A Full Tour of Colorado’s Finest Hot Springs
By Sierra Sumner
While Colorado is known for its hot springs all over, the Colorado Hot Springs Loop provides visitors with a tempting circle where they can enjoy hot spring soaks all around the state.
Colorado takes full advantage of its terrain by adapting its attractions to fit the seasons: in the summer there are demands for hot springs and adventure parks, then in the fall and early winter the slopes open up for ski and snowboard connoisseurs.
Located in the Southwest part of the state, Ouray is within a box canyon, meaning that it is surrounded by mountains. It’s nicknamed the “Switzerland of America,” since its rich landscape resembles the Alps and it attracts outdoor enthusiasts due to its location in the canyon.
The Ute Indians once inhabited the area and used the hot springs hundreds of years ago. Then, due to the abundant minerals, Ouray became a mining town.
The minerals that attracted people also prevented the hot springs from having the typical sulfur smell, making the springs a well-loved attraction.
Ouray has a downtown district with many locally-owned businesses including breweries, coffee shops, distilleries, performance venues, and many lodging options.
Within Ouray’s downtown area there is a Natural Historic District with well-preserved and restored Victorian homes. Through monuments and preservation sites, Ouray manages to commemorate its historic roots while simultaneously maintaining a modern charm with hot springs and rustic attractions.
In the winter, Ouray is known for its world-renowned ice climbing park. It can open up as early as November, when the Rocky Mountains start getting snow for the season. It is known to over 200 ice and mixed climbs for all levels of experience.
Glenwood is at the heart of the Rocky Mountains and its Glenwood Hot Springs is considered the largest mineral hot spring in the world.
One of its hot springs is the Iron Mountain, which is located beside the Colorado River. It has sixteen mineral-fed pools and has expansive views of the area.
Another attraction is the Yampah Vapor Caves. It is an underground steam bath area for relaxation and reflecting.
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is well-known for its thrill rides. It has the highest elevation roller coaster in North America and it features a giant canyon swing that soars through the air at speeds up to 50 miles per hour.
The county is burrowed in the scenic Continental Divide. Chaffee County has several towns inside that attract visitors, particularly Salida and Buena Vista.
These two towns offer many recreational activities such as skiing, hiking, and whitewater rafting. Chaffee County promotes outdoors events by hosting rafting festivals during the summer and snowmobiling at Mount Princeton.
All year round, Pagosa has many attractions. In the summer, people come for camping and backpacking, hot air balloon rides, lakes, waterfalls, wildflower fields, and kayaking. Since the San Juan River flows through downtown Pagosa, kayaking and canoeing is
a popular choice.
Another draw is the Continental Divide on Wolf Creek Pass, located between Pagosa Springs and South Fork. Along the trail, you can see the 100-foot waterfall that graces the path.
In the winter, Pagosa is a hub for cross country skiing and snowboarding, ice fishing, skating ponds, sledding and tubing, sleigh rides, and snowmobiling.
Pagosa also offers dog sledding with Alaskan Malamute sled dogs via the Pagosa Dogsled Adventures.
The Wolf Creek Ski Resort uses no man-made snow, which is an anomaly amongst ski areas. They have enough snowfall each year for the entire resort.
Pagosa has 23 natural mineral hot spring pools which were originally used by Ancestral Puebloans.
Pueblo Homes Memorialized
The Chimney Rock National Monument memorializes over 200 Pueblo homes and ceremonial buildings, where they believed the area had a spiritual significance.
Nestled in Colorado, this area is a cute town that offers a ski resort and has two unique hot springs: Strawberry Hot Springs and Old Town. Strawberry has rustic hot springs in the mountains and they are naturally heated.
The Old Town Hot Springs has four 104 degree spring-fed pools and offers 230-foot water slides. In the winter, the area has nordic skiing.
The Low Down
Colorado has 25 cherished ski resorts, 12 national parks and monuments, over 850 farms and ranches, and 58 mountain peaks that top 14,000 feet.
Hence, many trails within the Colorado loop require 4-wheel drive and the areas are surrounded by vast wilderness.
Through the Hot Springs Loop, Colorado showcases its natural mineral springs, ski resorts, and small hubs nestled in the mountain ranges where you can find adventure and relaxation all year-round.
Find out more about Colorado’s hot springs at their tourism website.
Sierra Sumner is a writer from Massachusetts, Hawaii and California. She loves the outdoors, such as hiking and kayaking, and has traveled all across the US. She hopes to continue her explorations and to encourage others to expand their horizons.