Wagon Wheel Gap (1875, 8,390 feet), which started as a stage stop on the Rio Grande route into the San Juan mining regions, took its name from a pile of broken wagon wheels found along the old road. J. C. McLellan opened a hotel in 1881, and General William Jackson Palmer and the D&RG arrived in 1883 to promote the area as a spa, touting its natural hot springs and the spectacular mountain setting. Among the nearby tourist attractions is the Wheeler Wilderness Area, with unusual formations of volcanic tuff carved by wind and rain into fantastic shapes likened to temples and castles. The stone domes and pinnacles have been fenced off to prevent vehicular intrusions into an area accessible only by foot trails and served by a 1920s rustic shelter.
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