Stay in the Loop: Colorado’s Historic Hotels and Hot Springs

Dive into both Colorado history and hot springs on your next vacation! The 720-mile Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop is a year-round driving route that showcases the state’s authentic Wild West past with historic lodging, as well as its kick-back-and-relax hot springs.

Steamboat Springs wasn’t always a world-class ski town; first, it was a ranching community. The fertile Yampah Valley drew homesteaders to settle in and lay down roots. Among the first to arrive was James Crawford in 1874. Crawford convinced others to join him and by 1885, five families called Steamboat Springs home. As the town grew, Crawford was elected mayor and was among the first to recognize the tourism potential of the hot springs. Under his direction, the first bathhouse was built at the site of Old Town Hot Springs. In the 1950s, Steamboat was instrumental in popularizing skiing and ski jumping in the U.S. In addition to Old Town Hot Springs, Steamboat is also home to Strawberry Park Hot Springs.

  • Hotel Bristol. Established in 1948, this small historic hotel located in downtown Steamboat Springs exudes charm and reflects the town’s Old West heritage. A clapboard exterior complemented by Victorian-style fretwork belies the modernity of its guest rooms. During the summer, the street-front hotel is bursting with colorful blooms; in winter it is aglow with fairy lights.
  • Rabbit Ears Motel. Since 1952, the iconic pink neon sign featuring an enormous rabbit with big ears has welcomed visitors to have fun on their vacation in Steamboat Springs. For a brief period, the sign was considered tacky and a source of controversy; now it is a historic landmark and a favorite place to stay in the heart of Steamboat Springs.

Glenwood Springs is a fabled Colorado hot springs town. Mining engineer, entrepreneur and town founder Walter Devereux saw an uncut jewel as he surveyed the rough and rowdy encampment once called Defiance. His vision, which required re-routing the Grand (now Colorado) River, included an upscale, European-style resort catering to well-to-do visitors from around the globe. The hot springs pool opened in 1888 and the Hotel Colorado followed in 1893. Glenwood Hot Springs Resort and Yampah Spa & Vapor Caves have been mainstays of Glenwood Springs ever since. More recently, Iron Mountain Hot Springs joined the hot springs scene in 2015, adding yet another option for geothermal soaking.

  • Hotel Colorado. The Hotel Colorado was once called the “White House of the West” when President “Teddy” Roosevelt was in residence. The 26th president liked visiting the area for its big-game hunting. According to local legend, the teddy bear stuffed animal was invented here by hotel maids to console the president after an unsuccessful hunt. Relaxed western ambiance pervades this Glenwood Springs landmark.
  • Hotel Denver. The site that is now Hotel Denver was originally a hodgepodge of businesses that included two rooming houses—one owned by the Kendrick family and the other by the Boscos. In 1915, the Kendrick portion became known as the Star Hotel. In 1938, Mike Bosco bought out the Kendrick’s and the two hotels merged. Past guests include Chicago gangster Diamond Jack Alterie and movie star Clark Gable. Today, the Hotel Denver has a 1920s art deco influence and all rooms feature beautiful quilts and Tiffany-style lamps.
  • Ponderosa Cabins. Established in 1939, these historic log cabins located in West Glenwood Springs have been completely renovated. Stylish mid-century modern interiors are a delightful contrast to the rugged, western exterior. Each cabin is fully furnished and has a convenient kitchenette.

Ouray & Ridgway each got their start harvesting the natural resources available in their respective areas. For Ouray it was mining silver in the surrounding hard rock hillsides and mountains; for Ridgway, abundant timber and a nearby river on which to transport it was foundational. However, as with most booms, both industries eventually went bust. Forging a new way forward, Ouray and Ridgway embraced adventure tourism. Today, Ouray is known worldwide for its Jeeping and ice climbing, Ridgway for its trails, camping and boating opportunities. The region’s geothermal hot spots include Ouray Hot Springs Pool, the Historic Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgings, Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs, Twin Peaks Lodge & Hot Springs and Orvis Hot Springs.

