West Fork Trailhead

Area Status: Open
This area is Open

July 16, 2014
West Fork Trail update, San Juan National Forest

The popular West Fork Trail on the Pagosa Ranger District of the San Juan National Forest, which leads to the Rainbow Hot Springs and into the Weminuche Wilderness beyond, is open to public use; however, the Forest Service urges the public to use extreme caution visiting the area because of significant impacts from the West Fork Fire of 2013 and an ongoing spruce bark beetle epidemic. The trail passes through dense forests of standing dead trees, killed or weakened by either the fire or bark beetle infestation. For example, over two weeks in June, a district trail crew cleared approximately 250 dead and downed trees lying across the first five miles of the trail between the trailhead and hot springs.

About half of the West Fork Trail between the trailhead and hot springs is impacted and may pose safety issues, and conditions currently make travel by pack animals dangerous in certain sections. One portion of the trail near the hot springs is washed out and not recommended for stock travel at this time. Wilderness crews plan to work on this section this month to try to improve conditions. In addition, burned-out stumps have left multiple large holes along one mile of the trail between the first two bridge crossings, also making stock travel treacherous and foot travel difficult. The bridges, however, are in good shape, although one bridge did sustain damage from a falling dead tree. Its hand rails have been rebuilt and the bridge inspected.

Visitors are also reminded that camping near the hot springs can be dangerous because the root systems of the multiple standing dead trees in the area may not be intact and are very susceptible to wind throw. Past the hot springs, Forest Service crews have cleared standing dead trees along switchbacks, but at the top of the pass, the trail is washed out and deemed impassable to stock travel. In addition, crews have not yet cleared downed trees across the trail past the switchbacks.

At a Glance

Usage: Medium
Water: No
Restroom: Vault Toilet (1)
Operated By: Forest Service

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information



Show detail SHOW
Areas & Activities


  Latitude : 

  Longitude : 

  Elevation :