Rainbow Hot Springs

MODERATE 27 reviews
#2 of 71 trails in

Rainbow Hot Springs is a 9.2 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Pagosa Springs, Colorado that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

9.2 miles 1840 feet Out & Back

dogs on leash

birding

camping

fly fishing

hiking

nature trips

snowshoeing

trail running

walking

horseback riding

forest

hot springs

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

Directions to Trailhead: Take Highway 160 (towards Wolf Creek Pass) about 16 miles until you see a sign for West Fork Campground (just before you get to Treasure Falls). Take West Fork Campground Rd. (CR-648) about 7 miles to West Fork Trailhead (follow the sign that points to West Fork Campground 1.0 mile - don't follow 648A or 648B). Directions to Rainbow Hot Springs: (West Fork Trail-561) From the parking lot to the first campsite I found it was 7.56 miles. From the parking lot you will follow a jeep road passing several private residences. The beginning of the the trail is marked very well to warn you where property lines are. The jeep road ends 0.2 miles in and you will follow the trail along West Fork Canyon. The sign for Weminuche Wilderness is 2.36 miles in. From this sign you will go 0.07 miles to the first of 3 man-made bridges. From this bridge you will go 1.72 miles where you will see a waterfall to the left and a water crossing. From the waterfall you will go 0.41 miles to the 2nd man-made bridge. Another 0.25 miles and you will cross the 3rd man-made bridge and see a sign marked ‘Main Trail’. Stay on the main trail which will take you 200ft. up the east side of the canyon. Another 1.0 mile and keep your eyes peeled for the Beaver Creek Trail sign on the right side of the trail (it was closed when I went). Stay on the main trail. You should cross 3 or 4 drainages (the first may be dried up depending on the rainfall). The last drainage is fed by a waterfall to your right. Continue to follow the trail up the hill until the trail forks. Follow the trail to the left where you will see the first campsite (fire ring and 2 log benches). The campsite sits right on the edge of the canyon and oversees the hot springs and river. There is a steep trail from the campsite that takes you down to the hot springs.

hiking
4 months ago

backpacking
6 months ago

Check the weather before you go! Any online reviews that say the hot springs are 4-5 miles in from the trailhead are incorrect. I'll do my best to reconstruct and explain how to find the hot springs. I live in Pagosa Springs so my directions are from here…

Directions to Trailhead:
Take Highway 160 (towards Wolf Creek Pass) about 16 miles until you see a sign for West Fork Campground (just before you get to Treasure Falls). Take West Fork Campground Rd. (CR-648) about 7 miles to West Fork Trailhead (follow the sign that points to West Fork Campground 1.0 mile - don't follow 648A or 648B).

Directions to Rainbow Hot Springs:
(West Fork Trail-561) From the parking lot to the first campsite I found it was 7.56 miles. From the parking lot you will follow a jeep road passing several private residences. The beginning of the the trail is marked very well to warn you where property lines are. The jeep road ends 0.2 miles in and you will follow the trail along West Fork Canyon. The sign for Weminuche Wilderness is 2.36 miles in. From this sign you will go 0.07 miles to the first of 3 man-made bridges. From this bridge you will go 1.72 miles where you will see a waterfall to the left and a water crossing. From the waterfall you will go 0.41 miles to the 2nd man-made bridge. Another 0.25 miles and you will cross the 3rd man-made bridge and see a sign marked ‘Main Trail’. Stay on the main trail which will take you 200ft. up the east side of the canyon. Another 1.0 mile and keep your eyes peeled for the Beaver Creek Trail sign on the right side of the trail (it was closed when I went). Stay on the main trail. You should cross 3 or 4 drainages (the first may be dried up depending on the rainfall). The last drainage is fed by a waterfall to your right. Continue to follow the trail up the hill until the trail forks. Follow the trail to the left where you will see the first campsite (fire ring and 2 log benches). The campsite sits right on the edge of the canyon and oversees the hot springs and river. There is a steep trail from the campsite that takes you down to the hot springs.

