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Ep 2: Explore Pagosa Springs, CO and Southern CO Road Trip Ideas

Summer Things to Do in Pagosa Springs, CO

In this podcast, we talk to Amanda Godamnski from Pagosa Mountain Sports in Pagosa Springs.

Note: This is a blog summary of our chat with Amanda from Pagosa Mountain Sports. Some of the flow of the podcast has been edited and information has been added to provide context/links and to create a written format of our chat. I hope that you find this to be a helpful resource. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments. Enjoy!

What’s the best time to visit for summer activities? 

You know, when we first opened in 2015, it rained all of May and we kept on thinking back like “what did we do? opening up a bike shop in May!”. It just depends on the season but I would say by June trails start to dry up. It’s warm enough outside that we’re getting bike rides in. 

The time of year is really July and then all the way through October is great to visit. July gets busier and busier every year because it seems like that’s when people are doing their vacation, especially on, Fourth of July, you know, I never can understand how many people fit into this small town around the Fourth of July, but we still somehow make it work.

Anytime from June to October, it is fairly nice to come to visit and you can really make the most out of hiking and biking and stand-up paddleboarding.

SUPing has been a new sport that we’ve kind of honed in on and I actually got to SUP the river a couple of times this year, which is super fun. But you know, our water flows are dependent on snowmelt. So it just depends on the year. 

There are some rapids and rafting is a little bit more popular in the earlier seasons, like in May. May and June. That’s usually when the flows are at a good level that you can raft and SUP and then usually through July into August is when it gets too low and we’re pretty much just tubing at that point which is still a fun activity to do but that season our water season is fairly short here compared to some other rivers that are nearby that are dam release so you can kind of catch some rafting and SUPing experiences that way by different rivers that are near us. 

Mountain Biking Near Pagosa Springs, CO

What are some of your favorite mountain biking trails in the area?

We’re super fortunate that when we open the shop in 2015, we wanted to be part of this community and we started working with other community members and created are local nonprofit bike organization, which is called Dust2 and those guys have been just doing an awesome job trying to get more trails here because of the options that we have around us. 

It wasn’t super mountain bike heavy, there’s tons of hiking and stuff but as for mountain biking since we’ve you know opened it has become so much better and every year. I just look forward to the new trails we’re going to try to build and clear up so that it’s there are more options for us to bike ride. I would say in the past year Dust2 has really put a lot of time and effort with the forest service to clear some trees out up by Treasure Mountain

Treasure Mountain on Trailforks.com

And they’ve made a connector where you start at the Continental Divide Trail and you climb up a bunch of switchbacks and get your butt kicked most of the time but it’s super worth it because you end up on the backside of the ski area. 

And then you head down Treasure Mountain, which is an amazing downhill experience. There are definitely some sections that are you know, don’t look to the side too much because it’s a little scary that you might drop but once you get down into like the aspen trees and it becomes super flowy and very fun and then it will shoot you out to East Fork Road, which we usually have a car in shuttle and then we’ll shuttle back up to the continental divide. That is definitely the go-to ride when the weather is right. And once again, it depends on year, because you’re up at the Continental Divide and if our snow hasn’t melted, it’s not a good trail to go do so we kind of have to wait almost to the end of summer almost fall when it’s like prime time to get that ride in. 

Camping and backcountry hiking

Weminuche Wilderness is about 30 mins north of Pagosa Springs.

Is backcountry the main activity for the Weminuche Wilderness?

Yeah, and you’re the Continental Divide trail goes right up through there. And so that’s where a lot of people have been going and hiking to kind of get away from things and you know clear their head and enjoy what the Pagosa area has to offer. 

Do you need permits to hike that part of the continental divide? 

No, it’s open right now. You don’t need a permit. 

And this year we didn’t have a lot of rain and usually, we get that July monsoon season, and I think the weather was pretty perfect for a lot of pass-through hikers going by so it made it nice for people who were visiting not to get stuck in our torrential downpours or hail storms that we are known for, for 30 minutes in July. 

I think people got kind of a lucky little treat of weather with that as much as you know, we’ve been hurting with fires and things like that with not having any moisture, but it made it I think for a great reason for people to get outside this summer. 

Winter Things To Do in Pagosa Springs

What’s the closest ski resort to Pagosa Springs? 

Wolf Creek Ski Area, we just got our first snowstorm on Monday and the ski resort has opened today with some limited access, but you know, we’re so we’re starting to get into the ski season at Wolf Creek Resort. 

Am I right that Wolf Creek gets the most snow out of all the ski resorts in, Colorado? 

Yes, it is. It is true. We’re hoping for another big snow year. I know that there’s a lot of different precautions people are taking at the ski areas for what they’re going to be offering. 

