Colorado's Hot Springs Heavens
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
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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