After months cooped up in Denver, I am craving the mineral-rich hot springs of the West — the waters, the cure. In Colorado, they’re scattered from the sides of highways to the most remote mountain ranges. And when some girlfriends and I took a spring road trip some years ago, we explored the lot of them.
We dipped and we soaked, taking in the natural silica, magnesium and sodium. Believe in the healing properties or don’t, at the very least, your skin will thank you after some time plunged inside spring-fed pools.
So if you’re venturing out this season, here are my personal favorite and less-touristed springs. Each offers something a little different, so you can choose your own adventure. Of course, be sure to call ahead and check their websites for opening updates and safety protocols.
So you want to bare it all
Located just outside Ridgway, Orvis Hot Springs is a destination for the clothing-optional crowd. But even if that’s not your thing, don’t be deterred. The vibe is laid-back and local. And the discreet setting with 360-degree views of the surrounding San Juan mountains makes for a relaxing dip, day or night. Seven outdoor pools offer varying temperatures from a cold plunge to the “lobster pot.” The main pond is spacious enough to find your own relaxing corner seat or spring-fed hot spot.
Travel time: Around 5 1/2 hours from Denver
Stay: A handful of rooms onsite are available to soakers as well as car and tent camping spots. The nearby town of Ridgway offers a number of quaint accommodations (and a great dining scene).
Cost: Rooms rent for $169 and camping spots for $49 (per person) during the high season. All-day soaking passes cost $22.
So you want to go spelunking
Beyond Ridgway in the hot spring-filled town of Ouray, one destination stands out for its unique combination of a large soaking pool, a private natural tub and underground vapor caves. The latter connect the Wiesbaden lodge with the encircling mountainside — its chambers progress from a cooler 78 degrees to a steamy 109. And the experience is especially relaxing at night, after a long day hiking the town’s perimeter loop. You can start with a steam underground before heading outside for a soak under the stars.
Travel time: About 5 1/2 hours from Denver
Stay: Suites, a guest apartment, cottage and historic homes are available throughout the property, with even more lodging options around Ouray.
Cost: Overnight guests can plan to pay $142-$347 for lodging and springs access. Day trippers will pay $20 for three hours of use.
So you want to bathe solo
For the ultimate seclusion, head to Valley View Hot Springs, located off Colorado 285 between Salida and Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. At this land trust, you’re likely to spot wildlife while hiking between natural ponds, a soaking and swimming pool and the hydroelectric sauna. If you stay overnight on the property, start the morning with a brisk walk to one or all three “top ponds,” the waterfall pond or the meadow pond (pictured), with sweeping views of the valley. Note that the grounds and ponds are also clothing optional.
Travel time: Around 3 hours from Denver
Stay: Private rooms, cabins and a hostel-style lodge are all available to overnight guests, as well as tent and vehicle camping spots. For hot springs day-trippers, Salida is a 45-minute drive and offers plenty of accommodations.
Cost: $17 for day use and $34 for overnight dipping; lodging adds $10-$70 to the spring-use fee.
So you want to please the whole fam
The resort with something for everyone, Mt. Princeton Hot Springs combines a network of creekside natural pools, adult soaking pools, family-friendly pools, even a waterslide, all just beyond Buena Vista and Nathrop. And the options are sufficiently separated so that you can relax while others in your group play, or vice versa. The newest addition to the park is a “family relaxation pool” with an infinity edge and zero-entry and pretty impressive views of the Collegiate Peaks.
Travel time: About 2 1/2 hours from Denver
Stay: Onsite suites, cabins and a lodge are available to visitors (as well as a steakhouse and bar). Nearby in Buena Vista, the Surf Hotel rents lovely French-inspired rooms and chateaus.
Cost: High-season rates range from around $200-$500 per night, while the hot springs cost $15-$20 for day admission.
So you want to be pampered
What could be more Colorado-extravagant than a restored 19th-century ghost town with scattered private springs, an onsite library and multi-course meals (with alcohol) prepared by a former Denver chef? It’s all part of the experience at Dunton Hot Springs, located just over the mountain from Telluride. Take the waters from inside a lush wooden bathhouse (pictured), outdoor plunge tubs and private soaking pools. Dry off in a European-style barrel sauna, then reward yourself with a cocktail in the saloon.
Travel time: Around 7 hours from Denver
Stay: Splurge for luxury onsite accommodations, or, if you’re able to day-trip (inquire with the property), you can stay in Telluride, which is about an hour away.
Cost: An overnight stay will set you back around $1,000-$2,000 per night (rates cover two guests, with hot spring access and include all meals and drinks).
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