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Colorado is famous for its snow, but what many visitors may not realize is it’s also one of the best places in the world to get hot-hot-hot. Colorado is home to dozens of naturally occurring hot springs pools. These thermal waters bubble up throughout the mountains in western Colorado and are packed with healthy minerals.
A hot springs road trip is not just indulgent and scenic, but it’s also great for your health. Hot springs lovers may be familiar with the simple Colorado hot springs loop (between Buena Vista, Pagosa Springs, Steamboat Springs and Glenwood Springs), but it stops short of some of the best gems in southern Colorado.
We’ve designed our own original, extended hot springs loop so you can experience all of Colorado’s best hot springs, from the top of the state to the bottom and back up again.
This trip covers just under 1,000 total miles over nine days, starting and ending in Denver. You will visit at least 16 different hot springs, from private pools in a ghost town, to a family-friendly hot springs pool with a water slide, to pools right on the rushing river. You’ll bathe under the open stars, in underground caves and even completely nude (if you are over 18 and up for it).
While this loop is planned over nine days, you can expand it at any point and stay longer, especially in towns with multiple hot springs destinations, such as Ouray. While many of these hot springs are open year round, this trip is best suited for warmer weather due to the mountain roads that may be impassable or dangerous in cold weather.
Here is our favorite way to experience Colorado’s top hot springs.
Cottonwood Hot Springs (Photo: Aimee Heckel)
Day 1: Denver to Buena Vista
2 hours and 30 minutes, 130 miles via US 285
Start your trip in the small mountain town of Buena Vista, with a night at the Cottonwood Hot Springs. The hotel itself is far from fancy, but what you’re paying for here are the private, quiet hot springs pools right at the base of a mountain and a chance to step off the grid.
The hotel has no TV, Wi-Fi or phone service, so it’ll put you in the right mindset to immerse in nature and escape.
Note: No alcohol is allowed at Cottonwood Hot Springs, and there’s no food on site. So for dinner, make the short drive to Mount Princeton Hot Springs in Nathrop. Fill up here at the scenic Mary Murphy Steakhouse (they’re open all day), and for dessert, take in the scrumptious views at Mount Princeton’s tubs by the river. If you’re traveling with kids, they’ll love the large waterslide and lazy river.
Day 2: Buena Vista to Pagosa Springs
2 hours and 45 minutes, 160 miles via US 285 and US 160
Head to the heart of the San Juan Mountains, where you’ll find one of Colorado’s most famous hot springs spots, Pagosa Springs – home to the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring. Find it at the Springs Resort & Spa, where you can stay overnight just steps away from the resort’s 24 soaking pools, including a swimming pool.
Temperatures vary from a refreshing 83 degrees to an intense 114 degrees. While the pools are open to the public, guests at the hotel get 24-hour access.
Pagosa Springs is home to other hot springs, too. If you’re on a budget, want fewer crowds and don’t want anything fancy, there’s the Healing Waters Hot Springs. But our favorite is the Overlook Hot Springs Spa, which feels like an old Victorian bathhouse, complete with rooftop pools with the best views in town.
Tip back an Earth-powered beer at Riff Raff Brewing Company, which makes brews powered by geothermal heat.
Day 3: Pagosa Springs to Ouray
3 hours, 130 miles via US 160 and US 550
If you think the drive to Ouray is scenic, just wait until you drop into the box canyon that embraces this charming mountain town. Ouray is not only one of Colorado’s most beautiful towns; it’s also home to five different hot springs.
Stay at the rustic and simple Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs for its mountainside of private, small, redwood hot springs tubs.
Also, don’t miss what we think is Colorado’s most powerful hot spring at the Historic Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa and Lodgings. This hidden gem destination features quiet, uncrowded hot springs vapor caves. After some peaceful time underground in the darkness below the hotel, you will re-emerge feeling transformed.
For the opposite extreme of the hot springs experience, the bustling Ouray Hot Springs Pool & Fitness Center has diving areas, two waterslides, an obstacle course, a climbing wall, a workout pool, playing pools, an infinity edge waterfall and tons of action.
Refuel at the Outlaw Restaurant, which feels like an old-timey saloon and serves great steaks. Bonus: brunch, seven days a week, with a Bloody Mary bar on the weekends.
Day 4: Ouray to Dunton Hot Springs
2 hours, 75 miles via CO 62 and CO 145
Take a deep dive into Colorado’s history and stay at one of the most unique destinations in the state: Dunton Hot Springs Resort. This is a real-life ghost town that has been renovated and transformed into a luxury retreat, complete with private hot springs access.
Feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you stay in the former cabin of a miner and walk through this carefully preserved historical bubble. Dunton is all-inclusive, so you have food, drinks and outdoorsy activities at your fingertips. Relax on the hammock in the historically-inspired bathhouse in between dips in the steamy pool.
Or stay at the nearby Dunton River Camp, with glamorous canvas tents on the Dolores River. “Glamp” with running water, private restrooms, cozy beds and “room service;” your attendant will bring you champagne refills all day as you bask on your porch surrounded by towering trees.
Day 5: Dunton Hot Springs to Durango
2 hours and 15 minutes, 85 miles via CO 38 and US 160
While down south, it’s worth the trip to the college town of Durango. Stay at the dramatic, Victorian-era Strater Hotel, which will continue Dunton’s vibe: Wild West meets luxury. Grab a casual but surprisingly tasty meal at Carver Brewing Company, right downtown on the main drag.
Then, get your hot springs fix at the newly renovated Durango Hot Springs Resort and Spa. This mountainside spa claims to be the only hot springs in the world that infuses its water with purifying nano-meter and micro-meter oxygen bubbles. This means ultra cleanliness with no chemicals. Bonus: These waters also don’t have the stinky rotten egg sulfur odor.
The scenic Durango Hot Springs offers 26 different water features, including 16 soaking pools, a rain tower, underwater reflexology walking path, swimming pool, cold plunge pool and eight private cedar tubs.
Day 6: Durango to Ridgway
2 hours, 81 miles via US 550
It’s time to swing back north, and along the way, make a surprising stop in the tiny town of Ridgway, just outside of Ouray. Here, you’ll find one of Colorado’s lesser-known hot springs gems: Orvis Hot Springs.
From the front, you’d never know it, but behind the building, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into the Garden of Eden, with lush landscaping, blossoming flowers and trees, and pools scattered throughout the grounds, built to blend in with nature.
See Colorado: 10-day road trip loop across the state
Here’s the thing, though: This pool is for adults only. And it’s clothing-optional. If you’re not ready to drop trousers in public, you can book private hot springs rooms. And no one cares if you’re wearing clothes. You just don’t have to. Due to that, no electronics are permitted.
You can also stay the night at Orvis. Make sure you check out food at Taco Del Gnar, a relaxed restaurant with innovative tacos. Many are Asian-inspired, such as the Korean short rib tacos.
Glenwood Hot Springs (Photo: Aimee Heckel)
Day 7: Ridgway to Glenwood Springs
2 hours 45 minutes, 170 miles via US 50 and I-70
Keep truckin’ northeast until you hit Glenwood Hot Springs. Today, you go from a hidden gem to one of Colorado’s most popular hot springs stops. In fact, Glenwood Hot Springs claims to have the world’s largest hot springs pool. That being said, it can get pretty packed.
So, if you’re looking for a pool with a little more privacy, check out the modern Iron Mountain Hot Springs on the Colorado River or the underground Yampah Vapor Caves.
Stay at the historic Hotel Denver, ideally located within walking distance to the hot springs and restaurants. Dine at the nearby Co. Ranch House, with a Western vibe and tasty American fare.
Day 8: Glenwood Springs to Steamboat Springs
2 hours and 15 minutes, 114 miles via I-70 and CO 131
Steamboat Springs is known for its skiing in the winter, but it’s also a hot springs spot, best known for Strawberry Park Hot Springs. These hot springs tie in with nature beautifully; they’re tucked deep inside a forest alongside the river. Late night, it’s adult-only and clothing-optional, if you’ve ever wanted to count constellations naked in a hot mineral bath.
While Strawberry Park is a local treasure, families enjoy Old Town Hot Springs, with two 230-foot, twisting waterslides and a climbing wall.
One of the coolest resources in Steamboat Springs is a local, family-run company called Moving Mountains. This business connects visitors with luxurious, independent properties (think Airbnb meets “MTV Cribs.”) Stay in a top-floor penthouse overlooking the Yampa River or a sprawling villa above the city – places you could never otherwise have access to.
Moving Mountains comes with a concierge to help you plan your trip, from recommending where to eat (like our favorite, Aurum Food & Wine) to helping you arrange transportation to the hot springs. Moving Mountains was inspired by the European “catered ski chalet” service.
Day 9: Steamboat Springs to Denver
3 hours, 155 miles via US 40 and I-70
After eight days soaking in hot springs waters, your drive back to Denver will never have been more relaxing. While Denver does not have any naturally occurring hot springs, it does have a new, luxurious hotel in Denver’s trendy Lower Highlands neighborhood.
Life House taps into Colorado’s Wild West and Victorian history to inspire its design, making it a memorable place to wrap up your trip. See echoes of the neighborhood’s original pioneers in the on-site bar and restaurant, too.
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