There are few pleasures in life that beat slipping into a pool of hot mineral water while enjoying the grandeur of Colorado’s mountainous surroundings. Experiencing a good soak in hot springs is therapeutic and considered a rite of passage for a true Coloradan. It’s right up there with skiing, climbing a 14er, and sipping a craft beer.
After a day of skiing or hiking or just being outdoors, nothing beats a dip in the soothing waters of natural hot springs. Check out a few of our favorites. Keep in mind, some of the locations require swimsuits; others don’t. Check the websites or call ahead to find out the “dress code.”
Conundrum Hot Springs (Aspen, CO)
This is my personal favorite as it was my first introduction to au naturale soaking some 40+ years ago. At 11,200 feet in elevation, the Conundrum Hot Springs are just one of the special features of the 181,976-acre Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area. The natural beauty of this area is truly breathtaking and worth the 17-mile round-trip hike. The trailhead is off Castle Creek Road, south of Aspen.
Be Prepared for a Challenging Hike!
The trailhead starts at 8,800 feet elevation and climbs continuously through the valley to the hot springs just above 11,000 feet. Due to the length of this hike combined with the high-elevation environment, please be aware of potential altitude sickness. Even if you aren’t camping, be prepared to bring extra clothing, plenty of water, and a first aid kit. The trail crosses Conundrum Creek three times before it reaches the hot springs. Primitive log bridges span the first and the second crossings. The third crossing requires wading through the creek so make sure you are wearing sturdy hiking boots. Plan on an early start to allow enough time to both complete the hike and enjoy the hot springs.
Camping Requires a Permit
The popularity of this site has forced the U.S. Forest Service to start a reservation system for camping in the area. Check out the website — recreation.gov — to get a camping permit. These permits go fast! Keep in mind, from early October to late June, the campsites and trail are often snow-covered. If you aren’t prepared for cold weather camping and snow, the best time to visit is July through September.
Avalanche Ranch Cabins & Hot Springs (Redstone, CO)
When you really want to escape from it all, a visit to Avalanche Ranch is sure to provide the ultimate getaway. Situated on the West Slope in the picturesque Crystal River Valley at Redstone, Avalanche Ranch offers three-tiered pools that range in temperature from 92-104 degrees. Cascading from one to the next, each of the beautiful hot springs is situated at a level that provides limited visibility from one to the next. The largest pool is fed by a 3-foot waterfall forming a warm screen of water in front of a rock grotto. The springs are open to day visitors but reservations are required. Slots are only available between 9 a.m.-1 p.m., and 1-5 p.m. The hot springs are closed on Wednesdays for cleaning.
Pro tip: Stay on-site
The best way to truly enjoy Avalanche Ranch is to stay on-site. Open year-round, you may select from a variety of cabins, “glamping” wagons and the off-site River House. Keep in mind, there is no WIFI, telephone or TVs in the lodging options. It’s a perfect way to decompress, exit social media and enjoy one of the most beautiful valleys in Colorado.
Glenwood Hot Springs (Glenwood Springs, CO)
With its prime location along I-70, this is often the first stop for many to enjoy a hot springs experience. This site is bustling with activity and features one of the largest natural hot springs pool in the world. The pool is a whopping 405 feet long and 105 feet wide, and is set to 90 degrees. A “smaller” pool, a mere 100 feet long, is kept at 104 degrees and is considered the therapy pool. There are 15 minerals found in the water here, and, besides relieving aches and pains, soaking in hot highly concentrated mineral water has many other health and wellness benefits, according to their website. “Increasing your body temperature helps naturally eliminate toxins, increase circulation and reduce blood pressure. Essential minerals have many health benefits and can be absorbed through your skin, giving your body a natural health boost.”
Make sure you check the Glenwood Hot Springs calendar for maintenance closures and rates that fluctuate depending on usage. If you are skiing at Aspen or Ski Sunlight in Glenwood, a stop at the Glenwood Hot Springs is a must. And don’t forget the on-site accommodations, ranging from a standard room to a family suite. Whether you are looking for a day escape, a weekend getaway or a family vacation, the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort has something for everyone.
Ouray Hot Springs (Ouray, CO)
History of the Ouray Hot Springs
According to the Ouray Hot Springs website, several of Ouray’s local leaders banded together in 1920 to build a community pool. After years of planning and delays, the pool finally opened seven years later. After 88 years of operation and countless visitors, the pool facility was beginning to show its age, and in 2012, the City of Ouray organized a citizen’s committee that began the planning process for a new facility. The demolition and renovation of the pool facility began in October 2016 and the new $9.7 million facility reopened in the summer of 2017.
