A dip in a natural hot spring can melt your troubles away!
You take your shoes off, shed your towel and prance as quickly as you can through the snow in your bare feet to the edge of the natural stone pool. Your feet tingle and burn as they defrost in the steamy waters of a mineral spring.
Easing into the warm water and wriggling your toes in the loose gravel at the bottom, you marvel at the snowflakes melting on your shoulders and the massive snow-capped mountains surrounding you. There is something magical about soaking in Colorado’s natural hot springs. People have traveled from all over the world throughout history to take advantage of our healing spring waters. Today, whatever ails you—even if it’s nothing at all—a dip in a natural hot spring can melt your troubles away.
It’s a wonderful experience any time of year, but going in the winter is a special delight. The stark contrast between the crisp air outside the pool and the naturally warm water inside will make you feel alive and lucky.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of hot springs in Colorado. Many are located close to the ski resorts, convenient for easing sore muscles after a punishing day on the slopes. Others are tucked into remote wilderness areas, and a few are convenient to bigger population centers. Here are a few among the many wonderful hot springs sprinkled around the state that you might consider visiting.
Desert Reef Hot Springs
This is the Wild West of hot springs. It’s situated in a remote, secluded desert area about 45 minutes from Colorado Springs. The single pool looks out over the desert with gorgeous unobstructed views of the mountains. While definitely an established pool with a concrete floor and admission required, the atmosphere here is as relaxed as it gets unless you find a hot spot in the river and close it in with rocks by yourself. Bring your own alcohol if you want it. Wear a swimsuit —or don’t. It’s up to you. Kids are allowed, but no unaccompanied men. When the pool closes, everyone goes home. There are no overnight accommodations here.
Throughout the 1900s and the early 2000s, visitors would ask how Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs got their names when there were no hot springs to soak in here. The names came, in part, from the 8 mineral springs in Manitou. Each has its own story and carries a different collection of healing minerals.
Beginning in 2016, the Sunwater Spa transformed the Seven Minute Spring from one that visitors sip into one where they can soak. While the water doesn’t come out of the ground hot, the spa uses solar power to heat it and fills seven public cedar barrels and one private barrel with steamy mineral water every day. The mineral water has health-giving properties while the cedar oils serve to moisturize.
Visitors can soak in the tubs and take in the stunning scenery of Manitou Springs. The rolling foothills and close-in view of America’s Mountain make this one of the most delightful hot springs settings in the state.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs
This is a beautiful, serene park with almost natural stone pools filled with thermal hot mineral water. The setting is rugged, not frilly. You can camp on site or stay in a transformed train caboose. Most people opt for comfy condos in Steamboat Springs proper about 15 minutes away. The springs feel remote and isolated. They’re surrounded by mountain forest. Bring your family for a fun swim during the day. Evenings are reserved for adults only.
Old Town Hot SpringS
This is a family’s paradise. There are two massive water slides, a big swimming pool, and even an onsite daycare facility. It’s right in town, which makes it incredibly convenient. There are eight hot spring pools and plenty of variety.
Cottonwood Hot Springs Inn & Spa, Buena Vista
Tucked into the mountains outside of Buena Vista, these geothermal pools are secluded and serene. They’re also surrounded by onsite lodging, which means visitors can enjoy soaks throughout their days and in-between mountain adventures. This isn’t a fancy place, and accommodations are simple. But that lends to a sense that you have found something hidden and special that few know about or will get to enjoy.
Hot Springs Resort
You’ll feel like YOU are the one discovering this beautiful thermal hot spring tucked away in the Collegiate Peaks, but this amazing resort has been a destination since the mid-1800s just after the Civil War came to a close. Travelers prepared to soak their aching bodies in the very same bathhouse they use today. The resort boasts two large outdoor pools, an indoor pool and some genuinely natural pools in Chalk Creek below. You might have to rearrange the rocks and boulders along the shore to get the right mix of hot spring water and cool river water, but the result is a genuine natural delight. Stay in a luxury room on the hillside, a rustic cabin near the pools or in a hotel room in the main lodge. You can also stay in town and buy a day pass for the springs.
Salida Hot Springs
Rather than a fancy resort, this hot springs has been transformed into a public pool. On one hand, it seems a bit unceremonious to visit sacred hot mineral waters in such a utilitarian setting. But on the other, it’s amazing that this hot spring is so wildly accessible and that it’s used in such a community-centric and functional way. The lap pool is a cozy 85 degrees and the soaking pool is 98 degrees. The center, run by the Salida Recreation Department, offers swimming lessons, water aerobics, and other events at the pool. This is a great destination for a family.
There are so many other hot springs sprinkled throughout the state—many in the Roaring Fork Valley between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, many others in the Pagosa Springs area, still more in and around Ouray and some near Telluride. If you enjoy hot springs enough, you could spend an entire two-week vacation hopping from one hot spring hot spot to the next.