This 722-mile driv­ing route winds its way past 19 hot springs.

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - BY MELANIE D.G. KA­PLAN travel@wash­post.com

I have been vis­it­ing Colorado with my fam­ily since I was a child. I’ve come to know the state from many an­gles of ad­ven­ture, from the adren­a­line rushes of of­froad­ing in Grand Junc­tion to white-wa­ter kayak­ing in the Crys­tal River. Last sum­mer’s visit was no dif­fer­ent, be­gin­ning with stand-up pad­dling in Boul­der and end­ing with an ex­haust­ing hike up the tallest dune in North Amer­ica at Great Sand Dunes Na­tional Park and Pre­serve.

Through the years, I’ve stum­bled across a few nat­u­ral hot springs, which range from hip­pie, cloth­ing-op­tional pools to fam­i­lyfriendly re­sorts. But it wasn’t un­til my most re­cent trip that I re­al­ized how much soak­ing is part of Colorado cul­ture. It’s a dif­fi­cult life: You play hard, you re­lax hard.

“Peo­ple like to soak af­ter an ad­ven­ture,” said Deb­o­rah Fra­zier, au­thor of “Colorado’s Hot Springs.” “They’re a great tonic af­ter a ter­ri­bly phys­i­cally fit day.”

With the cre­ation of its tourism ini­tia­tive, the Colorado His­toric Hot Springs Loop, the Rocky Moun­tain state has made it easy to plan a hot-springs visit, whether it’s fol­low­ing an ad­ven­ture or as a stand-alone trip. The 722-mile scenic route fea­tures hot springs in five re­gions of Western Colorado, each with its own cul­ture and vibe. Some soaks are serene, set un­der the stars, while oth­ers are lively, with wa­ter­slides and Marco Polo play­ers.

Hot springs are linked to claims of therapeutic ben­e­fits from their geother­mally heated ground­wa­ter and all-but guar­an­tee that you’ll leave re­ju­ve­nated and free of stress. As lo­cals ex­plain, mem­bers of the Ute In­dian Tribe would travel for days to reach what they con­sid­ered to be mir­a­cle wa­ters; some springs are still used for cer­e­mo­nial pur­poses.

Colorado has hun­dreds of hot springs, Fra­zier said, but only 93 are large enough for a soak and 46 are ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic year­round. Of those, 19 are in the loop, which makes a cir­cle though five ar­eas: Chaf­fee County, Pagosa Springs, Ou­ray County, Glen­wood Springs and Steam­boat Springs. Many are sur­rounded by na­tional forests or wilder­ness ar­eas, and all are near ski des­ti­na­tions and hik­ing trails, making them per­fectly sit­u­ated for re­lax­ing af­ter an ac­tive day.

Keep in mind that these 19, which all have a day-pass fee or re­sort fee, are fairly ac­ces­si­ble by car com­pared with some other hot springs, which may re­quire hikes. Among the most re­mote in the state: a free hot spring on pub­lic land known as Co­nun­drum, which re­quires a 17-mile round-trip hike with 2,500 feet of el­e­va­tion.

Hot springs come in var­i­ous fla­vors, and with a lit­tle re­search, you’ll find a good match. Many are lo­cated at re­sorts with full spa and din­ing ser­vices, but oth­ers are bare-bones.

Among the 19, many are fam­ily friendly. Glen­wood Hot Springs Re­sort is lo­cated be­tween As­pen and Vail on the Colorado River and claims to have the world’s largest hot-springs pool — 405 feet long and 100 feet wide. At 90 de­grees, it’s warm for swim­ming laps (I tried af­ter kayak­ing) but heaven in the win­ter and — with two wa­ter­slides — a fun spot for kids.

The His­toric Bath House at Mount Princeton Hot Springs Re­sort, just south of Buena Vista, also caters to kids, with a 400-foot wa­ter­slide, a big out­door fire­place and a 90-de­gree ex­er­cise pool. The re­sort also has a soak­ing pool, kept at 105 de­grees, and creek­side hot springs, a more pri­vate op­tion where you can en­joy starlight soaks.

For ut­ter pri­vacy dur­ing your soak, head to Chaf­fee County, which in­cludes Buena Vista, Nathrop and Sal­ida, and runs along the Con­ti­nen­tal Di­vide. Here, you will dis­cover three of the most se­cluded hot springs open to the pub­lic: Alpine Hot Springs Hide­away, a va­ca­tion home sur­rounded by pon­derosa pines and the Chalk Cliffs; An­tero Hot Springs, with two log cab­ins and a larger moun­tain chalet, all with pri­vate soak­ing tubs; and Creek­side Hot Springs cabin and soak­ing pool, both of which can ac­com­mo­date eight.

You’ll find more tra­di­tional cloth­ing-op­tional soak­ing at Orvis Hot Springs in Ridg­way, which has sev­eral ponds and wa­ter­falls strate­gi­cally po­si­tioned . The seven soak­ing ar­eas range in tem­per­a­ture: the “Lob­ster Pot” av­er­ages be­tween 108 and 114 de­grees. Four of the ar­eas are out­side, so you can en­joy views of soar­ing Mount Sn­ef­fels as you soak.

A few Colorado friends agreed that Straw­berry Park Hot Springs, just out­side Steam­boat Springs — and adults-only af­ter dark — is among the fa­vorites for what one pal calls “tex­tile-free” soaks. It’s also a good op­tion if you pre­fer a tub rather than a swim­ming pool.

The set­ting is rus­tic, and you can choose from a num­ber of pools, mov­ing around un­til you find one you like. An icy cold creek on the op­po­site side of a rock wall can be re­fresh­ing af­ter a hot soak.

Be­fore May and af­ter Novem­ber, you’ll need a ve­hi­cle with four-wheel drive and snow tires to reach Straw­berry Park, and they only ac­cept cash and checks for pay­ment. It’s on the list for my next visit. There, vis­i­tors can take the plunge with some­thing called Watsu aquatic ther­apy. My own pri­vate mas­sage ther­a­pist in a hot spring? Sounds like a fine way to end ev­ery phys­i­cally ex­haust­ing day. Ka­plan is a writer based in the Dis­trict. Her web­site is melaniedgka­plan.com.

It wasn’t un­til my most re­cent trip that I re­al­ized how much soak­ing is part of Colorado cul­ture. It’s a dif­fi­cult life: You play hard, you re­lax hard.

COLORADO TOURISM OF­FICE

GLEN­WOOD HOT SPRINGSRESORT

TOP: Straw­berry Park Hot Springs — which is an adults-only fa­cil­ity af­ter dark — is among the fa­vorites for “tex­tile-free” soaks. ABOVE: Glen­wood Hot Springs Re­sort claims to have the world’s largest hot-springs pool, a 90-de­gree won­der that is 405 feet long and 100 feet wide.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.