The New Pools
The “shallow pool” is designed for young children and the temperature is set between 92-98 degrees. The deepest section is 42 inches and kids love the volleyball court. It goes without saying, the “hot pool” attracts the most people with its many coves and luxurious 100-106 degree water. The “overlook” is an adults-only pool divided into two sections by an infinity-edge waterfall and features 104-106 degree temperatures. The 25 meter lap pool boasts 8 lanes and starting blocks, perfect for a workout in 78-82 degree water.
Mt. Princeton Hot Springs (Nathrop, CO)
The Historic Bath House at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort is open daily to the public. This post Civil War building was erected in the mid 1800’s. Here you will find showers and lockers. There are two pools within the facility: a soaking pool and exercise pool. Down the stairs from the outdoor pools, you’ll find Chalk Creek and the naturally occurring hot springs.
In addition, Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort offers the Upper Pools which feature an infinity pool and a water slide (open during the summer).
Creekside Hot Springs in Chalk Creek
A must-do at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort are the pools located right in the midst of the cool rushing waters of Chalk Creek. Each pool is fed by its own natural geothermal hot spring that bubbles into the actual creek bed and into majestic circles of stones that create natural pools of warmth and rejuvenation.
Open to all guests, each pool is approximately one foot in depth with a comfortable sandy bottom and sparkling appeal. By moving rocks around in order to allow the cold water in from the moving creek, you can raise or lower the temperature to your liking. Sitting outside in these pools and gazing at the stars while enjoying the sound of the rushing creek is just about as good as it gets.
Spa and Club
Across from the Historic Bath House and connected by a bridge over Chalk Creek, you’ll find the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Spa and Club. Make a day of it by signing up for a fitness class in the pool on the inside in the exercise room, and then being pampered with any of the signature spa treatments. Whether you’re looking for a fun girls’ weekend, an opportunity to unwind or just need some exercise, the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Spa and Club is a must-stop.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs (Steamboat Springs, CO)
When I first visited here in the mid-1980s, the Strawberry Park Hot Springs were on par with Conundrum — a natural setting, off the beaten path, and idyllic. At night (and during the day for that matter), few people were clothed and admission was free. Unfortunately, parties and bad behavior caught up to the area, and the city turned the property over to private ownership. Although the hot springs lost some character, the major improvements have offset the losses. Beautiful stonework now accentuates the various pools and well-maintained paths allow ease in accessing the area. If you get too hot, enjoy a cold dip in the Hot Spring Creek (its name is a misnomer — it’s quite frigid) which runs adjacent to the springs. No one under 18 is allowed in the hot springs after dark which interestingly coincides with most people sans bathing suits. Reservations are required.
Cabins and Glamping at Strawberry Park
From camping to glamping to cabins, Strawberry Park has you covered for lodging needs. This is a lovely setting to enjoy the beauty of the Steamboat area. They don’t take credit cards so be prepared to write a check or pay in cash on site. The grounds also provide a large private area for group functions, parties and celebrations.
Pagosa Hot Springs (Pagosa Springs, CO)
Living in the Denver Metro Area, you have to make a concerted effort to travel to Pagosa Springs. It’s a five-hour drive (with good roads) and requires navigating several mountain passes, most notably Wolf Creek Pass. But, oh, the end result is so worth it. Featuring an idyllic setting along the San Juan River, the Springs Resort and Spa boasts an incredible 20 + pools, ranging in temperatures from 83-114 degrees (temperature is posted at each venue). You know you’re in heaven when you need a map to explore the grounds! The hot springs pools come is all shapes and sizes, and enjoy your soak with your favorite beverage from the nearby Canteen. Skip the line and buy a day pass ahead of time. The Pagosa Springs hot springs are located right in downtown Pagosa Springs where you’ll also find numerous “hot spots” along the river.
Other Soaking Options
The Overlook Hot Springs Spa in downtown Pagosa Springs offers a rooftop tub as well as soaking opportunities in their courtyard tubs. Healing Waters Resort and Spa, also located downtown, features a large outdoor swimming pool and hot tub, and separate men’s and women’s soaking tubs inside. You’ll find affordable overnight accommodations in the on-site lodge and cozy one-bedroom cabins.
There is a book “Touring Colorado Hot Springs,” by Carl Wambach (published in 1999) that is a handy guide to Colorado hot spots. It was revised and updated in the second edition printing in 2012 and 2018 by Susan Joy Paul. It offers terrific history and details about all the wonderful hot springs in our state.
Wanting to spend more time outside and are not sure where to start? Check out the national parks that are all around Colorado and the surrounding states. Colorado hot springs are just the beginning to the outdoor adventure that awaits!
(Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in Feb. of 2019. It has been edited and updated to provide current information).