  • The Beaumont. This three-story Victorian stunner dates to 1887 and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. In the lobby, the hotel’s grand staircase is a magnificent focal point. Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover once stayed here. The hotel features 12 beautifully appointed rooms.
  • The Historic Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgings. Originally known as Mother Buchanan’s Bath House in 1879, this site later became the Bates Hospital and Sanitarium in the 1920s. With hot springs, steam caves and spa services, the Wiesbaden continues to be a wellness destination and offers an array of interesting accommodations that include small guest rooms, suites, an apartment, a hillside cottage and a historic house.
  • The Historic Western Hotel Restaurant & Saloon. Established in 1891, the Historic Western Hotel exudes an authentic old west character with tin ceilings, stained glass windows and a grand entrance. Built in the Victorian Italianate style, it is one of the largest remaining wooden structures on the Western Slope of Colorado. The hotel offers two suite rooms and 12 smaller, original “boarding rooms.”
  • Orvis Hot Springs. With just six guest rooms, staying at Orvis Hot Springs is a peaceful and relaxing experience. The addition of guest room accommodations in the 1980s was part of a major property-wide renovation. In addition to 24-hour access to the very private and beautifully landscaped clothing-optional hot springs, a community kitchen allows overnight guests to prepare meals and eat communally. The resort also offers tent sites and limited RV camping.
  • Hotel Ouray. Built in 1893 to serve as law offices, this brick structure in downtown Ouray is Victorian in style and welcomes guests with a refined blend of western hospitality and up-to-date amenities. A major remodel in 1993 upgraded the essentials, which included plumbing, electrical wiring and air conditioning. Fifteen guest rooms effortlessly blend the best of the past and the present.
  • Elmo Hotel. Another 1880s gem, the St. Elmo was built by Mrs. Kittie Heit. The hotel catered to the region’s miners who loved the proprietress, calling her Aunt Kittie for her many acts of kindness and charity. The St. Elmo is listed on the National Registry of Historic Buildings. It operates as a bed and breakfast with nine finely decorated rooms.

Pagosa Springs is named after the prolific geothermal springs found there. Derived from a similar sounding Ute Native American word, the moniker translates as “healing waters.” As early as the 1860s the U.S. Army became interested in the healing properties of the hot springs and began to document their efficacy. Word of this “fountain of youth” spread quickly, attracting visitors and settlers to the area. The Mother Spring is designated as the world’s deepest by “Guinness Book of World Records.” Pagosa Springs boasts several hot springs, including The Springs Resort & Spa, Overlook Hot Springs and Healing Waters Resort & Spa.

  • Healing Waters Resort & Spa. Original owner Cora Woods built the first accommodations, along with a swimming pool, in the 1930s, which she called The Spa Motel. The property was purchased again in 1950 at which time several more motel rooms and a bathhouse were added. Today, the historic hot springs offers a variety of lodging options, including a bunkhouse suite, mini-suite, guest rooms and cabins.
  • High Country Lodge. This classic American motor lodge was built in 1975 and renovated in the 2000s. It is ideally situated between Pagosa Springs and Wolf Creek Ski Area. A Western vibe permeates the property, which includes guest rooms as well as private cabin accommodations. In winter, guests take turns on the Lodge’s tubing hill and warm up by a roaring fire in the main lobby; come summer, there are nearby nature trails for exploration.

Chaffee County, which includes the towns of Buena Vista, Nathrop and Salida, has a long history of attracting rugged types. The area is home to more 14,000-foot peaks than any other county in the state, which draws outdoor enthusiasts to its abundant natural wonders. In the 1800s, with the discovery of silver, Chaffee County became a thriving Colorado boomtown. The bustling industry, coupled with the arrival of the railroad, inspired many hearty souls to come to this part of the state to seek their fortunes. Its unique hot springs include Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, Historic Cottonwood Hot Springs Inn & Spa, Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center and Antero Hot Springs Cabins.

  • Amigo Motor Lodge. Channeling nostalgia for the Great American Road Trip, this 60-year-old motor inn in Salida has a fresh new look and feel. Completely renovated, as its name implies, the Amigo has a friendly and welcoming vibe. Tasteful, mid-century modern rooms feature southwestern touches and luxury beds and linens.
  • Historic Cottonwood Hot Springs Inn & Spa. In Buena Vista, the site’s original hotel and sanitarium was constructed in 1878 by the Reverend and Mrs. Adams, M.D. A female physician, Dr. Adams was known for her medical expertise and use of the hot springs for healing. Unfortunately, the building was destroyed in 1911. The current lodge features guest rooms on two levels as well as dormitory-style lodging.
  • Manhattan Hotel. The Manhattan Hotel is a historic boutique hotel located along the banks of the Arkansas River in downtown Salida. The hotel is situated on the second floor and like many historic properties of similar age, it does not have an elevator. Several rooms feature personal balconies with seating, meant for enjoying the surrounding beauty, both day and night. While the exterior is an ode to Western history, guest rooms are invitingly luxe and modern.
  • Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort. The first accommodations at Mount Princeton were constructed in 1860 to serve the mining community. Eventually, a large and ornate hotel occupied the site, but when the mining industry went bust and the railroad left, the property fell into disrepair. In the 1960s, a 20-room motel was added; but it was a massive renovation in the early 2000s that included the historic lodgings and the addition of new cabins that transformed the resort into a destination property.
  • Palace Hotel. Constructed in 1906, the Palace Hotel in Salida is a red brick beauty located in the artsy downtown district. In 2009, the property underwent a major renovation that took three years to complete, restoring it to its former Victorian grandeur. Also added were energy-saving features like Thermopane windows and rooftop photovoltaic cells to provide renewable energy. The Palace Hotel features 14 luxury suites.

For a Colorado vacation like no other, stay in the loop—The Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop. Learn more and plan your vacation today.

Recommended Posts