About a year ago, I traveled to Colorado for a winter trip. I’m not a skier anymore but I had a friend working as a ski instructor in Steamboat Springs so it was the perfect opportunity to get a taste of winter out west. I was lucky in my travels to get to see the snow covered mountains without having to travel in any snow storms and blizzards. Believe me, my rental car wouldn’t have been able to handle it. It could barely make it up and down the mountains on dry roads.
As a child of the Northeast, I thought that I could handle the cold, but every day brought subzero temperatures. I quickly learned that the only way for me to enjoy the out doors was in short bursts or from the soothing waters of a hot spring.
Fortunately, Colorado has lots of hot springs and I had the opportunity to enjoy a few of them. The hot springs in the Rocky Mountains are mostly geothermal hot springs. Water from rainfall filters into the ground though porous sedimentary rocks. The deeper it goes, the more minerals it picks up and the more heated it becomes from the earth’s core. The water eventually ascends through thrust faults or cracks in the earth’s surface, usually through limestone, which can form pools or hot spots. Many of these hot springs have been built out into spas and resorts.
The first set of springs that I visited was the Strawberry Park Hot Springs which is located about 7 miles outside of Steamboat Springs. It probably wise to use their transportation services as you have to travel up a long, rutted dirt road that would be rough on any smaller vehicle. The park has several pools of varying temperatures and an absolutely beautiful setting in the mountains. http://strawberryhotsprings.com/
It was utterly relaxing and unlike anything I had ever experienced before. On the drive up we saw reindeer on the snowy hilled woods. Set away from the main town, it was peaceful and beautiful. Though the springs are built up, there was a sense of untouched nature to the place.
The next stop on my trip was Glenwood Springs, which is a three hour journey from Steamboat. Glenwood Springs is famous for his historical hot spring resort which was founded in 1888. However, for centuries before the spa’s opening, the Ute Indians had utilized the springs with a yearly pilgrimage to the site which they believed to be sacred. Today the resort is the home of the world’s largest natural hot spring pool. There are two pools which are 90-93 degrees and 102-104 degrees respectively. http://www.hotspringspool.com/
The pools in Glenwood have more of a sulfuric odor than the pools at Strawberry park. However, this added mineral content is touted for his health benefits. After a few minutes soaking in the waters, you get used to the smell and can easily start to relax.
Last, I headed out to drive a portion of the West Elk Loop Drive. This scenic drive takes you down from Carbondale, up into the McClure Pass through Crested Butte and looping through the West Elk Mountains Wilderness Area. In the winter much of the drive is closed due to the extreme weather and road conditions but what I got to experience was beautiful.
The first bit of the West Elk Loop follows the Crystal River, which is where I found the Penny Hot Springs. These springs are much more natural and rustic. They are tucked along the banks of the Crystal River and the pool is simply formed by a circular formation of stacked large rocks. You can see the steam coming off the river from the road, and you simple pull off and hike down to the springs. Only about 12 people can fit in the pool. It was once a popular spot for nudists in the sixties but now bathing suits are officially required.
Unfortunately work was being done on the springs the day I came through, so I wasn’t able to enjoy the springs. You can get a sense of them from the pictures below.
There were so many awesome sights and experiences on my trip to Colorado, but the springs were certainly a highlight. If you’ve never been to hot springs before, I highly recommend that you jump at the opportunity. They are lovely in the summer and winter and offer a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors while relaxing and pampering your muscles and joints.