Glenwood Springs, Colorado –More than Blissful Hot Springs
By Irene Middleman Thomas
Back in the early 1900s, President Teddy Roosevelt couldn’t have dreamed that someday, his go-to place for treating his rheumatism would host not only the world’s largest hot springs pool, a mountain-top Adventure Park, caverns open to the public, and so much more.
Glenwood Springs Colorado, keeps evolving … read on!
Glenwood Springs, about a 2 ½ hours drive from central Denver, 45 minutes from Vail, and an hour from Aspen, is close to half a dozen ski resorts (and home to Sunlight Mountain) as well as a wide variety of accommodations, acclaimed restaurants and a myriad of attractions.
Not a Tourist Trap Yet
Happily, it remains an authentic “mountain town” and the county seat. It has, despite the odds, resisted becoming a tourist trap. It’s where one of my kids took her first steps and where so many of us Coloradans go for our “beach” weekends.
On a recent visit with my now adult daughters, we were thrilled to see a black bear up on the hill to our side while bike riding through the spectacularly beautiful Glenwood Canyon. Fortunately, it was way up the hill and seemed just as interested in viewing us as we were in viewing it! We all stared at each other and then continued on our way.
Initially a silver and coal mining town, Glenwood Springs and its location in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley attracted many immigrants in the 1800s, especially from Northern Italy. Today, you are more likely to hear Spanish than Italian, but just about every type of cuisine is available in this diverse community.
Victorian Homes in Glenwood
With many Victorian homes and historic buildings in satisfactory condition, a walking tour (free brochure at the Visitors Center, 802 Grand Avenue) and a visit to the Historical Society and Frontier Museum at 1001 Colorado Avenue gives a fascinating glimpse of Glenwood’s past.
Whether you stay at the Hotel Colorado or not, do visit the “Great Dame of the Rockies,” recently renovated to the tune of $8 million. The property, inspired by the Villa de Medici in Italy, dates from 1893. My favorite spot is the spectacular flower-bedecked, shaded courtyard – happy hour or nightcap perfection!
What a pleasure to emerge from the hot springs pool, cozy up in a robe and sit out in the courtyard contemplating the stars. Best of all, they sell “S’more setups” to use in their firepits.
Hot Springs of Glenwood
When we moved to Colorado while I was in middle school, my family soon discovered the pleasures of Glenwood’s naturally heated, mineral-water pool, which has been open since the late 1800s. We have had many family visits since then, and while it has changed, it is blissfully the same. The new developments are just as delightful as the historic offerings, I’m happy to report.
The pool attracted such famed visitors as Teddy Roosevelt. The main pool (a football field in length, with over 1 million gallons of water) is kept at a balmy 90-93 degrees, while the secondary, adjacent 100-foot, 91,000-gallon therapy pool (my idea of a hot tub!) is set at 104 degrees.
Dining in Glenwood Springs
The dining scene in Glenwood Springs has advanced dramatically in recent years.
Standbys such as Daily Bread, where locals and tourists alike flock for breakfast and lunch – superb eggs benedict!), the Glenwood Canyon Brewpub, with nine craft beers, three guest taps, and my personal favorite — the Wild Game Mac with elk jalapeno sausage, roasted peppers and mornay sauce, are still alive and thriving.
But recent additions such as The Pullman have brought sophisticated, elegant brunch, lunch, and more dinner options to Glenwood. It’s a good plan to make reservations for the Pullman; it has been trendy in all seasons. thepullmangws.com
Sopris Splash Zone
The large pools are open 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. in summer 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. daily during the rest of the year. The newish (2019) Sopris Splash Zone replaced the old slides on the west end of the main pool.
As a lifelong amusement park avoider, I love the Shoshone Chutes, a fast-moving hoot-and-holler river ride for older kids and adults (even me!) I decided it was a good thing for me to face my fear!
For younger children, Hanging Lake is a wade-in, waterfall-fed pool alongside the Grand Fountain, a splash pad by day with a seven-foot water spray and an illuminated show fountain by night, reaching 17 feet high with a spectacular colored light display. Returning from a stroll in town, we enjoyed stopping to watch the light show along with others on the new bridge over the highway.
Expanding in 2024: More Pools
2024 a new expansion project will open, featuring hot plunge, cold plunge infinity pools, and waterfall pools. As with all of the pools, the spring water will come from the Yampah “Mother” Spring, containing 15 naturally occurring minerals.
