Explore Colorado

How to Spend a Winter Day in Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Pagosa Springs in Southwest Colorado has something you can’t find anywhere else on earth.  It has the deepest geothermal hot spring aquifer in the world.  At over 1002 feet deep, the Mother Spring aquifer has been certified as “The World’s Deepest” by Guinness World Records.  The geothermal aquifer under the town fills the pools at The Springs Resort and Spa, Healing Waters Resort and Spa, and The Overlook Hot Springs and Spa.  All three resorts are in downtown Pagosa Springs.  The geothermal aquifer also heats many downtown businesses, help keep the sidewalks snow free in winter and provides the heat in the brewing process for Riff Raff Brewing Company.

My friend Selena, her husband Cary and their two kids, Logan and Brett, did a last-minute road trip to ski in Colorado.  They had never been to Pagosa Springs and since Wolf Creek Ski Area gets “the most snow in Colorado,” they decided to road trip to the southwest corner of the state, with my input of course.  This family is super special to me.  I worked with Selena and Cary at News 4 (WOAI) San Antonio.  Selena was my weather producer.  We worked closely together for ten years.  Brett is my godson.  There was no question that I was going to do the 5-hour drive from Denver to Pagosa Springs to see them.  I even braved ground blizzard conditions on Highway 285, a road notorious for gusty winds.

They found a great condo in West Pagosa Springs and I booked a two-night stay in the one of the rooms at Healing Waters Resort and Spa.  Because of COVID-19, their pools are only open to overnight guests, plus I had never stayed there.  Normally, day visitors are allowed.  My room was much bigger than I expected.  It had a living space, kitchen and separate bedroom.  There’s plenty of room for a family with the kids sleeping on the couch.

I got into Pagosa, as the locals call it, as the sun was setting.  I quickly checked in and drove over to their condo for dinner.  We ordered to go from Pagosa Brewing and Grill.  It was really close to where they were staying.  I went for the grilled salmon street tacos.  They were delicious.  All of us were tired from long road trips days so we called it an early night.  I went back my room at Healing Waters Resort with intentions of doing an evening soak, but my room was so cozy I retreated to bed to read for a while.

I was up before the sun and decided to go for an early morning walk.  It was a very cold Sunday morning.  I enjoyed the solitude as I walked in 7°F along the San Juan River, watching the steam rise from the hot springs.

On my walk I saw a sign for coffee.  Root House Coffee and Shop quickly became my favorite coffee shop in Pagosa.  It’s tucked away from the main road, but right along the San Juan River.  While waiting for my almond milk latte and housemade spinach and feta kolache, I perused the shop part of Root House.  From sweatshirts to cookbooks, it’s filled with wonderful outdoor themed gifts.  I was really impressed there was live music starting when I left around 8:30am with temperatures still in the single digits.

Cary and the kids left early to ski at Wolf Creek, about a 30-minute drive up Wolf Creek Pass from Pagosa Springs.  If you’re a skier or rider, absolutely hit the slopes at Wolf Creek. It’s a family-owned ski area that never feels overcrowded.  I got the opportunity to ski some members of the Pitcher family a few years ago.  They are a wonderful family.  At Wolf Creek, the snow is deep, there are no crowds, and the views are great.

Selena doesn’t ski, so we went on a different adventure.  We started with a stop at Pagosa Baking Company.  They’re closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and I didn’t want to miss out on getting some bread to take home, which is a must when I’m in Pagosa Springs.  My favorite is the Local Loaf.  It’s a great spot for breakfast, coffee and lunch.  I grabbed a muffin and Selena got an almond croissant.  We sat outside in the sunshine to fuel up for our snowshoeing adventure.

I have snowshoes, but Selena needed to rent a pair.  We made a rental reservation ahead of time at Pagosa Mountain Sports.  We walked over to the rental window and while Selena was getting her paperwork, I asked about the best snowshoe trails.  The gal immediately said Opal Lake Road as she was just up there the day before.  In summer you can drive up to the trailhead, but in winter the road is closed four miles from it.  Once we had her rentals, we hit the road, making a quick stop at the hot springs overlook in downtown Pagosa Springs.

The drive to snowshoe on Opal Lake Road takes about 40 minutes from downtown Pagosa Springs.  It’s beautiful and you likely will see very few others on it.  As we parked where Castle Creek Road is blocked off, we were greeted by Joy and her team of dogs with Mountain Paws Dogsledding.  While Joy was waiting on a family to arrive for their dogsledding adventure, she let Selena and I love on the dogs.  My favorite was one named Forest.  Think he was pretty smitten with me too.  I didn’t know you could go dogsledding in Pagosa Springs.  They also offer dog cart tours in summer.  You need reservations and make them well in advance around holidays.

The dogsledding family was from Austin.  We said we would get some video and snap some pictures of them on the trail.  Selena and I strapped on our snowshoes and off we went up the tree-lined road.  It was nature’s perfection without crowds.  Outside of Joy, the dogs and the family from Austin, we only saw a group of 3 during our snowshoe.  From where Castle Creek Road is closed to Opal Lake Trailhead is about four miles.  We decided to just snowshoe without a destination point.  It was Selena’s first time to snowshoe and she quickly got the hang of it and did great in the altitude.  About a half mile in, she was about done, but we took some rest breaks and I encouraged her to go for a little longer.  She was doing so well at the one-mile mark I didn’t tell her we had just crossed that point.  We went for about another mile and decided we needed to head back.  At that point, we were the only ones on the trail.  We did the two miles back in about half the time it took us to snowshoe to our turnaround point.  I was so proud of her for doing 4 miles on her first snowshoe outing.

Here’s a video of our snowshoe adventure including watching the dogsledders on the trail.

Once we got back to town, we headed to Riff Raff Brewing Company.  Selena and I were starving from snowshoeing and Cary and the kids were hungry from their big day on the slopes at Wolf Creek.  I opted for a sangria, Selena went for a margarita and Cary tried the El Duende Green Chile Ale.  I’m not a huge beer fan.  I did taste his beer and it’s really good.  It’s a brew with a kick!  Riff Raff Brewing Company’s beer is heated by the local spring-fed geothermal heating from the deepest hot spring aquifer in the world.  While waiting for our order, we sipped our drinks and enjoyed a wonderful sunset.  Their food is good too.  I went for a veggie burger and scarfed it down.

After dinner, I returned to my room at Healings Springs and headed to soak.  Relaxing in the therapeutic waters was the perfect ending to a great day.  The Garzas would get their soaking experience in at The Springs Resort and Spa a couple of days later.

I hit the road back to Denver early the next morning.  Before heading east out of town, I stopped at The Lift for a latte for the road.  I drove away caffeine fueled and filled with memories of a wonderful winter day in Pagosa.  Can’t wait to go back!

Author Jennifer Broome has extensively traveled across Colorado.  For other adventures in Southwest Colorado, check out blogs on Four Nights in Durango, Drive the Million Dollar Highway, Colorado’s Only Geyser, and History and Outdoor Adventure in Ouray.