Cross Country Skiing around Pagosa Springs

Here in Pagosa, one of our favorite things to do which we have at the shop is cross-country ski, and we’re hoping for a big snow year so we can all just get out and once again and continue to be outside and enjoy our Wilderness Area exploring by backcountry and cross-country skiing. 

If you’re a downhill skier or snowboarder, how easy is it to transition into cross-country skiing and what is that learning phase and what’s your recommendation [to get into it]?

So at our shop, we rent the widest cross-country skis that you can get that can still fit in a groomed track. They have a full metal edge, but you still have a heel that’s going to be popping out to slide and it’s pretty much just like walking at a faster pace. I would say there’s definitely technique and we can give you you know, tips and pointers. 

When people come to the shop and rent from us or the Pagosa Nordic club actually offers clinics that they’re hosting this year that they’re asking people to sign up online ahead of time. So they get better number counts, but they give great demonstrations on how to cross-country ski, and in Pagosa, there are such awesome little groomed areas that the Nordic Club does such a great job maintaining that it’s really easy to get into and the skis that we have that are awesome for beginners because you still have that like full metal edge there so you can stop. 

So, you feel like you have a little bit more control rather than just going down the hill hoping for the best. It’s such a good workout and it’s such a great way to explore and be outside that can’t recommend it enough and I’m huge fan. I’ve been cross country skiing since I lived back in the Chicagoland area and it’s much different out in Colorado with more of our hills and things and having that metal edge and a bigger platform which we rent out makes a huge difference. 

Also, cross country skis have come such a long way since back in the day, that the gear, feels so much better and it’s one of those things that, the gear has gotten better so it’s a little bit more fun to enjoy rather than shoving your foot in a real tight boot and hoping for the best as you head downhill. 

It’s interesting because it hasn’t just made a better ski for the pros. But even if you’re a beginner, I feel like it’s better to start off with a decent ski that’s going to give you, more comfort or stability, the ability to stop. 

With our shop, we try to rent out that type of gear so that when people are visiting they have an awesome experience and we really hone in on that and maintain and our gear and make sure it’s working properly because that when people are here visiting and trying a new sport for the first time. We want them to have the best experience possible. So, we do try to get that type of gear that is going to create that experience for our customers. So you’re totally outright with even just beginners. Get them on something that they’ll enjoy. 

What are some things to pack or bring along with you that you can’t rent or if you didn’t want to buy everything, what should one show up with? 

I recommend waterproof pants, either like a nice light shell pant like a rain jacket pant something similar. So if you do take some spills, you’re not getting soaking wet in your jeans or leggings. A good pair of lightweight warm socks, heavyweight socks too, depending on if tend to have cold feet. 

I don’t really like cross country skiing with a [heavy] jacket and everything. I tend to overheat every time I go cross-country skiing. I usually dress way too warm and I’ll get moving so much faster than you think you’re going to do then like you would be snowshoeing etc, that I usually just like to wear a nice light layer like a base layer and it’s totally fine. But those are the three items of clothing that are very important. 

And maybe a camelback, because you probably can’t carry a bottle, or you can throw it in your backpack. Especially being that we’re at like 7,200 feet and that tends to, get people being dehydrated. In the winter you kind of forget about it, it’s always good to have some type of hydration. 

So you basically show up you can get the skis the poles, are there boots required? Are there special boots for cross-country skiing too? 

Yes, there are, and we actually, doubled our inventory for this year to meet the demand. We’re trying to figure out operations that we can have rentals, outside because we’ve been doing a really good job sanitizing everything before it comes into our shop. So we’re not, contaminating and taking precautions. We’re still trying to figure out the logistics of how we will make it work, but you come into the shop and we usually set you up with all the gear according to your height and your body weight because that’s kind of how we go with how much you’re going to sink into the snow or not. 

Different types of Cross Country Skis

We do have two different styles of skis that we’re going to be offering: one is the full metal edge that can fit on a groomed track which is better for beginners. 

Backcountry Cross Country Skis

We are also offering a backcountry setup. So for people who want to just go kind of out, there’s a lot of ranch properties here where people just want to go out on their private ranch lands and they have family coming to visit and that’s a really great way to explore the area. But, there’s also a lot of national forest that doesn’t get groomed by us and that’s another way. If you have a little bit wider of a ski, you really can track a little bit better not be sinking into that snow. 

So we have both of those options, depending on what adventure you plan on picking. 

Is there a concern for avalanches when going backcountry cross country skiing?  

With these backcountry skis, it’s more of just places that aren’t going to get heavy foot traffic or heavy traffic at all. So you’re not like having to dig through an area and feel like you’re sinking always. It’s just backcountry as in exploring maybe four-wheel roads that are normally closed off in the wintertime that are wide open so you don’t really have to worry too much about avalanche risk in those type of areas, but there are going to be some areas in Pagosa that are prone to avalanches and obviously, we’re going to recommend that you don’t go there unless you are trained with avalanche safety. 

