Hog Heaven: Ride Your Motorcycle on the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop

San Juan Skyway

The Colorado Scenic & Historic Byway connections between five premier locations along the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop transform the 720-mile drive into a motorcyclist’s dream—as much about the journey as the destinations.

The Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop, spanning over 720 miles and connecting five premier locations, is a trek to some of the state’s most healing waters. In addition to sizzling hot springs experiences, this journey gives riders a chance to behold the state’s diverse beauty via Colorado Scenic & Historic Byways. These connections not only make the drive enjoyable but are also perfect for motorcyclists, with breathtaking views and numerous opportunities to stop along the way.

Start With: Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway (Copper to Granite, 42 miles/68 kilometers)

The Top of the Rockies scenic byway is a fantastic starting point and introduction to Colorado’s diverse landscape. Riders will cross the Continental Divide and pass two of the state’s highest peaks—Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive, at 14,440 and 14,421 feet (4,401 and 4,395.5 meters), respectively.

In addition to a majestic backdrop, there are opportunities to make historic stops in Leadville — a once-booming mining town. Check out the lavish Victorian houses, the long-since abandoned silver mines, and the Tabor Opera House to get a unique peek into the area’s past.

Up Next: Collegiate Peaks (Granite to Salida, 57 miles/92 kilometers)

Welcome to Chaffee County, home to the highest concentration of 14,000-foot (427-meter) mountains in North America: the Collegiate Peaks. These glorious 14ers, with names reminiscent of the Ivy League—Mt. Yale, Mt. Harvard, Mt. Princeton—rise 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) above the Arkansas River Valley. Riders cruise through an impressive and ever-unfolding landscape, filled with lush riversides, national forests and public lands.

Once you’ve made it through the mountainous byway, pull over for a pit stop at one of Chaffee County’s hot springs to soothe, relax and recover.

  • Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center. This community center facility is the largest indoor hot springs in North America, with its lap, soaking, and private pools.
  • Mount Princeton Hot Springs. Known as a scenic overnight or day retreat, Mount Princeton Hot Springs is packed with amenities, like a historic bathhouse, creekside hot springs, a waterslide, and a spa and health club.
  • Historic Cottonwood Hot Springs. With a relaxed and back-to-nature vibe, Cottonwood Hot Springs is a peaceful stop with a quiet-zone and alcohol-free pools, as well as various lodging options.

The next stop is Pagosa Springs, about a 150-minute drive from Salida. Be sure to enjoy the beautiful Wolf Creek Pass on the way—stopping at the scenic overlook, Continental Divide, and the gushing Treasure Falls. Once you’ve arrived in town, the “Pah gosah” Mother Spring aquifer, which translates to “healing waters,” awaits, filling three different hot springs facilities.

  • The Springs Resort & Spa. Located right on the San Juan River, The Springs has 23 pools open to the public and offers 24-hour soaking access to overnight guests.
  • Overlook Hot Springs. With rooftop soaking tubs and expansive views of the valley located in downtown Pagosa, Overlook is a one-of-a-kind experience.
  • Healing Waters Resort & Spa. This family-friendly facility has overnight options, as well as a large pool and private baths.

Back on the Road: San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway (Durango to Ridgway, 81 miles/130 kilometers)

After a rejuvenating soak, riders can keep the fun going by continuing to Durango, a gateway to the San Juan Skyway. This winding road will take you through the San Juan Mountains, including two jaw-dropping passes and Weminuche Wilderness sights, leading up to a jaunt through the silver-boom town of Silverton.

The byway then follows the Million Dollar Highway, a road known for steep cliffs and tight turns—the beautiful-yet-staggering Red Mountain Pass included. Pull off to admire expansive views and canyon waterfalls before arriving in Ouray.

Known as the “Switzerland of America,” Ouray is surrounded by powdered-sugar peaks in the distance. Four public hot springs facilities are available in the Ouray-Ridgway area as well as several private soaking experiences, which allow riders to take a well-deserved break in geothermal waters, taking in the enchanting views.

  • Ouray Hot Springs Pool. This recently renovated oval-shaped pool has incredible mountain backdrop views, in addition to a mix of fun and relaxing features, such as an activity pool, an overlook infinity-style waterfall, and a hotter soaking pool.
  • Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa and Lodgings. Wiesbaden is home to hot springs and rare vapor caves tucked deep inside the mountain, as well as an outdoor swimming pool and private outdoor spa—all heated with geothermal water.
  • Twin Peaks Lodge and Hot Springs. There are both indoor and outdoor soaking opportunities at this Ouray hot springs lodge.
  • Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs. Situated on a terraced hillside, the soaking pools are built into the stair-stepped wooden deck that overlooks the town.
  • Orvis Hot Springs. Located in Ridgway, Orvis Hot Springs is a beautifully landscaped facility with both indoor and outdoor soaking options, famous for their au naturel, clothing-optional policy.

