those who want to get out of the car and off the beaten track, backcountry excursions offer intrepid visitors an opportunity to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the San Juan National Forest firsthand, and many trails are easily accessible and within relative proximity to downtown Pagosa Springs.

Use your car to reach one of the convenient starting points listed below, then leave it behind to wander trails winding beneath towering pines or along clear mountain streams.

The trails described here cover a variety of terrain and skill levels. Trails with number next to name correspond with trails on the Recreation map in the center of this guide.

Hiking & Riding Tips

• Set easy-to-achieve objectives. Unless you are backpacking, plan to return well before dark.

• Stay on the trail. Short-cutting causes erosion and is hazardous to your safety, as well as to the safety of hikers below you.

• Think safety. Carry a map, water, snacks and clothing to keep you warm and dry. Weather conditions change rapidly in the mountains and it may rain or snow at any time. Always travel with a friend, and always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.

• Pack out your trash. Help keep the forest clean and pack out trash someone else left.

• Share the trails. The trails listed are shared by many visitors, some using horses, and in some areas, using bicycles or ATVs. For the safety of all involved, give horse riders the right-of-way by moving well off the trail on the downhill side, when it is safe to do so. To avoid startling the horses, say “hello” so they know you are a person, not a predator.

• Trail signs are usually found at trailheads and major junctions of maintained trails. Take a moment to read the information posted at trailheads. Not all junctions and no cross-country routes are signed.

• A Pagosa Country map is available to direct you to the various trailheads. It is also a good idea to pick up a national forest map; it more clearly shows all access roads, trails and special area boundaries. Maps and current information about trail conditions are available at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center and the United States Forest Service office at U.S. 160 and Second Street.

The hikes described here begin at altitudes above 8,000 feet, and several top out at 12,000 feet. Each hike is classed “easy” to “difficult.” Only those in good physical condition should attempt the difficult hikes. Remember, when you go downhill you will have to climb back up when you return.

Fourmile Falls

Difficulty: Moderate

From U.S. 160, turn north onto Lewis Street, take an immediate left onto 5th Street. Stay right on Fourmile Road (County Road 400 — this becomes No. 645). Drive north seven miles from Pagosa Springs. Turn right at the junction, travel four more miles to the trailhead. The trail follows Fourmile Creek with Eagle Mountain to the east. The trail is bordered by stands of aspen and spruce. At mile three you will reach the waterfall, which drops 300 feet from the cliff above.

Opal Lake

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Mileage: 1.2 miles

Drive south on Colo. 84 from Pagosa Springs approximately eight miles to Blanco Basin Road (#657). After driving 10 miles, turn right across the Blanco River Bridge. Follow the Castle Creek Road (#660) to the signed junction for the Opal Lake Trailhead. Turn right here and drive a short distance to the trailhead on the right. The trail to Opal Lake is 1.2 miles and takes about 45 minutes to hike. A portion of the trail is steep before it traverses an open meadow to the lake. Groves of large aspen line the trail and several beaver dams can be seen in the area. The lake is bordered by wooded hillsides and a sheer mountain face. Minerals deposited at the inlet of the lake give it its milky color.

Piedra Falls

Difficulty: Easy

Drive north on Piedra Road (CR 600) about 17 miles to the junction at Sportsman’s Supply. Leave the Piedra Road and continue on the Middle Fork Road (#636) for two miles. Take the first road to the right, East Toner Road (#637), and follow it to the end. Do not attempt to travel this road in wet weather. Walk up the river to a headgate where the trail begins. The falls are impressive, thundering off a cliff into a V-shaped canyon of huge boulders. The hike takes about 15 to 30 minutes each way.

Williams Creek

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Mileage: Depends on destination

Drive north on Piedra Road (CR 600) about 22 miles. Turn right on Williams Creek Road (#640) past Williams Creek Reservoir and Cimarrona Campground, continuing on to the trailhead at the end of the road. The trail follows Williams Creek northward into the Weminuche Wilderness. The old Spanish name for Williams Creek was Huerto: garden-like. The first few miles of Williams Creek give the impression of a gigantic walled garden. Across the creek to the right is a group of peaks eroded from volcanic rock. Set your own destination — it continues on 14 miles to the Continental Divide.

Treasure Falls

Difficulty: Easy

Mileage: .5 miles

Travel 14 miles northeast on U.S. 160 to the base of Wolf Creek Pass. You will see a parking lot on your right. A quarter-mile interpretive trail begins near the restroom and continues to the bridge at the base of the falls. While standing in the refreshing spray on the bridge, the falls rush hundreds of feet down the cliff toward you. During winter, the frozen falls become a beautiful, sapphire ice sculpture.

Turkey Creek Trail

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Mileage: Depends on destination

Drive 7.3 miles northeast of Pagosa Springs on U.S. 160 to Jackson Mountain access road on the left. Follow it for four miles to the end of the road. This trail is the longest in this section of the Weminuche Wilderness. It is 20 miles from the trailhead through breathtaking scenery to the Continental Divide. Choose your own destination here. A five-mile hike will take you to the first creek crossing.

