Colorado.com, the state’s official tourism website, lists this historic hot springs loop, covering:
- Steamboat Springs
- Pagosa Springs
- Chaffee County
- Glenwood Springs
It lists 19 hot springs resorts within these 5 destinations, however, we uncover our own similar, more robust, route below.
6+ Night Historic Hot Springs Loop around Colorado
We divided a Colorado hot springs loop into two basic starting directions: Northwest and Southwest, which can be cut off at any point. You can also complete the whole itinerary for an ultimate hot springs road trip that lasts a week or longer, depending on how many nights at each stop. At the very least, hopefully you gain a few cool ideas for a hot springs holiday.
Most people arrive to Colorado via the Denver International Airport or at least begin their journey from the capital city. From here the Rockies await to the west with options for hot springs in several directions. So pack your favorite travel pants and attire designed for those on the go. Here are some of the best multi-day routes for a one-of-a-kind hot springs road trip.
Each region where you spend the night has at least one hot springs, often times more. This provides a choice of resorts or primitive soaking options, so each traveler can find the best soak for them. We list the various local hot springs options and our pick for each occasion. You can start in either direction and substitute certain nights for others to make your own custom hot springs road trip.
The 6 hot springs destinations we will cover are the same plus the San Luis Valley:
- Chaffee County
- San Luis Valley
- Pagosa Springs
- Ouray County
- Roaring Fork Valley
- Yampa Valley
We also cover a few in-route destinations, including Southern Front Range, Durango, Hot Sulphur Springs and Idaho Springs.
Starting from Southwest Colorado Hot Springs Loop
The route below begins in Denver heading southwest into the Rockies. You’ll spend the first night about 2 hours away in Chaffee County. You can also head northwest first starting from the bottom of the list. This spends your first night in Steamboat Springs. Both offer options for hot springs on the way to your destination and more once you get there.
Night 1 – Buena Vista/Chaffee County
We begin our trip by heading southwest to spend the first night in Chaffee County. The 2 hour drive from Denver to Buena Vista is a stunning one and fastest via Highway 285. However, you’ll also have the option to head south on I-25 first, then west on Highway 24 by Colorado Springs to BV, or further south then west on Highway 160 by Pueblo to Salida. This minor detour allows you to hit another additional hot springs on the way, or just swing by a different Pikes Peak or Royal Gorge region attraction.
If you’d like to add one of Colorado Springs’ famous tourist attractions to your hot springs road trip, like the Garden of the Gods, then consider also stopping by SunWater Spa in Manitou Springs. This modern El Paso County resort has hot tubs filled with thermal mineral water and spa treatments. Afterward just continue on Highway 24 west until you reach Nathrop and Buena Vista, only a few miles apart. Each has its own public hot springs resort with overnight lodging on-site.
In Colorado’s Sun Belt around Pueblo lies Desert Reef and Dakota hot springs, two laid back resorts with a clothing optional option if that’s your preference. These lack some of the Rocky Mountain scenery found at the other resorts, as they sit on the foothills of the Front Range. They’d be a good opportunity to combine one with a visit to the Royal Gorge Bridge near Canon City.
45 minutes south of BV, there’s also the Salida Hot Springs with a large indoor mineral water swimming pool and rentable hot tubs by the hour. It’s only recommended if you happen to hit Desert Reef or Dakota around Pueblo and are coming straight to Salida via Highway 160 and skipping BV.
Cottonwood Hot Springs – If you’re looking for more of a locals’ favorite, later hours and strictly soaking, spend the night relaxing at Cottonwood Hot Springs. There are a handful of soaking pools to choose from. You can stay on site in a motel room, rent a rustic cabin with your own private hot springs pool, or tent camp. Overnight guests are usually permitted to soak after hours. It lies at the start of Cottonwood Pass, which holds free dispersed campsites not far from the resort.Mt Princeton Hot Springs – Those with kids along should opt for Mount Princeton Hot Springs, due to its mineral water swimming pools. In the summer there are even pool slides. Year round, except for during spring when the river run off is too high, you can soak directly in little natural rock-made hot springs pools on the side of Chalk Creek. This is an exceptionally rare treat for hot springs in Colorado, so consider this Nathrop hotspot if you haven’t visited yet.
You can sleep at the attached hotel or stay in one of many top hotels in BV. There are also several hot springs vacation rentals down Chalk Creek Canyon, all with private soaking if that’s your thing. Private hot springs house rentals in Nathrop include: Antero Cabins, and Treehouse. Another private hot springs retreat is found in BV called Merrifield Homestead Cabins.
