When it's hot out, there's nothing so refreshing as a dip in 104-degree water. Afterward, the air feels cooler, tensions are gone, and the world seems an altogether better place. Whether for an afternoon splurge or a weekend of play, Colorado has plenty of hot springs ready and bubbling.
Indian Springs Resort
Got a couple of hours to kill? Take a quick jaunt up to Idaho Springs, where you can soak in the pools that once revived Jesse James, the Roosevelts and the Vanderbilts. The geothermal caves are gender-specific and all nude, so you can't soak with your sweetie, but there are private indoor and outdoor Jacuzzi baths that you can rent for some together time. Prices start at $18 a person, and you can add on a variety of spa services. Call in advance to book the $89 package, which includes a room, dinner, a soak and a swim in the mineral pool.
Drive time: Thirty minutes. Indian Springs Resort, 302 Soda Creek Road, Idaho Springs, 303-989-6666.
Hot Springs Lodge & Pool
The most memorable (and amusing) way to explore Glenwood Springs' quaint historic area is on a guided Segway tour offered by Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse. For the anti-athletic, the $25 fee is a cheap way to avoid walking the steep inclines. Afterward, hit the Hot Springs Lodge & Pool ($10.25-$17.50) and take a dip in the thermal waters or a swim in the pool. If you stay in the lodge overnight, book in the original south building ($217 per night), not the newer north building ($199). Other good options are the Bed and Breakfast on Mitchell Creek ($125), which offers separate entrances and patios with fire pits; a private cabin at the Four Mile Creek Bed & Breakfast ($135-$145), which is on the National Register of Historic Places; or a specialty room at the Hotel Denver ($124-$339), such as the penthouse with a rooftop hot tub overlooking everything. Don't leave town before visiting the Yampah Spa Vapor Caves ($12), where the same hot mineral waters that feed the lodge create natural underground steam baths.
Drive time: Two and a half hours. Hot Springs Lodge & Pool, 415 East 6th Street, Glenwood Springs, 1-800-537-SWIM.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Get off the beaten I-70 path and head up to Steamboat Springs to visit Strawberry Park Hot Springs. The drive itself is worth the cost of gas (even at $3.50 a gallon), and the destination is stunning, nestled in the hills seven miles outside of Steamboat. There is a price to pay for this setting, however: The hot springs are located three miles off the paved road, up a narrow, winding trail, and chains or four-wheel drive are required November through May. In the summer, you can drive it yourself (bikers and hikers abound and have the right of way), hike in or schedule a shuttle service. Once you're there, $10 gets you into the pools, which stay open until midnight, and also buys access to the grounds for hiking. Stay overnight in the old train caboose or a cabin, or rough it at a tent site ($50-$105).
Drive time: Two and a half hours. Strawberry Park Hot Springs, 44200 County Road 36, Steamboat Springs, 1-970-879-0342.
The Springs Resort in Pagosa Springs
Which to choose? The Lobster Pot at 114 degrees Fahrenheit or the Crick Pool, which is fed by waterfalls? The Marco Polo just for two, or the Burg, where the hot springs and cool river water mix together? There are plenty of options at the Springs Resort, which is terraced to overlook the San Juan River. It costs $17.95 a day to soak, or dip for free if you stay in the hotel ($144-$189 per night). Complete your relaxation therapy with a hot-stone massage ($95) or a mud-and-paraffin wrap ($150).
Drive time: Four and a half hours. The Springs Resort, 165 Hot Springs Boulevard, Pagosa Springs, 1-800-225-0934.
Dunton Hot Springs
This is a true indulgence, not for the faint of wallet. The secluded resort is about an hour outside of Telluride, and it's as stunning as its price tag. The basic, well-appointed teepee "cabin" starts at $300 per night per person — but that includes meals. While you're on site, indulge in the hot springs running through the property, or hiking, yoga, photo classes, ATV excursions, horseback riding, fly fishing, the library, the pool table or spa services. If that's not a dream Colorado vacation, what is?
Drive time: Seven hours. Dunton Hot Springs, Dunton, 1-970-882-7474.