Piedra River Trail

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Mileage: Depends on destination

The upper terminus of the trail begins on the Piedra Road (CR 600) about 16 miles north of Pagosa Springs. After crossing the Piedra River you will notice the trailhead parking lot ahead of you on the left. The trail starts on the canyon rim and then descends to the river. Sheer cliffs rise on both sides for over several hundred yards. This is an easy trail for young and old alike if you only go the 3.5 miles to the footbridge across the Piedra. For a longer hike, follow the river for another 8.5 miles. The trail passes several cool box canyons to end at the bridge on the First Fork of the Piedra Road. Confirm that First Fork Road is open and shuttle a vehicle to the First Fork Bridge for the longer hike.

Continental Divide Trail North

Difficulty: Easy to difficult depending on duration and destination

Mileage: Depends on destination

Turn left on the dirt road just past the Continental Divide marker on the summit of Wolf Creek Pass. Drive 1.5 miles to the Lobo Overlook parking area and microwave tower site. The trail begins behind the microwave tower and follows the Continental Divide, the backbone of the continent and the dividing line for eastern and western watersheds. From the trailhead, you can embark on an easy day hike or begin an extended backcountry journey — hiking options along the Continental Divide trail seem limitless.

Ice Cave Ridge Trail

Difficulty: Easy

Mileage: .5 mile

Drive to the Piedra River Trail parking area to access this trail. From the parking area, start on the Piedra River Trail for several hundred yards, then follow the old road bed to the right. This is an easy, short trail up Ice Cave Ridge. The fissures on the side of the ridge contain snow deposited through the winter and hidden from the sun. After melting and compressing, the ice remains in the fissures as late as the end of June. From the ridge at the top, you have a good view of the Piedra Valley and other ridges. Use caution when viewing the ice fissures. Watch your footing, keep children near you and dogs leashed.

Continental Divide Trail to Alberta Peak

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult due to a steady uphill grade and elevation

Mileage: 2.5 miles

Travel east on U.S. 160 22.6 miles to the summit of Wolf Creek Pass. The trail begins on the south side of the road, just east of the Continental Divide information kiosk. A trail travels south and climbs to the west of Wolf Creek Ski Area. It then leads to rocky ridges on the west side of Alberta Peak. No marked trail leads to the top of the peak (11,870 feet), although a 15 to 20 minute scramble will take you to the top. There are many beautiful vistas along the ridge.

West Fork or Rainbow Trail

Difficulty: Moderate

Mileage: Depends on destination

Travel to this trailhead from Pagosa Springs on U.S. 160. Drive northeast for 15 miles, then turn left on the West Fork Road (#648). Travel three miles to the trailhead. The first portion of this trail passes through private property. Hiking three miles will take you to the West Fork of the San Juan River, and 1/4 mile further is Beaver Creek. Either are pleasant day hikes. The trail continues on to the Continental Divide.

Cimarrona Creek Trail

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

Mileage: Depends on destination

Drive north on Piedra Road (CR 600) to Williams Lake Road. The trail begins on the left side of Williams Lake Road just beyond the entrance of Cimarrona Campground. The first two miles of trail are moderately easy, wandering through conifers and aspen groves. From here many switchbacks start a steep ascent. Choose your destination — the trail continues on to the Continental Divide Trail at Squaw Pass.

Treasure Mountain Trail

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

Mileage: Four miles

A spectacular trail to Windy Pass starts from the East Fork Road. Drive eight miles northeast on U.S. 160, turn right on the East Fork Road and travel approximately seven miles to the trailhead. A small sign on the left side of the road marks the trailhead. After approximately three miles, the Windy Pass Trail from the southwest intersects this trail in a large scenic park. Windy Pass is about three-quarters-of-a-mile to the west of this junction. You can return the way you came up, or go on down to U.S. 160 (if you left a car there). Obviously, you could go to the top of Windy Pass from U.S. 160, but it just isn’t as scenic. The East Fork Road may be closed for a brief period this summer for repairs. Check with the U.S. Forest Service to determine the road status.

Quartz Lake (Little Blanco Trail)

Difficulty: Difficult

Travel south on Colo. 84 for approximately 1/4 mile and turn left on Mill Creek Road (#662). Drive for approximately 15 miles and bear right on the Nipple Mountain Road (#665). Follow it nearly to the end. You will see a trailhead sign on the left. The first two miles of the Little Blanco Trail are steep and winding. You will travel through aspen groves and pine forest to a narrow ridge with a sweeping view to the west. Follow the trail to the junction of the Quartz Lake Trail. The trail continues to the left for another mile to Quartz Lake. The lake itself is relatively small, but pristine. Expect winds at the top and in the lake area. Snow will linger on this trail into early summer. Check conditions before you go.

Anderson Trail

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult Loop (how difficult depends on the distance one goes, as with other trails.)

Mileage: Depends on destination (Fourmile/Anderson) is about 14 miles with total ascent of 2,600 feet.)

See Fourmile Falls Trail for directions. This trail begins at the Fourmile Trailhead, to the left of the Fourmile Trail. This trail climbs steadily for about four miles to skirt the east side of Pagosa Peak (11,200 feet). The summit of the peak is 12,460 feet. The trail continues on to Fourmile Lake another four miles. Here the Anderson Trail junctions with the old Fourmile Trail. From here it is six miles back to the trailhead, very steep in some areas. Snow will linger on this trail into early summer. Check conditions before you go.