Night 2 – San Luis Valley
From Poncha Springs on Highway 285, which neighbors Salida, 30 minutes south of BV, you’ll head south over Poncha Pass into the vast San Luis Valley. Upon descent to one of Colorado’s strangest, most unique region’s, you’ll quickly reach two incredible hot springs resorts. In addition to soaking here, there are a slew of the weirdest attractions in the state in this peculiar valley.
Both Valley View and Joyful Journey hot springs provide multiple soaking pools, year round hours and overnight accommodations. While Valley View is clothing optional all the time, Joyful Journey requires clothing except for a single night of the week. Both resorts are among the favorites in the state.
Vally View – Hidden in the woods high over the San Luis Valley are several natural rock hot springs pools, affordable cabins and a couple of campgrounds. Reserve your room early because the resort is so isolated that it’s best to stay overnight. Valley View is open to both day and overnight guests, the latter of which gets unmatched 24 hour access. There’s nothing quite like walking down a dark trail in the forest to stumble upon an empty hot springs pool under the brightest star lit sky.It’s worth noting that it’s all-natural here and birthday suits are the most popular form of swimwear. So you should be comfortable in your skin, otherwise, you may feel outta place in a bathing suit. Perhaps head to Joyful Journey below if that’s the case.
Joyful Journey – With a few different pools of varying temperatures, reasonable prices and overnight options, Joyful Journey is a solid pick. Choose from a motel room, yurt, teepee or bring your own tent. While Valley View overlooks the valley, Joyful Journey is a bit easier to get to, located on the valley floor. The views are still splendid and the locals like it here.
Night 3 – Pagosa Springs
Home to the world’s deepest hot springs aquifer, Pagosa Springs is one the most popular destinations for a mineral water retreat. There are three soaking options in town and even a couple primitive hike-to hot springs in the surrounding wilderness.
Because these two primitive undeveloped pools require a fairly lengthy hike to reach, we’ll skip over them in favor of the paid resorts below so we can keep on road tripping. However, if interested, check out Rainbow and Piedra River hot springs. Both free pools have dispersed camping close by.
The Springs Resort – This is among the fanciest and most developed resorts in the entire state. With a nice hotel attached and over 20 pools to soak in, The Springs Resort is our favorite pick in town. The full spa and upscale hotel sits on banks of the San Juan River overlooking downtown Pagosa. Locals of Archuleta and nearby counties like La Plata receive discounts with proof of address.Overlook – If you’re just looking for an affordable day or evening soak and don’t need a hot springs hotel to stay in, consider Overlook. Aptly named, the locals’ favorite provides prime views of downtown and even the above Springs Resort. There are several indoor and outdoor pools filled with hot mineral water, spa services, and they even serve beer.
Healing Waters Resort – Located next to The Springs Resort, but unfortunately not on the banks of the San Juan River, lies Healing Waters. This hotel has a few hot springs pools, one outdoor soaking pool and one outdoor swimming pool, as well as indoor mineral water baths. All of which are open to both day and overnight guests. There is also a seasonal swimming pool. Welcoming Archuleta County guests since 1950, This is a great pick for those that want a hot springs hotel but want to save money over the town’s top signature resort.
Night 4 – Ouray/Ridgway
Ouray lies about 3 scenic hours from Pagosa Springs, a portion of which drives on the famous Million Dollar Highway north of Silverton. On the way you can stop by Durango Hot Springs for a soak in one of Colorado’s most favorite mountain towns. It caters to day guests and does it’s job of providing a few natural soaking options effectively. Locals do get a discount. Once you reach Ouray County, home of Ouray and Ridgway, you have a few more options.
Ouray Hot Springs Pool – The largest resort in town showcases a huge hot springs filled swimming pool and water-themed attractions. There are a few smaller hotter soaking pools. The Ouray Hot Springs Pool has a community pool/park kind of feel to it and is best for families and those looking to really stretch their legs with some laps. Swimsuits are required.While there is no lodging on-site, Ouray has plenty of top accommodations, even a couple of hot springs hotels too, including Wiesbaden Spa, Twin Peaks Lodge and Box Canyon Lodge.
