Designated “Colorado’s Top Small Adventure Town” in 2015 by Elevation Outdoors, the mountain community is tucked at the San Luis Valley’s southwest edge and remains one of our state’s unspoiled hidden gems. South Fork is the perfect jumping-off point for hiking, biking and backpacking in Colorado’s largest wilderness area: the Weminuche Wilderness.
The area — which is bisected by the Continental Divide — encompasses 499,771 acres of rugged peaks, glistening alpine lakes, wild forests and roaring rivers within the San Juan and Rio Grande national forests. Several nearby trails offer access to portions of the famed Continental Divide Trail (CDT) — a 3,100-mile route between Canada and Mexico. In fact, South Fork is proud to be Colorado's first designated CDT Gateway Community, and hikers who are members of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition receive discounts on lodging and dining in town.
Soak up amazing high-alpine panoramas on the 7-mile Archuleta Trail, which rambles through spruce and fir forests to join the CDT at Archuleta Lake; or hike to Crater Lake, a 2-mile trail that leads to wraparound views of the Continental Divide and a mountain-flanked lake. Find more hiking trails in the South Fork area >>
Prefer to travel on two wheels? The area also brims with opportunities for cyclists of all abilities, from hundreds of miles of forest-service access motorways for road biking to technical downhill trails for mountain biking.
The South Fork area boasts nearly 20 miles of Gold Medal waters on the Rio Grande River — the second longest stretch of its kind in Colorado.
Locals report excellent brown and rainbow trout fishing downstream from Rio Grande Reservoir, while the section of the waterway between South Fork and Del Norte is a favorite spot to bag feisty trophy brown trout. Anglers can also choose from more than 80 lakes and reservoirs, from secluded mountain lakes to reservoirs equipped with convenient boat ramps. Find more places to fish in South Fork >>
The Rio Grande also offers fantastic Colorado rafting, from scenic family floats to exciting whitewater journeys through Class I and III rapids. Connect with a local rafting outfitter for guided rafting excursions, rentals and expert guidance.
Off-road adventures in the area offer access to unparalleled panoramas of the San Luis Valley and unscathed stretches of wilderness.
There are ATV and 4x4 vehicle trails in the Rio Grande National Forest and beyond for every taste, from rocky, off-the-grid treks to easy back-road cruises. Plus, South Fork’s ongoing efforts to be off-road-vehicle friendly make it an ideal locale for enthusiasts; the town recently passed an ordinance to allow off-highway vehicles to travel within city limits. For rentals and information about regulations and trails, find a South Fork off-road outfitter.
South Fork is the closest city to Wolf Creek Ski Area, which averages 465 inches of snowfall annually — that’s more than any other Colorado ski resort.
A more affordable alternative to larger ski resorts, Wolf Creek offers some of the state’s best powder in an intimate setting. If snowmobiling is your forte, the area’s 255 miles of groomed trails guide riders to wide-open ridges, steep climbs and some of the state’s most gorgeous snow-blanketed vistas. Other activities that make South Fork an ideal winter destination include sledding, ice skating, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Rio Grande Club & Resort, ranked the “6th Best New Golf Course to Open in 2003” by Golf Digest, is an exquisite place to tee off.
The 18-hole championship course features expansive cottonwood groves and lovely sights of the surrounding mountains and the Rio Grande River, which comes into play at several holes. Other features include a spacious driving range, 25,000-square-foot golf club and fitness center.
The South Fork area has a wealth of campgrounds, whether you’re seeking a riverside retreat or secluded place to slumber under the stars.
Vibrant wildflowers, forested sites and proximity to a peaceful reservoir make Big Meadows Campground a beloved spot to pitch a tent, while quiet Highway Springs Campground offers easy access to the Rio Grande River. Find more campgrounds >>
The town is surrounded by a hunter’s paradise.
Bow, black powder and rifle hunters gather in South Fork’s three hunting units in early fall to pursue a wide array of big-game species, including elk, deer, bighorn sheep and antelope. Exceptional small-game hunting is also allowed during various periods throughout the year. Gain insider knowledge and book expeditions from guides and supply shops in town.
Local dining options and one-of-a-kind activities and events cater to every member of the family.
Locally owned South Fork restaurants satisfy all kinds of appetites without putting a damper on your pocketbook — so you can stay longer and do more. Meanwhile, the town’s splendid roster of year-round activities and events ensures you won’t have any trouble keeping busy.
Plan your trip around a unique event such as the 3rd of July, featuring an impressive fireworks display and parade; Loggers Day, a July festival celebrating the area’s logging heritage; Rhythms on the Rio in August, a family-friendly music fest; or Colorfest in September, when the backcountry sparkles with autumn beauty. And be sure to check out the numerous nature and interpretive programs at the South Fork Visitor Center and stroll the town’s variety of charming shops and boutiques. More events >>
Amazing scenic drives showcase southern Colorado’s iconic high-country landscape.
Choose from an array of delightful cruises, including the Silver Thread Scenic Byway, a 117-mile trip that offers a peek at old mining and logging camps and beautiful natural wonders like North Clear Creek Falls and Uncompahgre Peak, and Bachelor Loop Tour, a 17-mile circuit through Creede’s fascinating ghost towns and historic silver-mining district. Drive from Wolf Creek Pass to Pagosa Springs for photo-worthy views of the San Juan Mountains, Treasure Falls and peaceful farmlands.
Colorado history shines at museums and historic sites.
Uncover the Centennial State’s storied past at several attractions in the South Fork area. Wheeler Geologic Area’s otherworldly rock spires (4x4 vehicle required) deliver insight into the vicinity’s volcanic history, while Penitente Canyon’s rock paintings and ox-cart ruts highlight the San Luis Valley’s American Indian and Spanish history. For the ultimate history lesson, ride the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, which traverses an original 1880s-era rail line along the Upper Rio Grande.