Home to the deepest geothermal hot springs aquifer in the world, Pagosa Springs is a renowned tourism destination year round. In the summer, Archuleta County comes alive with campers, seeking out the endless rolling mountains and evergreen forests.
The county seat and largest town in the county, Pagosa Springs is secluded on the west side if Wolf Creek Pass, surrounded by national forest. There is camping available in all directions, with several notable campgrounds closer to town. One of the most popular places to camp is at Williams Creek Reservoir.
Camping in San Juan Nat’l Forest by Pagosa Springs
The massive San Juan National Forests engulfs Pagosa Springs on all sides. Within it are a range of managed campgrounds, most open from Memorial Day to Labor Day or beyond, weather pending. Whatever recreation you’re looking to do, from hiking and biking to boating and climbing, the San Juan National Forest offers it.
Dispersed Camping – If you know where to look, you can find free dispersed camping within the San Juan N.F. When using these primitive campsites, always use a preexisting campsite, as evidenced by a fire ring rock setup. There are certain forest service roads where camping is permitted in the forest along side them, providing easy car camping opportunities. Look for pull offs where you can park and check to see if a preexisting site exists. Look at the Motor Vehicle Use Maps below for the Pagosa Springs area. Dispersed camping is marked by a couple dots on either side of the road. We’ll list a few spots in the writeup below, otherwise scope your own gem.
Map: San Juan (shown in dark green) (.jpg)
Motor Vehicle Use Maps: Large, PDF’s from the USFS. They show forest service roads and where dispersed camping is permitted.
- Columbine – Silverton, Durango, Bayfield
- Columbine – Table – Silverton, Durango, Bayfield
- Columbine – Beaver Meadows/Sauls Creek – Bayfield
- Columbine – HD Mountains & Lakes – Bayfield
- Columbine – Lakes Area – Bayfield, Durango
- Mancos-Cortez – Dolores, Cortez, Mancos
- Pagosa – Pagosa Springs
Camping near Williams Creek Reservoir
Less than an hour north of Pagosa Springs lies the Williams Creek Reservoir. It features tremendous fishing, hiking and kayaking, common throughout the summer. The lake is stocked with trout and kokanee salmon. It’s open to motorized boating, but only wakeless, so no water skiing or sail surfboards. There are two campgrounds near the lake, but Teal is the closest lakeside, whereas Williams Creek Campground is a short driver or 20 minute hike in. There are a range of trails in the area, some suitable for ATVs.
Situated 45 minutes north of Pagosa Springs, you’ll find a myriad of campsites, some with shade others not, and some creekside. It gets busy on the summer weekends, so plan your stay accordingly and reserve a spot in advance. Fishing is available on Williams Creek on the east side of campground. There’s a great nearby hike to Piedra Falls.
- Closest town: Pagosa Springs (25mi)
- Specs: 67 sites, 1 double site and two triple sites for large families, some with water and sewer hookups; some pull thru and back-ins for large RVs
- Amenities: Vault toilets, drinking water
- Reservations: Yes, at recreation.gov
- Address: Forest Service Rd 640 A, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147 (Map)
- Directions: Take US-160 W from town for around 2 miles until you take a right onto Piedra Rd. Drive for 15.7 miles, continue on Forest Service Rd 631 for 6.2 miles. Turn right onto FSR 640 for .3 miles, follow signs to campground.
This prized campground is lakeside to Williams Creek Reservoir, therefore receives heavy use from Memorial to Labor Day weekends. Arrive early on summer weekends. Most of the campground is open and sunny, whereas the aforementioned Williams Creek CG has some shade. There are a limited number of campsites that can accommodate large RVs. Lighter boats can be carried to the lake, bu the official boat ramp lies 1/2 mile to the north.
- Closest town: Pagosa Springs (26mi)
- Specs: 16 sites
- Amenities: Potable water, vault toilets, trash service, no showers
- Reservations: No, first-come, first-serve; Fee
- Address: Forest Rd 640, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147 (Map)
- Directions: Follow above directions to Williams Creek Campground but continue on FSR 640 for a total of 1.5 miles. Follow sign to Teal CG.
FREE – Dispersed – Piedra River Road: Turkey Spring Road/County Road 146
- Closest town: Pagosa Springs (9+mi)
- Address: Co Rd 146, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147 (Map)
- Directions: Less than twenty minutes from Pagosa Springs and you’ll reach free primitive camping in the San Juan Nation Forest. You’ll take Highway 160 West 2.5 miles from Pagosa Springs. Take a right onto Piedra Rd and go 6.5 miles. Make a left onto Turkey Spring Road/County Roat 146. It’s FSR 129 on this MVUP map. This is also a Trailhead for Coyote Hill and Turkey Springs trails. Drive down Turkey Spring with dispersed camping permitted along side at preexisting campsites. Continue looking as it becomes County Road 146 or make another left onto FSR 923. (Directions)
FREE – Dispersed – Piedra River Road: Forest Service Road 631/633
- Closest town: Pagosa Springs (18+mi)
- Address: Piedra River Rd/FSR 631, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147
- Directions: Head towards Williams Creek Reservoir. Piedra River becomes Forest Service Road 631. When there is a fork to take right toward 633 fork, this is where dispersed camping starts. You can take either one for dispersed camping, with 631 leading to 640 and the lake. Camping is on permitted along 631 before the lake. You won’t find dispersed camping on the road beside the lake. There are two paid campgrounds by the lake.
That’s a roundup of some of the best camping in Pagosa Springs. Remember to leave no trace when camping. Safe travels!