Pagosa Springs is my favorite hot spot in cool Colorado.
This is not chichi Aspen or tony Vail, but a great little town surrounded by beautiful mountains with some super restaurants, cool shops and galleries, lots of outdoor activities and the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring.
And It Has The Guinness World Records’ Certificate To Prove It. In measuring the depth, an engineer dropped a plumb line 1,002 feet into the spring, running out of line and never hitting the bottom.
For years the spring just sat there steaming, an oddity but not an attraction. Today, it not only provides pleasure to those looking for a relaxing soak, but is used for heating a number of buildings and even for melting snow off the pavement in several locations.
The Springs Resort and Spa
The July Day Had Been Warm, But At An Altitude Of 7,000 Feet, The Evening Air Was Decidedly Crisp. Jack and I pulled on our bathing suits and covered up with warm, fluffy robes. We padded a few steps from our door, slipped off our robes and sank into the steaming water of one of the 23 pools. Overhead, stars twinkled in a black velvet sky. Later, drying off by a fire pit and chatting with other guests, we all agreed – this was heaven.
The Mother Spring is actually on the property and feeds all these wonderful little hot tubs. The spring water comes out at 145˚ Fahrenheit, but tempered with cold water, the pools’ temperatures range from 83˚ to 114˚. The two coolest pools, The Crick and The Burg, mix mountain stream-fed San Juan River water with the hot mineral water. The whole complex sits on the bank of the San Juan River, so a really brisk dip is possible for brave souls.
For those who prefer swimming to soaking, there’s a large geothermal swimming pool with lap lanes and a 15×15 Jacuzzi. The pool and large surrounding deck make a perfect viewing spot for summer movies.
Guests at the resort have a choice of accommodations. Standard rooms are housed in the original ’50s vintage Springs Motel building, home away from home for movie stars – including John Wayne, while filming “The Cowboys.” While this is the oldest building, expect up-to-date amenities including those fluffy robes and 24-hour access to the pools.
Larger rooms are available in a two-story lodge, and those seeking the ultimate in luxury opt for the LEED gold-certified Ecolux Hotel. Here elegance is combined with the latest in environmentally-friendly practices. Rates for accommodations range from $199 to $619. All rooms are non-smoking. Pets are allowed in some areas but the daily non-refundable fee ($50 – $100) is steep.
Around the Town
Pagosa’s Main Drag Is Right Across The River From The Springs, Putting A Number Of Good Shops And Restaurants Within Easy Walking Distance. Two of my favorite downtown shops are Southwest Elegance, with contemporary Southwestern jewelry, art and pottery, and Happy Trails, which carries upscale Southwestern and vintage-style clothing, accessories and gifts. On the edge of town, Lantern Dancer offers Southwestern art and gifts. Jewelry made by Navajo artists Calvin Begay and Tommy Singer are particularly popular.
My biggest surprise has a great Oklahoma connection. Cappy White, with his wife Monica Green, own Handcrafted Interiors. But it could be “exteriors,” too, from all the unusual pieces on the outside of the gallery. Monica paints works on wood – and on furniture – and Cappy creates beautiful hand-crafted furniture from a variety of woods and stones. Cappy, born and raised in Tulsa, graduated from the University of Oklahoma. There’s a real family tie there: his grandfather Artie Reeds was captain of OU’s first full-season varsity basketball team and Artie’s brother Claude was the first player from an Oklahoma school to be named
All-American and inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. I loved Cappy’s gallery, which carries not only his and Monica’s works but paintings, sculpture, ceramics and jewelry by some of the country’s finest artisans.
Eat on Down the Road
We Didn’t Have A Bad Meal In Pagosa Springs – Or Even A Mediocre One. From the breakfast burrito stuffed with egg, Cheddar cheese, chorizo, potatoes, onions and green chiles and smothered with house-made green chile chicken stew at Pagosa Bakery to the strawberry shortcake almond scone with vanilla bean macerated strawberries, Chantilly cream and basil syrup at the upscale Alley House, we ate wonderfully well in Pagosa.
For sandwiches or lighter lunches, we ate at Farrago’s Market Café. The menu reads like a world almanac with Italian panini and pizza, Moroccan chicken salad, Greek gyros and Vietnamese salad.
Beer lovers have several great choices. Both Pagosa Brewing Company and Riff Raff Brewing Company offered great food and brews. The fish and chips at Pagosa Brewing Company are high on my list of “best things I’ve ever tasted.” Made with wild-caught salmon and battered with a tempura-style batter featuring PBC’s Kayaker Cream Ale, this dish totally rocked. Owner/brewmeister Tony Simmons is as proud of his food as he is of the beer.
Riff Raff is the new, rowdy kid on the block, opening last summer. The menu is limited but interesting with both vegetarian and vegan options. The beer, too, is inventive with the menu even listing the malts and hops in each brew. And there are some experimental models. If you’re not scared, try El Duende (The Goblin), which, depending on the batch, may be spiced with a mild Anaheim pepper or the uber-fiery ghost pepper!
And That’s Not All
I’m Running Out Of Space But Not Suggestions. For more fun: Visit Shy Rabbit Gallery – sales gallery and unusual shows including the Pagosa Makers Expo and Print International // Tour the Fred Harman Art Center – home and studio of the creator of Red Ryder and Little Beaver // Drive up Wolf Creek Pass, stopping at Treasure Falls and the Continental Divide // Play a round of golf at Pagosa Springs Golf Club // Take in a play at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts
And when you’re worn out from all that activity, relax with a soak in those magnificent Springs pools.