Hot Springs and High Adventure: Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Soaking at Iron Mountain Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Photo by Jack Affleck
Soaking at Iron Mountain Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Photo by Jack Affleck

Colorado is jam-packed with well-known mountain towns. Destinations like Aspen and Vail draw travelers from around the globe.

But ask any Coloradan where they go when they have a weekend to play, and chances are, Glenwood Springs will be near the top of the list.

Tucked away in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Glenwood Springs doesn’t have big-brand resorts, but it does have something everyone loves – hot springs.

In fact, hot springs have drawn people to this region for centuries, from nomadic Ute Indians who camped alongside its healing waters to miners and explorers seeking to rest their weary bones.

Two European settlers saw the region’s potential as a destination for wealthy spa-goers, and in 1888, they opened Glenwood Hot Springs.

The grand Hotel Colorado opened just a few years later, in 1893, and Glenwood Springs was soon attracting travelers from around the country.

The town of Glenwood Springs grew as well, but it has never lost its small town feel – and that’s part of its charm. Today, Glenwood Springs is home to almost 10,000 people.

Glenwood Hot Springs are the length of a football field. Photo by Glenwood Hot Springs
The Glenwood Hot Springs Pool is the length of a football field. Photo by Glenwood Hot Springs

Glenwood Hot Springs

The Glenwood Hot Springs Pool is a focal point in this Colorado town. Local kids practice their swimming skills here, and vacationers come year-round to soak.

Hotel Colorado, located just across the street, still welcomes travelers. Although the historic hotel has a few wrinkles from age, she still retains the grandeur of her bygone days.

Glenwood Hot Springs aren’t the only place to relax. The Yampah Vapor Caves are unusual, but have been a respite for travelers for more than 120 years.

Mineral-rich steam from the Yampah spring seeps into three subterranean chambers deep underground.

It’s surreal to sit in these steam-filled caves, but it does wonders for dry skin, which is a common result of Colorado’s dry climate.

One of the 16 hot springs pools at Iron Mountain Hot Springs. Photo by Jack Affleck
One of the 16 hot springs pools at Iron Mountain Hot Springs. Photo by Jack Affleck

Iron Mountain Hot Springs began as a riverside bathhouse in 1896, then changed hands many times over the next hundred years until closing in 1996.

Now under new ownership, it was developed and re-opened in 2015 as a beautiful hot springs destination with 16 thermal mineral pools and a large freshwater family pool.

The pools vary in temperature, so there’s a pool to suit everyone, and all come with a gorgeous view of the mountains.

You can spend the whole day here. The Sopris Café onsite provides tasty comfort food and drinks, including beer and cocktails.

Soaring down the alpine coaster at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Photo by Jack Affleck
Soaring down the alpine coaster at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Photo by Jack Affleck

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

While the hot springs are a draw for many, others come for outdoor adventure. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is an unusual attraction offering cave tours, thrill rides, dining and more.

The park is perched at the top of Iron Mountain, and you’ll want to spend the whole day here to experience everything it has.

You can start off exploring the caverns and their distinct formations deep in the earth, and then build your courage to try Colorado’s longest alpine coaster and the Giant Canyon Swing, which is not for the faint of heart.

For those who prefer tamer adventure, there’s a tram, laser tag, 4D theater and restaurants. Ride availability varies according to season.

During the holidays, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park uses more than 500,000 lights to highlight the season.

Hiking to Hanging Lake

One of the most popular activities near Glenwood Springs is hiking to Hanging Lake, a crystal clear lake atop the cliffs of Glenwood Canyon.

The one-mile hike is steep and the trail may be crowded, but the view is rewarding. This beloved Colorado location has suffered in recent years from overuse and even abuse by some who don’t respect and protect its natural beauty.

Please take care to follow all guidelines so that we can preserve this natural treasure for years to come.

Skiing at Sunlight Mountain Resort in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Photo by Ski Sunlight
Skiing at Sunlight Mountain Resort in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Photo by Ski Sunlight

Skiing at Sunlight Mountain Ski Resort

During the winter, skiers head to Sunlight Mountain Ski Resort, which is just 10 miles from Glenwood Springs.

This small, but affordable family-friendly resort is best for those who prefer beginner and intermediate runs, but the resort’s East Ridge does offer some double-black diamond thrills.

Where to Dine in Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs may be a small town, but it still has a wealth of excellent restaurants. Zheng Asian Bistro, owned by Mike Mercatoris and Henry Zheng, is a definite winner.

Their Atomic Shrimp is a must-try, and they even have a full gluten-free and a vegan menu, if that’s what you’re after.

The Italian Underground Restaurant is another local favorite. This locale serves up authentic Italian cuisine on Glenwood Spring’s Restaurant Row, where you’ll find many other good options.

With its laid-back spirit and friendly ways, Glenwood Springs is an authentic small-town Colorado destination.

Once you visit, you’ll understand why it’s a favorite with those who call Colorado home.

If You Go to Glenwood Springs

Visit Glenwood Springs
www.visitglenwood.com

Janna Graber
Follow me
Previous article Scotland: The Unspoiled Kingdom of the Cats
Next article If You Only Have a Day in San Francisco

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here