Editor’s Note: Brandon & Janet Hensley are members of LTV’s sponsored content team, The Leisure Explorers. Do you own a Leisure Travel Van and enjoy writing? Learn more about joining the team.
The rich tradition of a favorite family vacation spot for generations is priceless. And Southwest Colorado is just that for me.
My family has been going to the Pagosa Springs, Colorado, area since my grandfather discovered the amazing beauty and wildlife the area boasts back in the 1940s. Since then, his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren continue to fly fish, RV, ski, and camp there to this very day.
And now it’s my favorite destination to take my Leisure Travel Vans Unity FX.
An Outdoor Enthusiast’s Dream
Pagosa Springs and the surrounding area has just about every activity for anyone who loves the outdoors. This is an absolute must to put on your destination to-do list. Nestled in southwest Colorado, about 50 minutes east of Durango, this mountain town of 2,500 residents is a popular cabin rental, RV, and vacation spot for countless reasons.
The San Juan River, with its abundant trout, runs through town, which is surrounded by the San Juan Mountains and huge areas of national forest land.
Just up the mountain is Wolf Creek Ski Area, which boasts the most snow in Colorado year after year – it’s literally one of the best-kept secrets in all of Colorado.
Hiking is abundant, with all ranges of difficulty. Just jump on the All Trails app and, with over 240 different trails to choose from, you will find the perfect day trip to enjoy the mountains.
The Hot Springs
Pagosa Springs is actually named for the natural geothermal hot springs that lie beneath the town. Discovered by the Ute tribe of Native Americans, pagosa means “healing waters”. Once the European settlers discovered the bubbling ponds of hot water over 150 years ago, the town started to form.
Today, several resorts and hotels surround the naturally occurring springs and offer access to the pools and grottos. It’s most certainly worth the money to spend a day enjoying the warm (or hot, depending on which pool you are in) waters. Winter is an amazing time to visit, as the surrounding snow is a stark contrast to the geothermal waters you are soaking in.
RV Park Options
Pagosa Springs has several RV parks, some situated along the San Juan River and some nestled against the mountains, offering stunning views and crisp, cool mountain air.
One of our favorites is The Last Resort RV Park & Campground. While on the smaller side, with just 19 full hookup sites and 6 partial hookup sites, they have picturesque walking trails along the river and great amenities. Cell service is nil here, but they do have wifi, which we find to be perfectly adequate.
We also love Pagosa Springs RV Park, which is larger and has premium mountain-side sites. Their amenities include a coffee shop and a quaint gift shop, complete with a resident dog snoozing on the floor.
They also have a BBQ bar open to their patrons, where you and your family and friends can cookout on a huge grill under a pergola. This is absolutely an amazing feature that we haven’t seen in many places.
Both of these RV parks are well outside of town with no cell service, so if you want to be closer in, we also love Mountain Landing Suites & RV Park in town, with restaurants, shopping, and the hot springs resorts just minutes away.
There are several more that we have yet to try out, so check out your favorite app to browse all the RV options Pagosa Springs has to offer.
Food and More Food
One of our favorite things about Pagosa is the food. There are so many great places to eat – here are three of our favorites.
Kip’s Grill and Cantina is a popular, but really small, place. Get there early to enjoy their delicious Mexican menu that features green chilis, street tacos, and margaritas.
Our other go-to for lunch or dinner is Riff Raff Brewing Company. They actually have two locations about a mile from each other. One is set in an old Victorian house and features fantastic burgers and salads, and we really recommend their homemade chips and sour cream sauce. My mouth is watering as I write this!
Their other location is their own brewery along the San Juan River. Here, Riff Raff brew all of their flagship beers as well as five different seasonal taps, and also feature a unique twist on burgers, nachos, and salads, including goat, lamb, and yak burgers.
Crazily enough, they literally make their beer using the heat from the geothermal activity under their restaurant. To quote their website:
“Riff Raff Brewing Co has tapped into the local spring-fed geothermal heating coming from the deepest hot spring in the world! Seriously, Guinness World Book of record status. Look it up. We are the second brewery in the United States to do so, meaning we really supply Pagosa Springs with Earth Powered Beer. Pagosa Springs is roughly translated to mean “healing waters,” due to the nature of the Hot Springs, and as locals and visitors have come to learn, RRBC is home to Pagosa’s other healing water.”
That’s pretty amazing and definitely a unique experience. We love Riff Raff.
As far as coffee and breakfast, Pagosa Baking Company is a must. Handcrafted pastries, bread, and other baked goods are lined up delectably, making it incredibly hard to choose. Just a few doors down from Riff Raff’s downtown location, Pagosa Baking Company sits in a building that was built in 1906 and has served as a private residence, a boot and saddle shop, a gun shop, an antique store, and now, since 2001, a bakery and coffee shop.
Downtown Pagosa Springs is lined with antique shops and restaurants, and is absolutely gorgeous at sunset with the mountains glowing as you look down the main thoroughfare of Pagosa Street.
Even though it’s a small mountain town, an hour away from Durango and four hours from Colorado Springs, you won’t be left without supplies, as there is a Walmart, a really nice City Market grocery store, and lots of outdoor and recreation shops to choose from.
Whether you go in summer, spring, or fall, RVing in a Leisure Travel Van is a beautiful and peaceful trip. And should you choose to ski in the winter, there are many cabins, homes, and chalets to rent from VRBO, Vacasa, or any of your favorite vacation rental apps.
Wolf Creek Ski Area is just that – an area, and not a resort. There is no lodging on the mountain, as it’s actually national forest land. That keeps this pristine ski mountain from being overcrowded like its Colorodo siblings of Vail, Aspen, and Breckenridge.
On holidays and spring break, you will see crowds, but nothing overwhelming, with lift lines lasting just a few minutes. But on non-holidays, it’s mostly just locals and virtually zero lift lines.
The skiing is fantastic, and while there are plenty of beginner or intermediate slopes, it’s really known for some serious backcountry skiing. With 1,600 acres and a summit of 11,904 feet, you can see for miles at the top.
With a large café and lodge at the base, there is food available, but many choose to bring their own and eat on the patios in the Colorado sun.
It’s about a 30-minute drive from Pagosa Springs to Wolf Creek, but a beautiful one that falls along the Continental Divide. On the other side of the pass is Southfork and Creede Co, which deserve their own blog post, so I’ll preserve that until a later date.