Written By: Wendy Oldenbrook
Colorado residents are unusually blessed to live near a variety of natural hot springs. We may even take them for granted. If you are new to the state or planning to visit, here is a list of the top three hot springs in Colorado.
Mount Princeton Hot Springs
Located in central Colorado between Buena Vista and Salida, these hot springs are by far my favorite because they offer a bit of everything: natural pools off the river, summer activities, historic appeal, areas for kids to play and quiet, romantic areas just for adults. The restaurant at the hotel is superb, albeit pricey.
The original bathhouse was built in 1867, right after the Civil War. Since then it has gone through a number of renovations, the latest of which created an upper pool with a meandering water slide and a posh, adults-only spa area across the river for guests who stay at the resort.
Logistically, it is worth it to plan on spending the night at the resort because soaking in the hot springs is included in the hotel rates, and the springs are beautiful at night. While you are in the area, be sure visit St. Elmo, a mining ghost town up the canyon, the artsy main street of Salida and try a horseback adventures offered by a number of stables in the area. Lastly, in the summer, you can couple your trip to Mount Princeton with a white water rafting trip along the Arkansas River.
Iron Mountain Hot Springs
Brand new in 2015, the Iron Mountain Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs make a lovely addition to array of hot springs available in Colorado. These hot springs are designed well – 18 different pools are spaced apart nicely, offer a variety of small and big pools, the minerals in the water leave your skin feeling tingly, and they have somehow transformed a hillside along the Colorado River into what feels like a low-key house party.
My favorite pool is the topaz pool, a deeper pool near the river that is lined with small, flat rocks that massage your feet. My son prefers the larger family pool because it allows for fun pick-up games of Marco Polo. The dressing rooms are tight but manageable, and they offer an after 6 p.m. evening discount.
In my opinion, Iron Mountain is a nicer hot springs than the larger, well known Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, which is more akin to a giant swimming pool, suitable for busloads of school children. If you plan on staying in town for a few days, it would be fun to visit both, along with a day trip along the Crystal River into the small, picturesque town of Redstone. In the winter, a soak at Iron Mountain can be easily paired with a day of skiing, and in the summer, it is the perfect ending to a hike up to Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon.
The Sand Dunes Swimming Pool
This old-school hot springs pool is located in Hooper, Colorado in the San Luis Valley. Often overlooked by guidebooks, it is charming and a wonderful place to spend an entire day.
There is a large indoor picnic area for families that pack in snacks as well as the Mile Deep Grill, which offers a surprisingly good menu of lunch-type options. The pool has a diving board, shallow end for kids and they host Cosmic Night every Monday, complete with up-beat music, a light show and local college-aged kids.
In addition, they have recently built a greenhouse that is for adults only. Inside the greenhouse there are three soaking tubs, a zero-entry pool, a large sauna and a bar!
If you are visiting the Great Sand Dunes National Park, plan to add this to your itinerary, along with a visit to the Alligator Farm and the kitschy Hooper UFO museum. In the Spring, you may be able to see Sandhill Cranes as they migrate through the valley and stop in Monte Vista. There aren’t any hotels nearby, however, you can stay in either Salida or Alamosa. While many tourist destinations in Colorado have become uncomfortably popular, the Sand Dunes Pool and other San Luis Valley attractions remain hidden gems and are refreshingly quiet.
From hiking 8.5 miles to Conundrum Hot Springs near Aspen, to clothing-optional hot springs like Valley View Hot Springs in the San Luis Valley, there are over 27 hot springs in Colorado. These three are a great place to start because they are good for both adults and families, and they can be combined with other fun and interesting local activities.