West Fork (561)


The popular West Fork Trail, within the Weminuche Wilderness, leads to Rainbow Hot Springs and continues to the Continental Divide Trail at Piedra Pass for a total of 11.6 miles.  The first mile of trail is through private property, so please stay on the trail. At mile 4.5, there is a junction with Beaver Creek Trail (560) which is closed to protect public health and safety in several steep sections where the trail tread has deteriorated to the point of not allowing for safe travel. Rainbow Hot Springs is located at mile 5. At mile 6, the trail begins to climb steeply. There are several stream crossings before reaching the Continental Divide Trail at Piedra Pass.

Camping is permitted only in the 9 desginated sites (see Special Order details below) in the Rainbow Hot Springs area. Backpackers should have a backup plan in case all sites are occupied. Finding legal dispersed campsites north or south of the closure area may be difficult.  Legal dispersed sites must be at least 100 ft from water.  In addition, the area between the junction with the Beaver Creek Trail and the next crossing of the West Fork of the San Juan is closed to campfires.  

Please note, there are many standing dead trees, killed or weakened by the West Fork Fire of 2013 and bark beetle infestation. Forest Service crews have done hazard tree mitigation work around the designated campsites, however there is still an elevated risk of falling trees.

When camping with your dog, please clean up (bury or pack out) your dog waste around campsites. 

Rainbow Hot Springs Notice

Dispersed camping allowed at designated campsites per Special Order #SJRG-99-05.

  • Camping is only allowed at designated sites within ¼ mile either side of the West of the San Juan River from the junction of the West Fork trail (#561) and Beaver Ck trail (#560) to the crossing of West Fork of the San Juan northwest of the hot springs (Sections 23 & 26, T38N, R1W).

  • Designated sites are marked with numbered posts in the Rainbow Hot Springs area.

  • A total of 9 designated campsites have been designated in the hot springs area.

  • If none are available, you must find a legal campsite outside the restricted area. Campsites in Wilderness must be at least 100 feet from water.

 

Distance: 11.6 one way
Minimum Elevation: 8,100 feet
Maximum Elevation: 11,780 feet

At a Glance

Restrictions: West Fork Tail is located in the Weminuche Wilderness area. Specific regulations for Rainbow Hot Springs:
  • Camping is only allowed at designated sites within ¼ mile either side of the West of the San Juan River from the junction of the West Fork trail (#561) and Beaver Ck trail (#560) to the crossing of West Fork of the San Juan northwest of the hot springs.
  • No campfires allowed between the junction with the Beaver Creek Trail and the next crossing of the West Fork of the San Juan.
Please review the Weminuche Wilderness Regulations for full list of regulations and restrictions. Regulations include:
  • Group size is limited to 15 people.
  • Combination of people and stock = 25.
  • Dogs under control.
  • No unattended campfires.
  • Camping is not allowed within 100 feet of any water source.
  • Outfitter-guides who receive any form of compensation must obtain a special-use permit to operate on public land.
  • Possession of motorized equipment and mechanized means of transport are not permitted.
  • Please check trailhead signs or Forest Service Offices for site-specific camping, campfire, and livestock regulations.
  • Do not fly drones over congressionally designated wilderness areas or primitive areas as many people seek these places for the opportunities for solitude and quiet that they provide.
  • Practice leave no trace ethics.
Closest Towns: Pagosa Springs, CO
Water: Purification Recommended
Restroom: Practice leave No Trace
Information Center: Pagosa Ranger District

General Information

Directions:

From Pagosa Springs, CO: From downtown Pagosa Spring, travel east approximately 14.5 miles on Highway 160. Turn left onto FR 648 and continue approximately 2.5 miles to West Fork trailhead (where the road ends).


Activities

Day Hiking

Backpacking

Horse Riding

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities

Location

 
  Area/Length : 
11.6 miles

  Elevation : 
8,100' - 11,780'