The ultimate hot springs itinerary is a 720-mile/1160-km route along several roads designated as Colorado Scenic Byways. Starting from any of the five resort towns, take a week to 10 days to really experience these special places.
From Denver, begin the trip in Chaffee County—the communities of Buena Vista, Nathrop and Salida—along the Top of the Rockies and Collegiate Peaks byways. Then travel 140 mountainous miles south to Pagosa Springs. After weaving through the San Juan Skyway and the Million Dollar Highway, in 130 miles Ouray and Ridgway are the next stops. The West Elk Loop goes 175 miles through wine country, fruit stands, orchards and organic farms on the way to Glenwood Springs. Finally, 114 miles of canyons and ranchlands to Steamboat Springs completes the journey.
CHAFFEE COUNTY: Buena Vista, Nathrop, Salida colorfulcolorado.com
Mount Elbert, the highest point in Colorado at 14,433 feet, towers over Chaffee County. Fifteen “14ers” (14,000-foot peaks) dominate this area along the Continental Divide, creating prime terrain for the eruption of hot water from the earth. The same topography formed the Arkansas, the state’s most popular whitewater rafting river.
Outside of Buena Vista, Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort is a full-service retreat with five geothermal pools, a spa and club, 30 log cabins and 40-plus hotel rooms. Wade into Chalk Creek to access the natural hot pots.
PAGOSA SPRINGS visitpagosasprings.com
According to Guinness World Records, the Great Pagosa Hot Springs is officially the World’s Deepest Geothermal Hot Spring. This mother spring not only supplies the resorts but is also a heating source for downtown sidewalks and several businesses, including a brewery.
Terraced along the bank of the San Juan River are the 23 mineral pools of The Springs Resort & Spa. Each spot is a different size and temperature. The Lobster Pot, for example, sizzles at 110°F. While you’re there, check out the mineral deposits that have built up for centuries creating huge iron-colored formations; the rope bridge over the pond allows close inspection. Hotel guests can take a dip any time with 24-hour access.
OURAY AND RIDGWAY ouraycolorado.com
Ouray is a Switzerland look-alike. Brightly painted Victorian buildings line Main Street and lodges resemble chalets. In the summertime, Ouray has earned the title of Jeeping Capitol of the World, while the Ouray Ice Park offers the best ice climbing in Colorado during the cold-weather months. Ridgway is close by, with western history to explore.
Odorless sulfur-free thermal waters bubble up nearly everywhere. The iconic Ouray Hot Springs Pool and Fitness Center provides family fun. This 90-year old facility completed a major renovation in 2017.
GLENWOOD SPRINGS visitglenwood.com
At two blocks in length, Glenwood Hot Springs Resort is considered to the world’s largest mineral hot springs pool. The source, Yampah Spring, flows 3.5 million gallons of water daily. The award-winning spa and 107-room lodge are also geothermally heated.
The infamous Doc Holliday once came to the town for the healing vapors to treat his tuberculosis. Fans pay homage to the dentist and gunslinger by making the trek to his memorial in Linwood Cemetery or by sipping a beer under the Doc Holliday Saloon neon gun sign.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS steamboatsummer.com
There is a true Western vibe in Steamboat Springs, so channel your inner-cowboy. For a rustic wilderness setting, soak at the creek–side Strawberry Park Hot Springs, built using unique stone masonry. Stay in a secluded cabin or campsite right on the property.
Float downstream on an inner-tube along the refreshing Yampa River near downtown Steamboat Springs. Festivals celebrate hot air balloons, rodeos, eats, libations and tunes. Wintertime brings famous Champagne Powder® to Ski Town, USA®. Howelsen Hill is the largest natural ski jumping complex in North America and Colorado’s oldest ski area in continuous use for over 100 years.