Editor’s Note: Editor’s Note: Vacation and travel spots in any section of La Voz are mere suggestions for future travel, only when/if the public is safe to travel.
Now that we’ve made it through another winter and things are warming up, what’s stopping anyone from exploring a part of Colorado that---for newcomers, or anyone else---is still unexplored? Pagosa Springs just may be the place.
From Denver, Pagosa---most people just call it ‘Pagosa’---is a nice, little drive. It’s 270 miles southwest of the city, but nearly all of the drive is picturesque. Heading south on I-25, you’ll turn west at Walsenburg and from there it’s a three-hour drive on Highway 160. Highway 285 is another route. (Be careful. Speed limits change regularly.)
Between Walsenburg and Pagosa, you’ll go through a handful of small towns, including Fort Garland, Alamosa, Del Norte and Southfork. Did I mention, you’ll also cross two mountain passes? La Veta and Wolf Creek. Don’t worry. With dry roads, they’re a piece of cake.
Pagosa is a year-round tourist mecca where old hippies, Gen X’ers and Millennials mingle freely. “Pagosa has small time charm,” surrounded by “three and a half million acres of national forest,” said Jennifer Green, Executive Director of the Pagosa Springs Visitors Center describing her little corner of the world. The beauty of Pagosa, said Green, is, “it’s endless.”
Like many of Colorado’s mountain towns, “tourism is the lifeblood of the city,” said Green. To bring outsiders in, the calendar is chock-full of events unique to the town. The year kicks off with the Cabin Fever Festival, whose signature draws include a giant bonfire, live music and food trucks. But the real---and natural---draw in Pagosa are the hot springs, including one of the deepest hot springs in the world. Pagosa also offers a ski touring race, two folk festivals, Colorfest, a weekend filled with hot air ballooning, great food and a wine festival, Green said.
But the town also offers its own brand of culture, from sophisticated to simplicity. It has art galleries, home grown theater and museums, including the Pagosa Springs History Museum. There’s also the Gomez Mercantile General Store, a place that once through the doors, the 21st Century vanishes and you’re whisked back to the early days of the 20th Century.
The San Juan Mountains hug Pagosa and provide a portrait-like backdrop for the town. Front range skiers tired of the I-70 gridlock, can take aim at this corner of Colorado and the Wolf Creek ski area. The resort, bare bones and perhaps meager compared to some of its competition west of Denver, offers lower-priced lift tickets and the heaviest snowfall in the state. The resort totaled more than 500 inches of snowfall last year. There’s also the Purgatory ski resort, west of the town.
“The best way to describe it,” said Rick Artis, the town’s Chamber of Commerce membership coordinator and big city escapee, “is, it’s just paradise. It has everything you want and is in one of the most beautiful settings you can imagine.”
Like the ‘little engine who could,’ Pagosa works hard for every tourist and tourist dollar it gets. While there’s no exact count for a number of annual tourists, Green, by examining the town’s lodging tax, estimates that more than 800,000 outsiders come calling each year.
The town is aggressive in selling itself to all corners of the globe. “We work with the Colorado Tourism Board,” said Green. Germany and Japan are two international markets that Pagosa focuses on. Germans, she said, “get six weeks off a year and are not afraid to rent a car” to explore the country. “The Japanese market is also hot.” Information on Pagosa Springs and everything it offers is available at visitpagosasprings.com.