The Animas River running through golden aspens in the Weminuche Wilderness area before reaching the city of Durango.

Shutterstock /

Weminuche Wilderness Area

Named for a band of the Ute tribe, the Weminuche Wilderness Area is the most extensive wilderness in Colorado, with an area of more than 700 sq miles. The Weminuche extends west along the Continental Divide from Wolf Creek Pass to the Animas River near Silverton. Along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (USFS Trail 813), you will find many secluded hiking opportunities as the trail travels 80 miles of the Weminuche Wilderness between Wolf Creek Pass and Stony Pass.

One trail of particular interest leads to an undeveloped natural hot spring west of the Divide. To reach Wolf Creek Pass Hot Spring take USFS Trail 560 west from the Divide, descending more than 6 miles through the Beaver Creek drainage to the West Fork headwaters of the San Juan River. The spring, with more than 100°F (38°C) water, is to the right on USFS Trail 561, about half a mile above the trail junction.

Visitors should have maps of both the Rio Grande and San Juan National Forests. Ranger stations for the Rio Grande National Forest are in either Del Norte or Creede; the nearest San Juan National Forest ranger station is in Pagosa Springs. From June to July of 2013, the West Fork Complex fire, caused by lightning strikes and strong winds, burned over 100,000 acres, some within this area.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby attractions

2. Coller State Wildlife Area

24.15 MILES

The grassy riverbanks in the Coller State Wildlife Area attract elk, deer and moose in winter. You can see bighorn sheep throughout the year on the south…

3. Chimney Rock Archaeological Area

25.45 MILES

Designated an Archaeological Area and National Historic Site in 1970, these 4000 acres within the San Juan National Forest hold remains of 100 permanent…

4. Creede Historic Museum

27.89 MILES

Mineral treasures attracted miners by the trainload, but this museum chronicles the more intriguing opportunists and scoundrels who arrived to take…

5. Creede Underground Mining Museum

27.98 MILES

Opened in 1992, this fascinating museum was hewn from the ground by mine workers, and the tours, which really bring home the grim reality of life in the…

6. North Clear Creek Falls

29.38 MILES

Twenty-five miles west of Creede and only 0.5 miles from signs on Hwy 149, these impressive falls are visible from an overlook on the fenced edge of a…