Keep Going: West Elk Loop Scenic Byway (Hotchkiss to Carbondale, 118 miles/190 kilometers)

While known as a must-see fall leaf peeping opportunity because of its aspen foliage, the West Elk Loop is picturesque year round. The trail winds through orchards and local farm-fresh produce—apples and cherries—before crossing through the North Fork Valley’s jaw-dropping McClure Pass.

The West Elk Loop meanders along the Crystal River, suggesting a stop at the historic Redstone settlement. Here, there are opportunities to enjoy the Redstone Castle—where you can tour the grounds and marvel at its impressive past.

Continue through the Roaring Fork Valley to Glenwood Springs, where two rivers converge, and several hot springs experiences await.

  • Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. This resort is home to the world’s largest hot springs pool, as well as a lodge, spa and the Sopris Splash Zone, a family-friendly aquatic park at the west-end of the property.
  • Iron Mountain Hot Springs. Boasting 16 soaking pools and a freshwater family pool, Iron Mountain is located on the bank of the Colorado River, with stunning mountain views.
  • Yampah Vapor Caves. These vapor caves are a rare setting for a natural, geothermal steam bath with detoxifying benefits. An on-site spa provides further wellness opportunities.

Finally: Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway (Meeker to Steamboat Springs, 113 miles/182 kilometers)

Rounding out the Loop is the Flat Tops Scenic Byway, which includes six historic stops and miles of unpaved road ready for exploration. This leg of the trip begins in Meeker and passes through Buford, Trappers Lake, Ripple Pass and Yampa from there.

There are several impressive scenery changes along the way; stop at overlooks to see geologic lava flow formations, rugged plateaus, sweeping alpine meadows and a shimmering Trappers Lake. A 10,343-foot (3,153-meter) pass puts riders high above the timberline, before introducing the outskirts of Yampa, which includes views of agricultural herds and expansive ranches on the way to Steamboat Springs.

Once in the historic town named for the whistling, train-like sound the hot springs made when it came out of the ground, be sure to visit those famed pools.

  • Old Town Hot Springs. Old Town is a recreational, multi-use complex with family-friendly fun packed into its geothermal waters.
  • Strawberry Park Hot Springs. Strawberry Park is located outside of town, in a rustic and smaller venue, nestled against the banks of Strawberry Creek. There are lodging and camping options available.

Check out the Colorado Motorcycle Skill Rating Map before you hit the road, for an extra layer of safety and enjoyment.

For a breathtaking hog ride with hot springs stops, visit Colorado Hot Springs Loop and Colorado Scenic Byways today—celebrating their 30th anniversary.

Waterfalls Cascading Across the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop

Fish Creek Falls, near Steamboat Springs

Cascading waterfalls are a staple to Colorado views. These Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop waterfalls are a scenic treat.

The 720-mile trek known as the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop is an incredible journey through Colorado terrain, leading to several of the state’s most healing waters. Along the way, visitors can seek out the scenic beauty of waterfalls, which are sprinkled throughout the loop—cascading as symbols of strength, tranquility, and natural majesty. Check out these Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop falls.

  • Fish Creek. One of the most popular destinations around Steamboat Springs are the fresh, rushing waters spilling into Fish Creek Canyon from the 280-foot Fish Creek Falls. After a brief ¼ mile hike, visitors can gaze into the majesty of the lower falls, while a more moderate trek leads to spectacular views, heightened by the upper section. Fish Creek Falls roars most in the spring thanks to the snowmelt, though the clear water in the late summer and the icy face in winter make for an all-season stop.
  • Treasure Falls. Treasure Falls, located approximately 15 miles east of Pagosa Springs, is a powerful sight to behold. The cascading waters can be seen from the highway, though a short, looped trail is available for a more intimate view—where splashes make their way to admirers. The waterfall tumbles and sparkles, adjacent to an open view of the valley, making for an easy-choice overlook stop on the pass.
  • Hanging Lake. A National Natural Landmark and one of the most popular hiking trails in Colorado, Hanging Lake is located in Glenwood Canyon outside of Glenwood Springs. Though just under a mile in length, the trail is rocky and steep; it leads to a series of magnificent waterfalls, spilling into a turquoise pool, nearby a fallen log, suspended in the water. Hanging Lake’s existence is tied to conservation; visitors must be aware of the posted rules and signs, prohibiting swimming, pets, or walking on the log.
  • Box Cańyon. Box Cańyon Falls is a dramatic beauty, considered Ouray’s own wonder of the world. The 285-foot waterfall, fueled by Canyon Creek, erupts from the falls, plummeting into the narrow, quartzite canyon. Visitors can soak in the beauty from both above and below the falls all while enjoying the rare birds that call the canyon home. The lower trail follows a catwalk and staircases straight into the belly of Box Cańyon Falls. The upper, can’t-miss trail leads to a suspension bridge overlooking Canyon Creek and the city of Ouray.
  • Agnes Vaille Falls. Located on the southern slopes of Mt. Princeton in Chalk Creek Canyon, Agnes Vaille Falls is a small, elegant waterfall that sprays from a rocky shelf below the peak. This Chaffee County wonder can be seen by the recently updated Cascade Creek Trail, which gives visitors a glimpse at the simplistic beauty of the falls, while also detailing the area’s history through interpretive signs.

