This day trip will take you on a dramatic adventure to the top of the world, on a hunt for lost treasure, and at last to an epic natural hot springs that will let you soak it all in…
Head out of South Fork on Highway 160, tuning your iPod to CW McCall’s humorous song “Wolf Creek Pass,” in which an out of control truck driver attempts to navigate the steep and winding road. When you reach the summit, just past the Wolf Creek Ski area, you will be on top of the Continental Divide. For a view from the top-of-the-top, take a side tour to the Lobo Overlook (Exit the highway to the right, just before you reach the large pull off/parking area onto County Rd 402. Note this road is occasionally closed to all but hikers and bikers). A steep 5.1 miles gets you high atop Thunder Mountain and provides stunning vistas of the surrounding San Juans. To the south you see Treasure Mountain, an area rich in folklore and stories of buried treasure. One legend suggests a chest of gold was buried on the mountain by soon-to-be-captured Frenchmen running from either Spaniards or Native Utes. If you are feeling extra ambitious, a hike around the area might result in a huge payout!
To the far southeast is the Summitville mining district (another great day trip, though 4x4 is required). To the northwest lies the Weminuche Wilderness, the largest wilderness area in Colorado. Notice the windswept conditions of the trees living at “timberline,” and hunt for a few alpine wildflowers!
Return to the highway and prepare yourself for a dramatic experience, despite the major US Highway you are traveling on. Wintertime brings this area the MOST snow in Colorado, so roads are often snow-packed and icy in the winter months. Even summertime sees the occasional snow! As you descend into the valley, stop at the scenic overlook just before the hairpin turns. A spectacular view of the Left Fork of the San Juan River will inspire you to pull out a camera (or iPhone)! A couple of switchbacks later, and you will want to pull over again. Treasure Falls is a beautiful cascade that runs nearly all year, dropping grandly across the face of a rough volcanic cliff. A large parking area marks the entrance to the hiking path that leads to the base of the falls. The path is about 1/4 mile, well maintained, and suitable for all ages!
The remaining drive into Pagosa Springs is easy and pleasant, leading you through a scenic valley of large ranches and farmland. Pagosa Springs is known for its year-round arts and music festivals. A lively downtown offers several great dining choices and lots of shopping! Check visitpagosasprings.com to see their summer, fall and winter guides.
Your final, and ultimate destination will be the Springs Resort. With 23 hot tubs filled with natural hot springs mineral water, you will find relaxation and adventure as you travel from tub-to-tub, finding your perfect temperature, mountain view, or proximity to the San Juan River. Bring the whole family, as a full-size pool, mild-temperature tubs, and river-access provide endless hours of fun for the kids, too!
-- Approximately 43 miles from South Fork.