Western Colorado Hot Springs

Some like it hot!

[Western Colo. | January 2020 | By Kathryn R. Burke]

Colorado has been called the “roof of the nation.” We’re the only state in the country where rivers flow out and down in all four directions. And in some spots, those rivers are hot…not surprising, since it was volcanic activity that got us up here. Portions of Colorado riddled with calderas and geothermal hot springs, remnants of a violent geological past.

Pagosa Hot Springs, along the San Juan River.        ©Kathryn R. Burke.

Colorado’s Native Americans knew the mystery and magic of those hot spots. The Utes, who dwelled here long before the white man arrived, soaked and dreamed and experienced mystical visions in the region’s “sacred mineral waters,” which they also used for ceremonial purposes. The deepest is the Mother Spring Aquifer in Pagosa Springs. At a depth of 1,002 feet, it has been certified by Guinness World Records as “The World’s Deepest.” The Utes called it pah gosah, variously translated as boiling or healing water with a strong smell. That smell is due to the water’s high mineral content, which they, and the Europeans who followed, believed makes soaking in it therapeutic.

The vapor caves in Ouray, accessible now at the Wiesbaden, were another popular hot spot for the native Utes, as were the springs at present-day Orvis and the hot springs pools in downtown Ouray, where waters range from 75 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 40 degrees Celsius). Hot springs—long established or newly discovered—abound throughout Ouray County, once the home of Ute Chief Ouray and his wife, Chipeta. Recently, a local rancher noticed his longhorn cattle refusing to drink from the ditch water running across his property. A heretofore unknown spring had erupted into the stream, giving it that unique mineral smell characteristic of Colorado’s natural hot springs. His cows didn’t like it.

What may be stinky to the rancher’s cows is often a soothing, relaxing, therapeutic experience for people who know where to find the region’s many secret springs. Above Chattanooga near Silverton, for instance, residents hauled up some old bathtubs to create their own soak spot. There are many other places, most on private property, where folks in the know can find a hot soak.

The easier-to-find public places, (and accessible on your digital devices), are Southwest Colorado’s commercial hot springs, some with accommodations ranging from five-star to no-star (and most are treated to remove the sulfur smell). Several facilities with lodging offer passes where people can use the hot spring-fed pools without having to book a room. Many also have off-season local’s discounts for overnight soak-and-stay packages. The Wiesbaden and others—like the Springs Resort and Spa in Pagosa, Durango Hot Springs Resort, and Glenwood Hot Springs—offer pampering spa packages with body and salon treatments. Some also have fitness facilities. All are no smoking and no pets unless otherwise noted. Please note: Pools are regularly closed for maintenance, so check first to make sure they’re open!

Ouray Hot Springs Pool. Courtesy photo.

Where to soak

Ouray

• Ouray Hot Springs Pool and Fitness Center. Springs: 5 separate geothermally heated public pools (75-104°F, 24-40°C, sulfur free) with mountain views. Adult-only section, activity pool, lap lanes, and work-out pool, two family and soaking pools. On-site massage. No lodging. Passes and memberships. Adjacent to Ouray Visitor’s Center.
970-325-7073. ourayhotsprings.com/

Wiesbaden Hot Springs & Lodging, Ouray CO

• Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgings. Lodging: rooms, suites, cottage, private home. Springs: outdoor pool with mountain views and untreated water (99-102°F); indoor Vaporcave  (78°F) and 18-inch soaking pool (107-109°F); Lorelei (secluded outdoor private pool). Public passes available. No smoking or pets. Children under 6 not allowed in pools. Watch for Wiesbaden’s Silver Stage ad in February. 970-325-4347. wiesbadenhotsprings.com/

• Twin Peaks Lodge and Hot Springs. Lodging: 10 rooms, 2 suites (some pet friendly). Springs: outdoor soaking tub with waterfall (102-110°F); outdoor hot springs and heated swimming pool (90-110°F); lighted indoor adults-only sanctuary (104-112°F) with Jacuzzi feature. Full spa services. Only Ouray facility open 24 hours a day. Public passes. Children not allowed in hot springs after 10 P.M. 970-325-7118. twinpeakslodging.com/

• Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs. Most frequently booked motel in Ouray (TripAdvisor). Lodging: rooms, suites, apartment, honeymoon suite. Concierge service. Springs: 4 redwood tubs with mountain views and untreated (constantly flowing) water (103-108°F). 970-325-4981. boxcanyonouray.com/

Ridgway

• Orvis Hot Springs. Lodging: 6 rooms with shared bathrooms and community kitchen; tent and vehicle camping. Springs, bathing-suit optional: 5 outdoor pools (108-128°F) and pond (100-106°F); cold plunge (62°F); indoor pool (average 100°F); 2 private tubs (102-110°F). Massage, including Watsu and CBD (in private yurts). One pool allows smoking. Pool passes available. Public pool hours 7 A.M.-10 P.M. 970-626-5324. orvishotsprings.com/

Soak under the sky, at Orvis Hot Springs pools. Courtesy Photo.

Durango

• Durango Hot Springs Resort & Spa ((formerly Trimble Hot Springs and under renovation). Lodging: Starlight Room, 2-bedroom cottage. Springs: two therapeutic pools open, more planned when renovation is complete. Spa services open. Public passes available.
970-247-0111. durangohotspringsresortandspa.com/

• Pinkerton Hot Springs. Picturesque geologic formation along Highway 550 just north of Durango. No lodging or pool, but worth a stop and look-see.

Pagosa Springs

• The Springs Resort & Spa. Lodging: classic, deluxe, and luxury; 79 rooms and suites. Barefoot Grill, full bar. Full spa treatments. Pools: 23 terraced, views, mineral pools (83-114°F, 28-46°C). Public passes available. 800-225-0934. pagosahotsprings.com/

• Overlook Hot Springs Spa. No lodging. Pools: scenic rooftop tubs, 5 indoor pools, private tub room. Spa services. Beer and wine.
970-264-4040. overlookhotsprings.com/

• Healing Waters Resort and Spa. Lodging: rooms, suites, park-model cabins, seasonal RV park. Pools: outdoor pool and hot tub, indoor hot baths (men’s and women’s), massage. Public passes. No pets.
800-332-5523. pshotsprings.com/

Glenwood Springs

• Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. Lodging: 107 rooms. Dining: poolside grill. Springs: world’s largest hot springs pool with lap lanes. Spa: full spa and salon services; fitness club. Daily and membership passes. 800-537-7946. hotspringspool.com/

About Hot Springs

Found worldwide, they are mineral-rich, naturally flowing waters geothermically heated from the earth’s mantle to temperatures greater than 98°F (36.7°C). Minerals common to hot springs pools include zinc, selenium, potassium, phosphate, nitrate, molybdenum, manganese, magnesium, iron, barium, bicarbonate, boron, calcium, chloride, fluoride, lithium, ammonia and Sulfate (sometimes sources of the springs’ strong smell). Scientific evidence shows that the combination of the heat and minerals in hot springs provides a variety of therapeutic effects, including relief from arthritic pain. Hot springs in volcanic areas are often at or near the boiling point. Please note that people have been seriously scalded and even killed by accidentally or intentionally entering these springs, especially those that are remote and unattended. Use common sense when soaking.

About Hot Springs

Found worldwide, they are mineral-rich, naturally flowing waters geothermically heated from the earth’s mantle to temperatures greater than 98°F (36.7°C). Minerals common to hot springs pools include zinc, selenium, potassium, phosphate, nitrate, molybdenum, manganese, magnesium, iron, barium, bicarbonate, boron, calcium, chloride, fluoride, lithium, ammonia and Sulfate (sometimes sources of the springs’ strong smell). Scientific evidence shows that the combination of the heat and minerals in hot springs provides a variety of therapeutic effects, including relief from arthritic pain. Hot springs in volcanic areas are often at or near the boiling point. Please note that people have been seriously scalded and even killed by accidentally or intentionally entering these springs, especially those that are remote and unattended. Use common sense when soaking.