After hiking to each of these grandiose falls, be sure to stop by the local loop hot springs for a soak. These geothermal waters are ideal for soothing muscles and relaxing tired minds and bodies, a perfect complement to any Colorado adventure.

For more information on the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop, please visit cohotspringsloop.com.

Scenic Byways Along the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop

The Million Dollar Highway

The connections between five premier locations along the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop transform the 720-mile drive into a scenic odyssey, just as much about the journey as the destinations.

The Colorado Hot Springs Loop, spanning over 720 miles and connecting five premier locations, is a trek to some of the state’s most beautiful waters. In addition to sizzling hot springs experiences, this journey gives visitors a chance to behold Colorado’s rugged beauty via scenic byways. These connections not only make the drive enjoyable, but are also perfect for window gazing.

  • Top of the Rockies. This leg of the route, traveling from Copper to Granite, crosses the Continental Divide and passes two of Colorado’s highest peaks. As adventurers make their way through the high-elevation stretch, they can spot historic stand-outs: Leadville was once a booming mining town; it is still lavish with Victorian houses, the Tabor Opera House, and long-abandoned mines. Be sure to catch glimpses of Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive, towering at 14,440 and 14,421 feet, making for a majestic scenic backdrop.
  • Collegiate Peaks. This part of the loop, from Granite to Salida, is home to the highest concentration of 14,000-foot mountain peaks in North America. With names reminiscent of the Ivy League—Mt. Yale, Mt. Princeton, and Mt. Harvard—the Collegiate Peaks rise 7,000 feet above the Arkansas River Valley. Buena Vista, Nathrop, and Salida sit below, offering vast green ranch land and river views, leading directly to three public hot springs.
  • San Juan Skyway. The San Juan Skyway travels from Durango to Ridgway, right through the dazzling San Juan Mountains. After a soak in Pagosa Springs, travelers can opt to keep exploring the nearby views. Visitors first travel through two leafy passes, full of Weminuche Wilderness, before hitting the silver-boom town of Silverton. Then, the byway follows the “Million Dollar Highway,” a road known for steep cliffs and tight turns, through to Ouray, then to Ridgway. Dubbed the “Switzerland of Colorado,” this area is known for expansive views, canyon waterfalls, and mountain peaks with a permanent layer of white frosting on top. After the enchanting drive, Ouray Hot Springs Pool and the au naturel Orvis Hot Springs are available for additional fun.
  • West Elk Loop. This scenic experience, known for its autumn aspen leaves foliage, crosses from Hotchkiss to Carbondale. The trail begins with sights of orchards and farm-fresh produce local to the area—including cherries and apples—and crosses through the North Fork Valley. Leading travelers through the jaw-dropping McClure Pass, West Elk Loop meanders along the Crystal River, and suggests a stop at the historic Redstone settlement, including its famed Cleveholm Manor. Visitors can continue making their way through the Roaring Fork Valley into Glenwood Springs, where hot springs await.
  • Flat Tops Scenic Byway. With six historic stops and miles of unpaved road, the Flat Tops Scenic Byway is a summertime trip worth taking as voyagers head to Steamboat Springs. Starting in Meeker, a ranching town famous for its annual Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship, the trail continues through Buford, Trappers Lake, Ripple Pass, and Yampa. Along the way, there are dramatic scenery changes: geologic lava flow formations and plateaus juxtapose alpine meadows, a shimmering lake (Trappers) sits between acres of fire-recovering wilderness, and a 10,343-foot pass places drivers high above the backwoods below. The western vibe of Yampa opens up to views of agriculture in action, as herds graze and ranches go about their business. Matching the diversity of the Flat Tops journey, Steamboat Springs has two unique hot springs options following a day of exploration.

