CHRISTY CURD

Pagosa Springs named Gateway Community

By John Finefrock

Just 23 miles from downtown Pagosa Springs, the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) traverses Wolf Creek Pass and onward to Canada or Mexico, depending on which way you walk.

The CDT was established by Congress as a National Scenic Trail in 1978, and spans 3,100 miles between Mexico and Canada. The CDT is regarded as the highest, most challenging and most remote of the 11 scenic trails.

For those who wish to hike for days, weeks, even months, Pagosa Springs has easy access to one of the longest trails in the United States.

In 2017, Pagosa Springs was designated a Gateway Community to the CDT, defined as “towns that recognize the unique economic and cultural value that the CDT brings. They make services accessible to hikers, educate local residents, and advocate for continued access to public lands,” according to the CDT website.

Pagosa Springs is a welcome resting place for weary hikers, and is an easily accessible pit stop to resupply food and supplies along your hike. 

Hikers have a variety of needs when they trudge off the trail and into towns. Pagosa’s hot springs are a very desirable attraction to exhausted hikers who use the springs to replenish their aching bodies and lift their spirits.

Pagosa Springs even has its share of “trail angels,” locals who advertise rides and sometimes lodging to hikers who pass through town. 

Trail angels report that CDT hikers are often mistaken for homeless people, and urge drivers who see dirty, backpack-laden hitchhikers on Wolf Creek Pass to offer them a ride into town.

Pagosa resident Addie Greer is a “trail angel” and has been helping hikers for about 13 years. 

She delights in the experiences with the hikers she’s met, identifying themselves to her only by their trail names like “Tenderfoot,” “Lint,” “Lighthouse,” “Funtimes,” “Cookie Monster” and “Appa The Sky Bison,” among others.

Greer reports picking up hikers on Wolf Creek Pass who had just hiked 30 miles in a day, and shuttling them to the grocery store and the laundromat, even letting a few camp in her backyard.

For those who wish to register as trail angels, or hikers who want to see the directory, visit www.trailangellist.org.

In 2017, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, youth conservation corps and volunteer trail crews put trail markers and signs along 2,000 miles of the 3,100 mile trail. 

The entirety of the trail is now signed for the first time in its history.

For hikers heading south toward Mexico, Pagosa Springs is the perfect respite and rest stop to prepare for the next section in the San Juan Mountains, one of the most difficult sections of trail on the entire hike.

The San Juan Mountains are the longest mountain chain in the Rockies and the highest mountain chain by average elevation in all of North America.

For northbound hikers, or “Nobos,” the Weminuche Wilderness begins soon after crossing Wolf Creek Pass, where the CDT remains above 11,000 feet for nearly 70 miles through the Weminuche.

For long-distance hikers or day hikers, Pagosa Springs is an excellent gateway into the wilderness, or the perfect place to recharge after a long day on the trail.