The Glenwood Hot Springs Resort is one of the most photographed and videoed swimming spots in the U.S., with the towering red rock range of the Rockies to the west, its adjacent red sandstone historic buildings and the misty pool itself making for outstanding photos.
Those historic buildings now house the luxe, full-service Spa of the Rockies, a well-appointed gift shop, nicely renovated changing rooms and complimentary lockers, an athletic club, a restaurant, and a snack bar. While prices have risen to $47 for adults and $29 for children for online passes, various packages are offered.
In addition, overnight guests at the Hot Springs Lodge receive passes and a hot breakfast included with their stay. Note: day guests can come and go as they like by getting their hands stamped at the exit. www.hotspringspool.com
One of the best wintertime deals is Sunlight Ski Area’s Ski, Swim and stay package offered by various Glenwood hotels. It provides pool passes, ski passes, and lodging for one price. Kids 12 & under ski free with each paying adult. Some blackouts apply. (email@example.com)
There is nothing quite so marvelous (and fun!) as soaking in the hot springs pool after skiing all day, with steam rising off ghostly figures around you as a fine mist of snow cools off your face. I remember our kids swimming underwater and rising up out of the “clouds” to surprise us.
Since 2016, Iron Mountain Hot Springs has been an option for hot springs devotees.
With a total of 27 pools (including two large pools and one jetted spa,) each of the smaller pools has its own temperature and mineral content. This beautifully landscaped and lighted area is divine for those seeking a more intimate experience. The “Upriver” section offers access to 13 more pools, which are adults-only ($10 additional.)
Iron Mountain Hot Springs is pleasantly set alongside the Colorado River. We cried out in surprised delight when we sank into the first of the “reflexology” pools, which have several inches of small button-like smooth pebbles on the bottom.
The Experience Pool offers international mineral recipes in its pools, such as Hokkaido, Iceland, and New Zealand. Iron Mountain’s passes are $36-$48 for three-hour periods or from $100-$150 for all-day passes. Hours are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Lockers, towels, and shower products are complimentary. www.ironmountainhotsprings.com
Biking in Glenwood Springs
I adore bicycling in this area (especially followed by a long soak in the hot springs.) The 40+ mile Rio Grande Trail takes cyclists along a gentle railroad-grade incline from Glenwood Springs to Aspen (or take the local bus up and ride back downhill.)
The trail travels through the Hunter Thompson-famed Woody Creek and the charming town of Carbondale alongside the rushing Colorado River, dotted with thrill-seeking rafters and kayakers and surrounded by magnificent, towering canyon walls. The Glenwood Springs Recreation Path goes 16 miles through Glenwood Canyon with an uphill climb and an easy descent near No Name on the return trip. Many stores rent bicycles, including e-bikes.
I admit I did not want to use an e-bike at first, and it probably isn’t necessary on this path for active folks. BUT… it was quite nice to feel that imaginary “push” from behind when steep hills were approached.
Caverns and Thrills
Visit the Glenwood Caverns Fairy Caves just ten minutes from town, where you’ll see and hear marvelous narratives of the caverns’ past. Part of the Adventure Park, intrepid visitors ride the country’s first alpine coaster, the Canyon Flyer, in the country’s only mountaintop amusement park. Another admission here: I once did the Canyon Swing and have experienced the alpine coaster, but these rides are for those who love to be afraid. Not me!
There’s also a dramatic roller coaster with a vertical plunge and various not-so-extreme adventures, all reachable by gondola. All-inclusive tickets range from $26-69. www.glenwoodcaverns.com
Rafting on Rivers
Whitewater rafting on the Roaring Fork or Colorado River through the spectacular Glenwood Canyon is unforgettable. Or opt for a guided whitewater rafting trip with Class III-IV rapids – yes, you WILL get wet! Various operators in town can arrange your excursions.
Not into adventures or sports? Soak, shop, stroll, and be a foodie – Glenwood Springs has it all.
The author’s visit to Glenwood Springs was hosted, but the opinions are hers alone. Please visit Visitglenwood.com to find out more about the city.
Irene Middleman Thomas lives in Denver, Colorado. She was born in Brooklyn but moved to Colorado at age 14. She is a life-long journalist specializing in travel writing, which she has done for many in-flights, daily newspapers, and magazines such as Ladies Home Journal, Costco Connection DRAFT, AAA En Compass, and more.