After such vigorous adventuring and travel, visitors are encouraged to take a rest break at each of the hot spring destinations: relaxing, recovering, and soaking is essential before heading to the next stop.

For more information on the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop, please visit cohotspringsloop.com.

Stop and Stare: National Parks and Monuments Along the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop

Colorado National Monument

While traveling the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop, stops at National Monuments and Parks highlight the 720-mile journey, making for historic, cultural, and bewildering exploration.

National Parks came to be in 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order adding 56 designated lands into the new service, both protecting lands and giving the public access to them. Since then, the system has rapidly expanded, including more than 400 areas of parks and monuments spanning across 84 acres in the continental US and its territories.

Colorado, thanks to its geographic diversity, is home to several National Parks and National Monuments. The Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop, which spans over 720 miles connecting five premier locations, brings visitors through parks and to monuments. These natural wonders are perfect for exploration before stopping at the next prime soaking destination.

  • Browns Canyon National Monument. Due to its close proximity to Salida, Buena Vista, and Nathrop, Browns Canyon National Monument is perfect for a pre-soak expedition. The area is one of the nation’s most popular whitewater rafting locations, and hosts all that the Arkansas River has to offer. Wildlife, including bighorn sheep, elk, deer, and eagles, call the canyon home, and recreation such as camping, biking, hiking, and rock climbing give visitors a peek into the animals’ natural habitat. The Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway is a direct passage to explore Browns Canyon, as well as admire the towering peaks above.
  •  Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Near Ouray, catch a drive through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. This 53-mile stretch winds through a narrow gorge, with plummeting walls and dramatic views down. The Denver and Rio Grande railroad once traveled on rails throughout the canyon, and stray tracks can still be seen. Across the Black Canyon, there are opportunities for camping, hiking (Hermit’s Rest is a local favorite), auto touring, wildlife viewing, kayaking, horseback riding, fishing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Get your thrills before seeking out geothermal rest and relaxation.
  • Colorado National Monument. Marrying desert plateaus and high mesas, the Colorado National Monument is a natural wonder of rock arches, cliff walls, and abundant wildlife in Grand Junction, Colorado. Wander through several trails that take hikers to the top, or take the 23-mile Rim Rock Drive, which takes travelers along the Monument and shows off the unique geological formations, carved by wind and water over centuries. It’s only an hour and a half away from Glenwood Springs, and two hours from Ouray, where luxurious hot springs await.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park. Not far from Steamboat Springs, Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses the grandeur and beauty of the mountain region. High alpine lakes, evergreen forests, and towering peaks fill the 415-square miles of the park, known for its thousands of acres of wildlife and tranquil beauty. Visitors enjoy hiking (Grand Lake is a popular option), taking drives (Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in the United States, at 12,183 feet), camping, and exploring nearby towns (Estes Park is known for its resident elk). After venturing into the Colorado wilderness, a short drive to hot springs completes an adventurous day.
  • Chimney Rock National Monument. Chimney Rock, one of the country’s newest National Monuments, takes visitors into the area’s beginning. The Pagosa Springs site features ancient Puebloan ruins, guided tours, moon-lit education programs, and Native American Festivals, hoping to preserve the rich history in the area. Additionally, at the northern major lunar standstill, which takes place every 18.6 years, the moon rises between Chimney Rock and Companion Rock, making the national monument a natural observatory. The next major lunar standstill will take place in April 2025. Be sure to schedule a tour (www.chimneyrockco.org) before soaking at the three Pagosa Springs hot springs.
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park. Towers of sand sit near the town of Alamosa, the tallest standing at 750 feet. This National Park is full of 30 miles-worth of sand dunes, waiting to be discovered. There are opportunities for hiking, four-wheel driving, and even sledding or sand-boarding down the dunes, with rental equipment available from local retailers. After a gritty morning, look forward to the soaking stylings of neighboring Pagosa Springs.
  • Mesa Verde National Park. Mesa Verde is located in southwest Colorado, a quick drive from Pagosa Springs. The park is filled with incredibly preserved Ancestral Puebloan dwellings, offering peeks into the ancient culture and the daily lives of those who once called the area home. Visitors can tour different cliff dwellings—climbing in and out of enclaves and buildings—while admiring the park rangers’ stories. After, feel free to spread these stories at the nearby hot springs, to further extend and expand the history.

For more information on the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop, please visit cohotspringsloop.com.