7 months ago

hiking
7 months ago

7 months ago

hiking
7 months ago

backpacking
8 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

My wife and I did this trail to go see the hot springs and enjoy the outdoor scenery. We never found the hot springs but the views did not disappoint. However, we greatly underestimated the 'difficulty' of this trail. The trail itself is not difficult, but as flatlanders from sea level Maryland, we quickly tired. It is around 8,000ft MSL and was 97deg out. We did the whole trail, but we're pretty tired at the end. Would I do it again? Sure! Just not on a 90deg day. If you aren't acclimated to altitude yet, maybe hold off on doing the whole thing. At least go to the river though. We stopped and went swimming on the way back. It was glorious.

hiking
10 months ago

hiking
1 year ago

Seasonal Trail Access Information
In the spring to winter months, the West Fork Trail (561) also known as the Rainbow Hot Springs Trail is inaccessible due to snow and/or road closures.

1 year ago

I would rate this trail moderate, not easy. A great hike, begins in the parking lot and goes through a small community. After several up and down slopes and crossing a few bridges you will end up at the camp site. The hot springs are a little before the campsite down the hill along the side of the river. There is also another springs on the other side of the river.

hiking
1 year ago

We did this beginning of June with 2 dogs. The trail was sketchy in places because the water was running so high. Trail completely covered in one spot and had to traverse over a rock ledge above the river. Beautiful hike with a lot of variation. Water falls, hiking next to cliffs and then down by the river, exposed sunny stretches but then shady glades. Tips we wish we would have known before going: 1. The first campsites you see are it. Do not go much further. We went all the way to the end (about another 3/4 mile) and it dead ends at a river crossing that would be very dangerous to cross. 2. The large water fall on the right as you are hiking up means you are almost there 3. When the trail forks with no sign for where to go, go left. You will come to what is probably the largest fire ring and that seems to be the 1st camping spot. If you camp here on a weekend, I imagine you will get a lot of foot traffic through your spot 4. There are 2 areas where there are hot springs. The upper has 2 pools, 1 that was pretty cold water and one that was luke warm and not appealing. We found shed snake skins there so careful camping with all that high grass
5. You can do this in a day but I recommend backpacking and staying up there. It is a 1400 foot climb and we were really tired when we got there. Definitely made us realized we need to get in better shape before doing Conundrum :)

camping
1 year ago

Extremely lush and green currently. We backpacked in to the hot springs for the holiday weekend and continued farther on the trail as a day hike. A few of the crossings were a little hairy due to the rain, definitely recommend hiking boots and lots of extra socks. The article on the Denver Channel was very useful in finding the hot springs, highly recommend due to lack of signs.

1 year ago

Very pretty, lots of falls and stream crossings. Toward the end the trail comes to a fork. At the fork it is tempting to go right because the trail is more developed, at this point stay left to the sound of the river. You will then go down a very steep descent to the larger pool. Did not find the smaller pool however! Lots of pix = 6 hrs round trip!

hiking
1 year ago

This hike had everything: mountains, fields, trees, cliffs, waterfalls, hot springs, camping. I brought the dog, and we both had a blast. It's a good one for a hot day because, while there is limited shade, you cross through the river quite often.

camping
1 year ago

Pretty hike. Hot springs were a little hard to find even with everyone's help. The hike is very sunny which can make it hot. We did it in a day but I would recommend hiking in and camping, then hiking out. It was actually a total of about 10 miles round trip according to my gps.

camping
1 year ago

Absolutely beautiful! Hiked the first week in June so the wild flowers were just getting started, but many were getting ready to bloom. Trail is mostly well maintained, some fallen trees, but easy enough to get over. Lots of waterfalls this time of the year!

The trees around the hot springs are mostly dead due to wildfire and pine beetle damage, but don't let that stop you. Do bring a bear container, we spotted one just across the river from the campsites near the springs.

hiking
1 year ago

camping
2 years ago

Awesome hike and so gorgeous with the water features. We went over 4th of July weekend and hardly anyone was around. We backpacked in about 2 miles and found a great campsite where others had previously camped. No shade during the day but we were up and ready to check out the springs. I highly recommend!

hiking
2 years ago

Great Day Hike. The only thing that would make this hike perfect would be if the forest wasn't so scorched from the massive fire last year. We followed Justin's directions but would like to add that just before you get to the hot springs you will cross a creek bed. If you look up to the right, there will be a waterfall . Cross the creek bed and then bare to the left to get to the hot springs.