Colorado's Hot Springs Heavens

West Fork
By Robyn Brewer

This is one of my favorite campgrounds. West Fork has remained a fairly well-kept secret, set on ten wooded acres with big, airy sites sprinkled with large conifers and wildflowers galore. The camp is far enough from the road to feel secluded and — for those who don't mind a little work — is a magical gateway to a plethora of outdoor pleasures. Since many backpackers bypass the camp in favor of primitive spots in the wilderness, you'll almost always be able to find a space. And wait 'til you see what's within walking distance: A mile beyond the camp is the trailhead for the Rainbow Trail, a beautiful but grueling hike that leads into the Weminuche Wilderness. After about four miles you'll reach the remote, rustic Rainbow Hot Springs, a sparkling collection of natural rock pools alongside the icy West Fork of the San Juan River. (Tip: Since the trail splits in places and there are no signs to the springs, carry a Forest Service map.) Don't be surprised if you find a crowd of people waiting their turns at the pool; despite the rough hike in, more and more folks seem to flock here every year.

Location: On the West Fork of the San Juan River in San Juan National Forest.

Directions: From Pagosa Springs, drive fourteen miles east on U.S. 160, then turn left on Forest Service Road 648 (West Fork Road) and continue one and a half miles to the campground.

Campsites, facilities: There are twenty-eight sites for tents or RVs up to thirty-five feet long. Drinking water, picnic tables, fire grills, and vault toilets are provided. Leashed pets are permitted. The elevation is 8,000 feet.

Reservations: Reservations are not accepted and there is a nightly fee for campsites. West Fork is open from May to October.

San Juan National Forest
Pagosa Ranger District
P.O. Box 310
Pagosa Springs, CO 81147
(970) 264-2268


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