Indian Hot Springs: Go for the History, Not the Heat

Indian Hot Springs has been run by the same family since 1972.
Indian Hot Springs has been run by the same family since 1972. Zoe Yabrove
Long a fixture on lists of the Best Hot Springs in Colorado, Indian Hot Springs is close to Denver, but is that reason enough for the trip? To find out, we made a quick run to Idaho Springs to test the waters. Here's how you can re-create the experience: Run a bath at home, toss in some dirt, let the water cool for about half an hour, drop $20, then get in and try to relax. Oh, and bring a good Colorado history book with you.

After finding the first placer gold in the Rocky Mountains near what is now Chicago Creek in 1859, George A. Jackson wrote about his find and a nearby hot spring, creating the first written record of the place. In 1863, E.M. Cummings invested in claims that disappointed miners had left behind after only striking hot water. Cummings built a wooden structure by the spring and charged for what he called "public health baths." In 1866, the property was sold to Harrison Montague, who replaced the wooden structure with a stone bathhouse; he also built the gazebo that still stands in the swimming area. In 1869, he built what remains the center section of Indian Hot Springs, calling it the "Saratoga of the Rocky Mountains."

Today, Indian Hot Springs offers several bathing options, including the mineral hot springs pool, the geo-thermal caves, outdoor Jacuzzis, indoor private baths and mud baths. The main pool, which is the most popular choice, is filled with 115-degree water, reportedly giving the pool an average temperature of between 90 to 100 degrees.  It's surrounded by lush plants and shrubbery, including banana and palm trees.

While the women's changing room was fine, my companion reported that the men's changing room had moldy tiles and an unfortunate scent. The communal pool was lukewarm at best, slightly warmer than refreshing. In general, pools are not the most hygienic of places, but an extreme temperature in either direction can shock your body and persuade you that germs don't stand a chance in such an environment. We didn't find such comfort here, and couldn't relax enough to ignore the brownish stains everywhere and the clumps of hair floating past.
click to enlarge The greenery is well-kept, at least. - ZOE YABROVE
The greenery is well-kept, at least.
Zoe Yabrove
Perhaps it was a mistake starting in the communal pool, because we never made it to the caves, which were added at the turn of the last century. The pools there are reportedly much hotter.

While we were disappointed by our time in the pool, we met a regular, Rebecca, who finds Indian Hot Springs a really good place to relax and heal. "I have bad joints and I've noticed that the medical properties in the water have helped my joints," she says, adding that she tries to go on weekdays, which are less expensive.

On weekdays, admission to the main pool is $18; on weekends (Friday through Sunday), it's $20. Children under five are always admitted free with the purchase of an adult ticket. The caves are $22 on weekdays and $24 on weekends; the hot tubs are $24.50 and $27.50, respectively. For bath and bundled pricing packages, visit the Indian Hot Springs website.

Have you been to Indian Hot Springs lately? What did you think? What's your favorite hot spring in Colorado? Post a comment or email [email protected]
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Zoe Yabrove is a Denver native with an undergraduate degree in creative writing and a master’s in special education. She is a teacher in Denver Public Schools and contributes to Westword to get her writing fix.
Contact: Zoe Yabrove