Weather extremes in Colorado make any outdoor activities that can be done year-round a hot commodity (no pun intended). Fortunately, this state has been blessed with an abundance of hot springs that, despite what the name might imply, can be enjoyed in both winter and summer months. Soaking in a hot spring after a long, sweaty hike is undoubtedly enjoyable, but there's something special — and so Colorado — about stripping to your skivvies and warming up in a hot spring as snow falls gently in the night. Here are some of the best hot springs destinations in Colorado, from luxury resorts to primitive soaking spots.
1. Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs, Steamboat Springs
Nestled along Hot Springs Creek outside Steamboat Springs are some of Colorado's — maybe even the world's — most beautiful hot springs. Strawberry offers multiple pools set at different temps and on-site lodging (that must be booked way in advance and through snail mail, per its website) for weekend trips. If you really want to relax, be sure to book a traditional massage or a "watsu," which is delivered in a warm-water pool. Visit strawberryhotsprings.com for more details about accommodations, pricing and advice on how to get to the hot springs. And be prepared for guests in their birthday suits.
2. Iron Mountain Hot Springs, Glenwood Springs
Two and a half hours from Denver are the Iron Mountain Hot Springs, which consist of sixteen natural mineral soaking pools with temperatures that range from 99 to 108 degrees, along with a freshwater family pool. As the name implies, the waters are rich in minerals including iron, which is known for its relaxing properties. Perhaps best of all, the pools have excellent views of Mt. Sopris, Red Mountain, the Colorado River and the Roaring Fork Valley. Find more information at ironmountainhotsprings.com.
3. Hot Sulphur Springs Resort & Spa, Hot Sulphur Springs
Heated by volcanic rock some 35,000 feet below Earth's surface, the seven natural springs here range in temperature from 104 to 126 degrees. They also fill 21 mineral pools with hot water chock-full of all sorts of good stuff for your skin, including sulfate and magnesium. Hot Sulphur also offers a wide range of therapeutic services, including body massages, hot-rock massages and rain-drop therapy. Visit hotsulphursprings.com for more.
4. The Springs Resort & Spa, Pagosa Springs
Situated along the San Juan River, the Springs Resort & Spa boasts the world's deepest geothermal hot spring, measuring at least 1,002 feet deep. The water from the "Mother Spring," as it's known, comes in at 144 degrees but cools down a bit to fill the 23 soaking pools. The resort offers world-class lodging, and the spa's massages comes in everything from couples sessions to "scent-sation" treatments that incorporate essential oils. Visit pagosahotsprings.com for more information.
5. Cottonwood Hot Springs Inn & Spa, Buena Vista
More rustic than some of the aforementioned spas and resorts, the Cottonwood Hot Springs Inn & Spa's soaking pools range in temperature from 94 to 110 degrees. Accommodations are more affordable, too, with cabins, dorms and hotel rooms available for as low as $139 a night per room or $55 per person for a single bed in the dorms. Spa services range from massages to tarot card readings, crystal work, facials and body scrubs. Once you've replenished your relaxation center, head into Buena Vista to tour an adorably quaint mountain town. Visit cottonwood-hot-springs.com for more information.
6. Indian Hot Springs, Idaho Springs
Just thirty miles west of Denver, the Indian Hot Springs pool lies under a translucent dome that encapsulates a mini-tropical paradise, complete with (real!) palm and banana trees; it's fed with hot mineral water and sits at about 90 to 100 degrees. Indian Hot Springs also offers geothermal caves heated with naturally hot mineral water, outdoor Jacuzzis, indoor private baths and a range of spa services, along with relatively affordable accommodations. Visit indiandhotsprings.com for more information.
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7. Salida Hot Springs Public Pool, Salida
The Salida Hot Springs Public Pool comprises the largest indoor hot springs in North America, its waters gathered from underground springs eight miles away and pumped in through insulated pipes. The water is relatively cooler here, coming in at 84 to 86 degrees in the lap pool, perfect for swimming and playful kids, and 97 to 100 degrees in the leisure pool. And the price of admission is doable, too, at just $11 for adults and $3 to $5 for children. Visit salidarec.com/public-pool for more information.
8. Penny Hot Springs, Carbondale
If you want hot springs without all the frills, head to Penny Hot Springs. Located on the banks of the Crystal River, the spring is just big enough for a group of about twelve (or fewer, if you want some personal space), and there are no amenities — not even bathrooms — so be prepared to pack in and out. The spring is best visited during summer, fall and winter, as spring snowmelt often floods the area. Up for a rewarding challenge? Visit carbondale.com for more information.
9. Desert Reef Hot Spring, Florence
If you enjoy solitude and a desert setting, the Desert Reef Hot Spring, just an hour and a half from Denver, is your cup of tea. The well that supplies the water was discovered in an oil exploration project and comes in hot, at 132 degrees (air convection cools it so it's comfortable for swimmers). Desert Reef, a "clothing optional family hot spring resort" is about as stripped-down as they come, but the natural hot spring water and views alone are worth the trip. Visit desertreefhotspring.com to learn more.
10. Old Town Hot Springs, Steamboat Springs
As at many hot springs in Colorado, the waters at Old Town Hot Springs have been enjoyed for centuries, first by the Ute Indians, who referred to them as "medicine" springs, then as a gathering and bathing place for homesteaders. The spring pumps water into several spots on this complex, from a waterfall hot pool to a water-slide pool to kiddie and splash pools. Old Town offers cabanas for personal enjoyment or parties, massages, non-water fitness classes, childcare and more. Visit oldtownhotsprings.org for details.