When fall rolls in like a freight train with crisp Colorado air and the winter caboose brings mountains of snow, some people head for their blankets, but real thrill-seekers know the adventures are just beginning. Thermal hot springs and exhilarating experiences are tucked away in the Rocky Mountains.
A new 720-mile Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop combines those mountain adventures with relaxing mineral water soaks to top off a day of adventuring or entice the most stubborn blanket-dweller out of hibernation.
READ MORE: COLORADO TRAVEL GUIDE
Ouray, Colorado only encompasses 0.8 sq. miles, but don’t be deceived by its tiny size. The self-proclaimed Switzerland of America has something for everyone.
Real daredevils can get their hearts racing at the man-made ice climbing cliffs in the Uncompahgre Gorge. The park offers three miles of vertical terrain with obstacles for beginners and experts, but if climbing isn’t your thing, there is no need to ditch the destination just yet.
The mountain haven is also known as the “Jeeping Capital of the World.” Jeep rentals and guided tours offer a chance to get off the beaten path and explore the unforgettable landscapes of the San Juan Mountains.
The best time for four-wheeling is in the fall before the snow renders some areas impassable and while the aspens are in the midst of their magical color transformation.
READ MORE: TOP HOT SPRINGS IN COLORADO
If you’re not off climbing or off-roading there are plenty of opportunities for snowshoeing, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, and of course relaxing in one of the five hot springs locations. Whether you are looking for a family-friendly soak at Ouray Hot Springs, a clothing-optional dip in the electronics free zone of Orvis Hot Springs, or a combination of hot springs and vapor caves at the Wiesbaden Hot Springs, the hot springs of Ouray will melt away the aches from all of your day’s adventures.
Glenwood Springs offers a unique adventure park sitting at 7,100 feet on a mountain overlooking the town. The park features a slew of one-of-a-kind thrill rides that will put some checks on any adventurer’s bucket list. The Cliffhanger Rollercoaster is the highest elevation roller coaster in North America and the Alpine Coaster is the first of its kind in the United States.
In addition to the thrill rides, the adventure park offers three different cave tours of the Glenwood Caverns. These guided spelunking tours are well-lit and offer walkways with handrails so even the most novice explorers will feel comfortable.
If you are looking to get out in the snow and explore the beautiful mountains, Sunlight Mountain Resort has more than 29 kilometers of groomed trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The resort also offers snowmobile tours, skiing and snowboarding and a terrain park for those who want to push the limits.
An adventure in Glenwood Springs would never be complete with a topping it off with a soak in their world-class hot springs.
If you are looking for variety, the Iron Mountain Hot Springs has 18 different pools that range in temperatures from 92 to 108 degrees, so even Goldilocks can find one that’s just right. If too many options leave you feeling indecisive, you can always test out the waters at Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves or the famous Glenwood Hot Springs.
When exploring Chaffee County, you might want to go snowmobiling. With more than 400 miles of trails in Buena Vista and Salida, there is plenty of room to quickly blaze through the forest and up to 12,000 feet to the continental divide. A slower and perhaps less obvious but equally breathtaking option is to mush through the countryside on a dog sled tour.
If you’re not a fan of traveling on the ground, adventure awaits you in the air at one of the three Zipline tours and Aerial Parks in Chaffee County. Zipping through the mountain air is sure to have your heart racing and adrenaline pumping before you descend into one of the many relaxing hot springs.
Creekside Hot Springs is a vacation rental home with a private, secluded soaking spring of your own to relax in after a long day of flying, speeding or mushing through Chaffee County.
Of course, there are several other springs sprinkled throughout the county for you to choose from including Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center, Cottonwood Hot Springs, Alpine Hot Springs Hideaway and Antero Hot Springs Cabins.
If the ziplines and aerial parks in Chaffee County didn’t get your heart racing enough, perhaps a ride up to 3,000 feet in a hot air balloon will do the trick. Rocky Mountain Balloon Adventures in Pagosa Springs offers trips year-round, depending on the snowpack, up into the sky for 200-mile panoramic views of four states.
If heights aren’t your thing, Pagosa Springs is also home to Wolf Creek Ski Resort and boasts, “The most snow in Colorado,” with an average of 430 inches of natural snow every year for skiers and riders to carve up.
After a day adrift in the clouds or drifting through powder, relax at The Springs Resort & Spa on the banks of the San Juan River in downtown Pagosa Springs. The mineral water that feeds into the 23 soaking pools comes from the “Great Pagosah Spring” which won the Guinness World Record for The World’s Deepest Geothermal Hot Spring in 2011.
For a more private soak, the Overlook Hot Springs Spa offers an exclusive private room or a soak overlooking the historic downtown in their rooftop tubs.
Adventure-seekers in Steamboat Springs will find no shortage of ways to hurl themselves down the mountainside. If the snow hasn’t packed the mountainside yet, the Steamboat Bike Park is a great choice where the gondola does all of the hard work and leaves more than 50 miles of freeride and downhill terrain up to you.
If the snow has packed the mountainside, you can trade-in your mountain bike and head over to Howelsen Hill Ski Area for a fat-tire bike where you can still coast down the snow-covered mountain trails. Or you could ditch the bike altogether and opt for a tube or skis.
Once you have made it down the mountain, perhaps on a variety of mechanisms, you will be eager to relax in the spring water and stone pool of Strawberry Hot Springs. Tucked away in an aspen grove next to Hot Springs Creek, the natural environment of these hot springs will leave you feeling relaxed and at one with nature in no time.
READ MORE: STEAMBOAT SPRINGS IN THE WINTER
If You Go to Colorado
Monarch Dog Sled Rides
Creekside Hot Springs
Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort
Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center
Cottonwood Hot Springs
Alpine Hot Springs Hideaway
Antero Hot Springs Cabins