A quick getaway to Pagosa Springs in Colorado — The Know

We escaped the Front Range via U.S. 285, the sun rising behind us and the day spilling with promise as the road ascended with every twist. My 10-year-old daughter and I were on a quick getaway to Pagosa Springs, which I’d always considered too far for a long weekend trip. I wanted to prove myself wrong.

Sure enough, we covered the distance easily — 300 miles exactly from our door to the Fireside Cabins. The views along this particular route don’t hurt: topping Kenosha Pass, skirting the Collegiate Peaks, traversing the San Luis Valley. We stopped in Poncha Springs for gas, Sagauche to stretch our legs on Main Street (we found a sign teaching us to pronounce the town’s name “Suh-watch”), and Del Norte for takeout sandwiches from Boogie’s.

Then we were pulling up to a stand-alone two-bedroom cabin and gawking at a bald eagle across the river on our first walk.

I’d originally planned to visit last fall, but postponed our trip over health and safety concerns. As a tourist town, Pagosa Springs has been humming steadily along, pandemic be damned, with only a couple weeks’ closure in spring 2020. The visitor center hands out branded bandanas as face coverings along with social distancing tips and dining recommendations.

The town has been hosting tourists from the Front Range, New Mexico, Texas and other nearby states throughout the pandemic and, because most of the region’s attractions are outdoors, it’s fared well. Like much of the state, Achuleta and La Plata counties suffered a spike in COVID cases in November, according to San Juan Basic public health data, but have otherwise seen low infection rates. 

There are three places to soak in downtown Pagosa: the Overlook Hot Springs Spa right on Main Street, Healing Waters Resort & Spa, and Springs Resort & Spa, where we had reservations.

Springs Resort has 24 pools next to the San Juan River, each a different temperature (83-114 degrees Fahrenheit) and size. The enriched water is drawn from the deepest measured hot spring in the world, and the riverside property is also one of the largest hot springs facilities in Colorado.

Guests at the onsite hotel have 24-hour access to the pools which, during the day, are shared with a limited number of short-term visitors, like us. Masks were optional outdoors and people were somewhat socially distanced (depending on the pool size). Everyone still smiled at each other through the steam.

For snacks and drinks there was an outdoor bar, and for dinner, Mountain Pizza and Taproom had set up a drive-thru takeout window in the alley next to their mainstay restaurant on Main Street (which also has dine-in and a patio). We called in an order for meatball subs and alfredo pasta from the pool, then took it back to our cabin to stock up on carbs for the following day. 

Next morning, it was a mere 25-minute drive to Wolf Creek Ski Area, just over the pass, where my daughter and I cruised all the bluebird day on boards we’d rented from Pagosa Ski and Bow Rack. The spring snow was perfectly forgiving and we drank it up, taking a break for burgers on the deck outside the main lodge. As everyone stood outside to order, a bartender walked up and down the line taking drink orders. Convenient. 

That evening, we returned to the Springs Resort for that famous ski-soak combo, staying in the water hours longer than we’d planned. While the air continued to cool after sunset, the water remained hot, and my traveling companion and I were in total agreement: Pagosa Springs is a great weekend getaway.

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