Are there hot springs or natural hot springs that are open in the winter? 

You know I have not explored them in the wintertime because honestly, I would say the two that come to mind are pretty rough to get to like the roads are closed. So it’d be a really long trek to get in as far because you have like the Rainbow Hot Springs, which is over a 4-mile hike in just from the road and the part of the road is closed like when you’re actually cross country skiing there. So, I feel like that would be too much of a trek to get to, and then the First Fork I believe is the same way. 

So the options for like the natural ones aren’t I wouldn’t say are a winter destination just because, with that road access being cut off. It adds so much more to what your trek would be. And then also too, our river flows are based on snowmelt. 

We’re so lucky here is that we have the resort’s downtown, you can have your cold day of skiing and then just head downtown to the local resorts. There’s the hot springs spa which is the major Hotel downtown. 

There’s the Overlook which they’ve done a really good job of staying open and keeping distance with their pools, but they pump up their spring water up to like the rooftop so you can kind of see all downtown while you’re soaking. So that’s really nice. And then there’s the Healing Waters which is like a bigger swimming pool. That’s kind of the original soaking spot. So there are still plenty of options and I know that all of those resorts type springs have made accommodations that you can still come soak after a cold day. 

Recreating Responsibly

What are some things to consider to make sure that we don’t love the area to death and we preserve everything that’s awesome about Pagosa Springs? 

Share the trail

I think especially with that trail in particular I was talking about there are so many trail users out in our outdoor area. We have horseback riders, we have hikers, we have dirt bikers, and we have ATV users. There are so many trail users and you do have to realize that we’re such a small community that you need more people to help maintain those trails and so it takes a whole community to make sure that we can clear trees so that we all can enjoy the forest and all enjoy our trails. 

It can’t just be one group of people just because we’re surrounded by it’s too big for all of us. So, I try to keep that in mind to be respectful to other users whether you participate in the other person’s sport or not, just be respectful because we’re all trying to do our own thing of getting outside and enjoying the outdoors. 

Follow Leave No Trace Principles

So, I think that’s just kind of a thing to remember but always all year just with the amount of people that have been visiting out of town is you know, practice leave no trace and plan ahead on your trip. You should come to shops or talk to locals about what to expect when you’re out hiking or where you’re going is you know. Make sure that you bring things that you’re not going to be stuck out in the wilderness and you know going to get in a scenario where you have to call for help and are using resources that could have been avoided because of you if you just planned ahead. 

What are some nearby road trip Ideas that include Pagosa Springs on the route?

What would be a road trip that you would date take if you had a week? 

There’s so much out here, which is why we moved down here is just there so many little hidden gems to put on your list. But if I had to pick a couple of little areas to check out, Durango is our closest big town the mountain biking there is hard and very fun. 

So I you know definitely recommend that being a stop on your radar along with Phil’s World, which is another awesome mountain biking trip in Cortez and from there, there are so many different routes to go north south east west that get you in some really cool spots. 

One of the smaller towns that I really enjoy is Creede, which is kind of North Northeast of us. Creed and Lake City are some small little cool areas that, just can take some forest service road sometimes and end up on these really cool mountain views and, those are my little explorations where I just like to take a little drive and see where I end up. 

And the Black Canyon of the Gunnison area and that was such a pretty drive to do Creede, Lake City, and then end up at Black Canyon. I mean, it was unbelievable the little loop that you could make in a week of, I think I did that in like a long weekend, but a whole week would get you a lot further to kind of check out. So thank you for sharing Black Canyon of the Gunnison, it’s such an underrated National Park I feel like. 

And in New Mexico, there are some good spots down right across the border like Chama and Cumbres pass, where we usually go cross-country skiing, they have a couple of huts that you can like ski in and out of. 

How has COVID impacted your business? 

It’s been insane, we’re so thankful that we as a small shop can still be in business and we have made accommodations for people to still come into our business and be able to recreate and we are in such a lucky spot in Colorado, we are located Southwest Colorado and we have the Weminuche Wilderness that surrounds us which is Colorado’s largest Wilderness Area. 

It’s the largest forest without roads that go through and people are just trying to get outside and obviously from the cities, so we have seen a huge influx of people this summer which has helped our business, but also I think really helped some people who are struggling with their everyday lives of not being into contact with people. Being able to explore down in Pagosa for them, it’s been great. 

I mean, we’re all tired and from being so busy this summer, but we are so thankful that we could help people get out into our forest and recreation responsibly and feel a little bit better about the outdoors here. So we’re very thankful for the weird year that we’ve had.

Pagosa Mountain Sports

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