Pagosa’s Favorite Hiking Trail
The Four Mile trail is one of Pagosa’s most popular hikes. Winding through a river valley to reach the Four Mile Falls, the trail has its ups and downs but can be classified between ‘easy’ and ‘intermediate.’ The biggest challenge for some may be the sum total 7 miles of hiking required to visit and return from the waterfall. Every year tourists come out in droves to hit this trail, however: the only hike in Pagosa where I’ve regularly seen more people is on the Opal Lake trail and, although perhaps not as stunningly scenic as some of the more expert climbs in the region, the Four Mile trail does offer a consistent river presence, a nice meadow perfect for a picnic, plenty of shade for hot summer days and some spectacular rock formations near the waterfall itself.
To the west of the trail stretches the ridge that the Anderson trail winds up and around on its path to Pagosa Peak; to the east hunches Eagle Mountain and Eagle Peak. There are a couple descents on the way to the falls and one uphill stretch for the last mile or so, where the foliage clears somewhat, exposing massive rock-gardens and huge chunks of upthrust stone on the left and the curling river to the right. Many of Pagosa’s hikes are like this – long stints of forest hiking, with a sudden clearing of the vegetation to reveal the contours of time and consequence. In this respect, Four Mile has one of the more stunning displays of ‘sudden erosion’ in the area.
The Falls originates near the base of Pagosa Peak, emerging from both meltwater and an underground spring – there isn’t a real trail going from the origin point to the waterfall itself; around five years or so ago I traced it from the source cross country through rough wilderness to the top of the Fall (expert hikers only!).
The water flows strongest in spring, and many a tourist and local alike have climbed up to stand in the small hallow behind the Fall. Pictured above is actually the lower Falls; to reach the upper Falls requires a strenuous climb up towards the Four Mile Lakes.
Four Mile has continued to draw tourist attention for years and years, and it is a good bet that you will be sharing this trail with anywhere from three to a dozen other hikers in the busy summer season. Its relative ease, peaceful glades and scattered glimpses of breathtaking Pagosa country will, I’m sure, regale visitors with the taste of the National Forest for many years to come. For those seeking an extra challenge and/or solace, the Anderson trail runs from the same trailhead and in various points overlooks the Four Mile river valley.