This roadside “attraction” is a real gem, a real treasure actually. I was heading to Denver after a stop in Pagosa Springs and decided to make a stop at Treasure Falls. According to legend, there’s “a treasure of gold” buried in the mountain home to the falls. In the late 1700s about 300 Frenchmen secretly entered the San Juan Mountains. At the time, it was Spanish territory. Supposedly the French struck it rich near the mountain and buried a chest full of gold in the mountain when they were attacked by Indians. As the legends goes, only two Frenchmen survived to tell the tale of Treasure Mountain back at their Kansas outpost. Most of them fell victim to Indian attacks or harsh winter conditions while attempting to return to Kansas. On Legends of America website, I found a fascinating account of the Treasure Mountain Legend.
The fall are on the westside base of Wolf Creek Pass and only about 15 minutes from downtown Pagosa Springs. I’ve passed it on other road trips, but this time I decided to stop and explore these falls you can see from Highway 160.
There are two trails – main and primitive. The primitive is not maintained and steeper. Initially, I headed up that trail, but after a couple of steep spots and climbing my way through a tree that had fallen on the trail, I hit a secondary stream still covered with snow and ice. I attempted to cross it but it was pretty dicy so I headed back down the trail. I headed up the mellow main trail and was at the falls in about 5 minutes. The quarter-of-a-mile trail winds through the dense forest.
Once at the falls, walk out on the bridge going over Falls Creek so you get an amazing front row view of the 105 foot falls thunderously cascading over the cliff and flowing downstream into Falls Creek, which flows into the San Juan River.
You can feel a little mist from the falls on the bridge, but there’s a Mist Overlook a few feet higher. You feel the cold spray even before you step out on the platform! It’s a great up-close view, but prepare to get wet if you venture up to that overlook.
On the way down, you get to enjoy a great view of the San Juan Mountains. This roadside stop is a real treasure! You can loop the main and primitive trails or just do an up-and-back hike on the main trail.