Orvis Hot Springs – Another clothing optional resort, Orvis is probably the best hot springs resort on the Western Slope. If nudity offends you consider a hot springs in Ouray. If not, enjoy the myriad of hot springs pools laid out beautifully around resort. Situated at the start of the staggering San Juan Mountains, it’s open year round with campsites and six lodge rooms on-site. Overnight guests get unrestricted soaking.
Night 5 – Roaring Fork Valley
From Colorado’s Southwestern Slope, we’ll head about 3 hours northeast to the start of the Roaring Fork Valley. As one of the most historic hot springs towns, Glenwood Springs has a long history of celebrities that visited the region for its reputed health benefits. Around here there are two main free primitive soaking options, as well as three developed resorts.
South Canyon lies 15 minutes west of town on I-70 so you can hit that coming in from Ouray. Or if reversing the loop, consider hitting it after your night in Glenwood. The other free hot springs is Penny, which lies 10 minutes southeast of Carbondale on the side of Highway 133. It’s a slight detour from Glenwood and not something you’d pass on the way, but definitely worth checking out because it’s free and close by.
Glenwood Hot Springs Pool – The largest hot springs-filled swimming pool in the whole of North America happens to be in Glenwood Springs. Coincidentally it’s also probably the most popular resort in the state. The Glenwood Hot Springs Pool is an expansive resort, with lodging, the Spa of the Rockies, a separate hotter pool for soaking, diving boards, new family-friendly Sopris Splash Zone, locker rooms, gym, restaurant. There are discounts for the last round of the night if you just need a quick soak.Iron Mountain Hot Springs – The new hotness in Garfield County is Iron Mountain, open daily from 9am to 10pm. Similar to The Springs Resort in Pagosa, Iron Mountain also boasts 16 pools that overlook a rushing river, this time the Colorado River. Opened in 2015, the resort has dining available at The Sopris Café on-site too. It’s best for adults looking for a relaxing time without the bustle of the above hot springs pool.
Yampah Vapor Caves – Perhaps you’re looking to try something different or already hit one of both of the above two. Yampah Vapor Caves features a wet sauna type environment, except fueled by thermal mineral springs deep underground. You can trade off steaming in these caves with a rest in the cool down room. Treat yourself too, with massage treatments and even rent your own bath filled with hot springs water.
Night 6 – Yampa Valley
Last but not least, or fantastically first if reversing the loop, the Yampa Valley will keep you coming back year after year. Another giveaway by its name, Steamboat Springs is host to a couple of soaking options. Only the first of which has lodging, though Steamboat is loaded with top hotels, so no worries there.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs – If you’re a local to Colorado and love hot springs, chances are this is one of your favorites. Strawberry Park showcases one of the most unique layouts, with a myriad of natural hot springs pools tucked away in an alpine forest. It lies about 15 minutes from downtown Steamboat, with 4WD recommended in the winter months, or you can take a shuttle. There are massages available, crazy lodging like an old covered wagon, and a clothing optional policy after dark. It’s also adults only after the sun sets.Old Town Hot Springs – Often overlooked for the above resort, Old Town is actually pretty damn cool. It’s best for families that are looking for a little more adventure and play at their hot springs. There are numerous pools to choose from, with larger options for swimming and slides. It’s located right in downtown Steamboat, so it’s a good call for those who may have been to the above hot springs already, or are going with younger ones in the evening. There is no lodging on-site, but the Rabbit Ears Motel is across the street.
On your triumph and fully relaxed drive back to Denver, consider adding one more hot springs to the itinerary. Or if you’re starting your Colorado hot springs loop in the ‘Boat, maybe stop at one of these two on the way.
The Hot Sulphur Springs Resort is another top pick of the state. With over a dozen unique hillside pools to choose from, this is the better choice for a relaxing hot springs soak mid drive. It lies almost half way from Denver to Steamboat, just a tad closer to the latter. There’s also lodging on site if you get tired and need to spend another night on the road.The final optional resort I’ll mention is one that probably everyone has passed by on I-70 if they’ve been around these parts before. Situated in Idaho Springs only 40 minutes west of the capital, Indian is the closest hot springs to Denver. It’s good for families who want to splash around in their rain forest themed central room. It has a larger swimming pool and smaller pool for soaking. There are also separate men’s and women’s caves that have a few hot springs baths in them. FYI clothing is optional in the caves.
Happy soaking! Hope you’ve enjoyed our Colorado hot springs loop and consider venturing into the Rocky Mountains for a tranquil trip soon!