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.

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