Pagosa Springs – September 13 – 17, 2021

Why we went to Pagosa Springs

We learned about Pagosa Springs from our late friend, Lee, who we met in Maui. He was a happy hour regular at the Hula Grill and Leilani’s. Lee’s long-time girlfriend, Cherie, owned an interval condo (timeshare) at the Whaler and they would spend about a month there every year. Lee was in his early 60’s was a self-employed geologist, working mostly in the western states and spending a lot of time at his condo in Pagosa Springs. He was a very nice, intelligent guy, but almost exclusively spoke about Pagosa. I thought is was so strange for someone to be in paradise, but continually talking about someplace else. We were very curious to learn for ourselves, why the place is so special. Sadly, Lee passed away unexpectedly several years ago, before he could retire and enjoy his favorite place full time. This post is dedicated to Lee.

Bruce Spruce Ranch

As we drove toward Pagosa Springs and then to Bruce Spruce Ranch, we were blown away by the beautiful scenery. There were no snow-covered peaks, but the landscape of mountains, the San Juan River, forests and the cattle ranches was stunning.  We quickly understood why Lee loved the area so much. The ranch is definitely one of the most beautiful campgrounds we have been to. It was easy to overlook the tight spacing of the campsites, as the whole setting was so peaceful and gorgeous. It was nice that we had a day or two with no neighbor. Bruce Spruce is family-owned, has full hook-up campsites, cabins, a shower/bath house and two stocked trout ponds.

Our Pagosa Springs hikes

We did three major hikes in the area, The first  started  at the far end of a barely passable forest service road (about 7 miles in) and offered a pretty rugged trail and beautiful back-country scenery. The second, on the Continental Divide Trail, started at the summit of Wolf Creek Pass. There were deer, great views and some steep drop-offs. We ended that one after about 2.5 miles (over 1,000 feet up) at the top of the local ski area. The 3rd hike was our toughest at over 6 miles and climbing over 2000 feet. We encountered a couple of groups of elk hunters on that trail. I was wishing we had worn some hi-vis colored hats. On these trails we learned the hard way, that cheap hiking boots are not sufficient. Dave was wearing some light hikers and I was wearing some inexpensive boots from Cabelas, one size too big, which I purchased to accomodate a swollen foot. The soles were not sturdy enough and the size was too big for my good foot. Needless to say, our feet were toast and I destroyed a toenail.

Wolf Creek Pass

During our time in Pagosa, we drove over the 10,856-foot altitude Wolf Creek Pass several times.  It’s very steep, with a 7% downhill grade, a hairpin turn and over 200 foot drop-off, heading from east to west.  Fortunately, we would be towing our rig over it from west to east.   Between 2015 and 2019, there were 47 semi-truck crashes on the west side of the pass, incuding three fatalities. There have been many passenger car accidents and fatalities, also. There are many postings all over the internet, warning of the dangers there. “Beware the Wolf!”. Once, while we were driving by, a we saw a vehicle  being lifted from down the cliff. Our neighbor at the campground arrived one day in a class B camper van, with brake failure. She likely destroyed her brake pads, coming down the pass. Throughout our travels we have seen many vehicles with smoking brakes, while heading down a steep grade. Apparently, people from flat states don’t educate themselves on using lower gears in the mountains.

Town and Boss Hoggs

The hot springs resort area is near what appears to be the old historic town center. Clearly, the hot springs are the draw for tourists. There were pleanty of people at the resorts and even swimming in the river, even though it was pretty warm outside. There really was not a lot else in that part of town, except for a couple of shops. Another section of town, which seems was originally residential, is where you can find restaurants and a couple of microbreweries. A little farther out, near some strip malls, is where Boss Hoggs Restaurant and Saloon is located. This was Lee’s favorite place, which he often spoke about in Maui. He loved the prime rib, as he was clearly a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. Cherie would often be in her condo, preparing a roast, while Lee was at happy hour. Going to Boss Hoggs was a great experience and we ate at the bar, as Lee likely would have. Dave loved the prime rib. I didn’t care much for the salmon, but the bartender had previously worked in Maui and knew some people that we know. We enjoyed the aloha.

While the town isn’t our favorite Colorado town, we did go to some nice places. We absolutly loved the mountains, scenery and hiking trails. I’m pretty sure Lee’s view in heaven looks a lot like the ranch land and mountains around Pagosa Springs. Aloha, Lee. A hui hou kakou.

Bruce Spruce Ranch, Pagosa Springs, CO
Hot springs formation, Pagosa Springs, CO
Hot springs formation, Pagosa Springs, CO
Overlook at Treasure Falls, Pagosa Springs (the falls were just a trickle, so this was the better photo)
Rainbow Hot Springs Trail, Pagosa Springs, CO
Bruce Spruce Ranch, Pagosa Springs, CO
Bruce Spruce Ranch, Pagosa Springs, CO
Wolf Creek Pass Overlook
A deer on the Continental Divide Trail – Wolf Creek Pass to summit of Wolf Creek Ski area
Continental Divide Trail – Wolf Creek Pass to summit of Wolf Creek Ski area. This hike was about 5 miles with over 1,000′ elevation gain.
Continental Divide Trail – Wolf Creek Pass to summit of Wolf Creek Ski area
A post-hike refreshment, overlooking the San Juan River, at Riff Raff Brewing Company (Riff Raff on the Rio)
Near the trail head for Windy Pass Trail – our toughest hike of the trip,  over 6 miles round trip and 2,000′ + elevation gain
Bruce Spruce Ranch, Pagosa Springs, CO
Boss Hogg’s Restaurant and Saloon, Pagosa Springs, CO
Bruce Spruce Ranch, Pagosa Springs, CO
Bruce Spruce Ranch, Pagosa Springs, CO