When you hear Pagosa Springs, Colorado, your first thought is probably winter snow skiing season. It’s true, there are awesome slopes nearby, but Pagosa Springs is also known for its year-round hot springs and summer fun! When summertime hits, the town is in full swing with its menu of outdoor activities. So, when the spring snow melts, it’s summer adventure time in Pagosa Springs!
Pagosa Springs is located in the beautiful San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado, about an hour’s drive east of Durango and right above the Northern New Mexico border. Its small-town vibe has plenty of things for you and your grandkids to do all summer long. But when making your way there for summer activities, plan for the middle of May as that’s when everything switches from winter sports to summer fun in the sun!
My crew and I spent an entire summer day in Pagosa with packed things to do. We had two things on our mind — play in the hot spring pools and eat Thai food — and everything else we did was a bonus!
Things To Do In Pagosa Springs
Pagosa Springs boasts over 2 million acres of national forest and wilderness, and the San Juan Mountains are a huge part of it. You’ll have endless views no matter where you are in town, and you won’t ever hear, “Grandma, I’m bored.” From swimming in the river, playing in the mud, soaking in the hot tubs, eating good food, how could one even think about boredom!
Relax And Play In The Hot Springs
There are a couple of places to indulge in the hot springs. We chose The Springs Resort and Spa because we could also access the river so the kids could play in the water (and mud). The kids had a blast hopping in and out of the hot springs then going down to the river. They even found a mud puddle to play in, and covering each other up with mud seemed like the thing to do.
If you’ve ever been to a natural springs pool, then you know they are mineral-rich waters that are supposed to be good for the body. They really are nice to relax in if you can handle the heat. At each pool, there is a sign that says how hot the water temperature is and if it’s kid-friendly. Most of the pools here are kid-friendly. Be sure to test the waters before jumping right in and let the grandkids know this too.
Pro Tip: Bring something to read because you’re likely to spend the whole day right here, especially if the kids have a say.
Whitewater Raft The San Juan River
The number one favorite activity to do in Pagosa Springs in the summer is playing in the San Juan River. Whether you rent a single tube, raft, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard, your adventure starts in the river! We even saw tubes that fit a group of people. No matter which way you choose to experience the San Juan River, Pagosa Outside has your back for a fun-filled day outside. There are two types of flow — easy and intermediate. How you experience your fun is up to you.
Pro Tip: Bringing your own inner tube is an option too.
Explore San Juan Riverwalk
Keep the kids on their feet while walking this easy scenic paved 1.9-mile trail through downtown along the San Juan River while viewing passersby floating in the river. There are accessible places along the trail that you can wade in the water, and in one area, there’s a bridge that crosses over the river. If you start at Hermosa Street, you’ll end near the Pagosa Springs Town Hall or vice versa. Both places have ample parking.
Pro Tip: Wheelchair accessible, and dogs are welcome on a leash.
Saddle Up On Horseback
Horseback riding is very popular this time of year. With the views of the mountains and the serene feel of the forest all around you, I, too, would venture out on horseback, but there are only so many hours in a day. Crazy Horse Outfitters and Fish Creek Outfitters, along with a few other outfitters in the area, offer horseback riding through breathtaking views of the San Juan and Weminuche Mountains. Riding horses would be an excellent outdoor activity to share with your grandkids. There’s a trail ride that will suit your family.
Take A Tour Of The Rocky Mountain Wildlife Park
Enjoy a zoo-like experience at the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Park located deep in the San Juan Mountain Range. Summer hours are from May 15 to October 1 and opens from noon to 4 p.m. Get the grandkids more involved by going on a 1-hour guided feeding tour while learning about each animal. Now, that would be something amazing for kids to learn about. The park also offers trail rides.
Drop A Pole In The San Juan River
You don’t have to go far for fishing in Pagosa. You can fish for trout in the San Juan River that runs right through downtown. Park and walk to the nearest fishing hole. Get that camera ready because you know kids of all ages are all about catching that big one and want to show it off. If you want to venture out for fishing, check out Pagosa.com for catfish, cutthroats, and more trout in other areas.
Hiking Pagosa Springs
Hiking around Pagosa is almost a must when you visit. There are so many areas to enjoy the national wilderness. Whether you decide to go on a trail or out of your own, don’t forget to look for waterfalls. Let Visit Pagosa Springs be your guide. You’ll find many areas to explore on foot.
See A Movie At The Historic Liberty Theatre
Downtown Pagosa Springs has the fourth-oldest movie theater in Colorado. The Liberty Theatre is an early (1900s) motion-picture theater with one screen showing all the latest movies with surround sound. When we were there, we took the kids to see The Lion King. Grab some popcorn and rest your bones from all the days’ enjoyments. That’s exactly what we did.
Best Restaurants In Pagosa Springs
Many cuisines are offered all around town — from gourmet hamburgers, pizza, fast-food, and places that require reservations. Find your favorite area in town and have fun entertaining the grandkids … or the other way around!
My grandson and I had never had Thai food, so we were eager to try something new. Thai Pagosa was recommended to us, so we were on the hunt to find it. We started with the Por Pia Thai Vegetable Egg Roll appetizer stuffed with carrots, cabbage, celery and served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce. It was so good, we ordered another helping. Very kid-friendly here.
Kip’s Grill And Cantina
It is very kid-friendly and another place recommended to us by a friend who has a weekend cabin in Pagosa. I’ve eaten here twice, and both times we sat outside on the patio and had hamburgers. Kip’s Grill and Cantina have great hamburgers and an atmosphere full of sunshine and friendly people. If available, ask for patio seating and watch people pass by.
Pro Tip: Make sure the kids aren’t too hungry because there may be a line at the door!
Smoken Moe’s Unreal Barbeque
With a name like that, you’ve got to try it! They also say they have the best barbeque outside of Texas. Being a native Texan, this would be my first choice just to see if it’s true! Check out Smoken Moe’s Unreal BBQ for sandwiches, platters, specialties, and the just-for-kids menu.
Riff Raff Brewing Company
Riff Raff Brewing Company has two locations to choose from in Pagosa Springs, with an electrifying menu at each place. Riff Raff on the Rio sits on the San Juan River, offering scenic mountain and river views, and the other is their original restaurant, Riff Raff Downtown. Both offer kid-friendly menus of hamburgers, mac and cheese, corn dogs, etc. And for the adults, there is a full menu including juicy hamburgers, wings, and flagship beers and wine.
Mountain Pizza And Taproom
Opt to eat outside at Mountain Pizza and Taproom and serve yourself a refreshing cold draft beer from the tap and satisfy the youngins with a kid favorite — pepperoni pizza. If you’re there for dinner, you may want to stay to enjoy the nightlife with music and dancing.
The Lost Cajun
The Lost Cajun not only serves up great overstuffed Po-boys and fresh jambalaya but has a sweet story about how the restaurant was acquired – twice. From the looks of those beignets, I’m pretty sure the kids and yourself will want a few, so save some room for those fried pastries.
A word from the locals – their favorite restaurants include Junction Restaurant on the east end of town, Lonesome Spur in the City Market parking lot, and Boss Hog on the westside of town. I always like trying restaurants that the locals recommend.
Pro Tip: Pagosa Springs is a happening place! Remember that the summer activities start around the middle of May.