Warming Up in a Winter Wonderland

04 Dec 2023

Your guide to must-soak-in Colorado hot springs 

By Chloe-Anne Swink

The splendor on offer in our great state of Colorado is boundless. The landscape alone is the gift that keeps on giving. You could spend a lifetime exploring the Centennial State and fail to run dry its bounty—from natural wonders to marvels both hidden and historic. 

As snow blankets the mountains in white this winter, the obvious call is to the ski slopes. However, you don’t want to miss out on one of the most magical, often unconsidered, luxuries that Colorado’s landscape offers: its divine natural hot springs. 

Hot Spring Highlight: The Springs Resort

Looking for a hot spring experience that checks all the boxes? The Springs Resort in Pagosa Springs is it. Nestled on the banks overlooking the breathtaking San Juan River, less than 25 miles from Wolf Creek Ski Area, The Springs Resort couldn’t be more ideally located. 

For those who seek adventure and recreation, Pagosa is perfect for an après ski soak. If pure relaxation is your M.O., you’ll find your paradise here. 

Family-friendly? Check. Poolside cocktail service? Of course.

The Springs Resort is no less than a world-class wellness destination. Its 25 hot spring pools are fed by the Mother Spring, which is also the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring. It reaches immeasurable depths beyond 1,002 feet. Those who stay at the resort or who purchase limited daily VIP access can also enjoy a quiet respite in any of the five pools on the adults-only relaxation terrace. 

Healing minerals abound in the waters of Pagosa’s hot springs. From magnesium and lithium to zinc, iron, manganese, sulfate and seven others, these waters are centuries-old medicinal treasure troves. 

After becoming one with these mystical waters, melt away at the resort’s spa. Treatments like the Magnesium Melt (a tall glass of water to nourish dry Colorado skin) leave you feeling like a whole new human.

Round out this all-encompassing wellness renewal with menus at both resort’s restaurants, which accommodate a variety of diets from vegan to paleo; and each room features a Deep Sleep Tray, which provides the essentials for a restorative sleep after your meditative soak. Lavish in the aroma-therapeutic sleep hygiene products or spend the evening soaking and stargazing in this unique “dark sky community.” Guests at the resort get 24-hour access to all 25 pools. In a town known for outdoor adventure, The Springs Resort is a breath of pure bliss.

Best For Luxury: Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort

Picture a romantic weekend away. Snow falls softly on the rock formations that make up the pool around you. You and your favorite person are cozied up in a 104-degree natural (sulfur-free) hot spring built into the side of the frigid Chalk Creek. 

The natural landscape gives you the freedom to let cool water in as you please. Or, if you prefer it steamy, block the inflow of cool river water and let the 140˚ geothermal springs add some intensity. 

Tucked away in a scenic valley, surrounded by the majesty of the Collegiate Peaks—some of Colorado’s most iconic fourteeners—this is the dreamy experience that awaits in the Creekside Hot Springs at Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort in Nathrop, Colorado. 

Mt. Princeton Hot Springs offers a premium experience for spa and overnight guests. This includes access to three private cascading hot spring tubs of varying temperatures, a large private soaking pool and a guests-only clubhouse that serves fresh juices, libations
and snacks. 

Highlights of this quintessential Colorado experience include a geothermally heated infinity pool. For peak luxury, book an elegant Creekside Suite with a bedside fireplace and a balcony overlooking the river.

Best for Après Ski: Hot Sulphur Springs Resort

Sometimes the most humble of places turn out to be nooks where your soul truly settles, where comfort can be fully sought. Such is the case with Hot Sulphur Springs Resort in Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado. 

An unassuming property in an unassuming town is home to truly healing hot spring waters that can be savored on a budget; 16 pools are available to both resort guests and daily visitors. 

The temperatures range drastically (from 98˚ to 112˚), as do the layouts of the pools. With both Granby Ranch and Winter Park less than 40 minutes away, Hot Sulphur Springs Resort is perfectly positioned for an after-slope soak. 

Best Day Trip: SunWater Spa 

Welcome to SunWater Spa in Manitou Springs; a place of pure relaxation. The offerings are all-encompassing from mineral-rich hot spring soaks to yoga classes and wellness-centric spa treatments.

The property, right off downtown Manitou Springs, is thoughtfully appointed with cedar hot tubs, an indoor saline pool and traditional saunas. SunWater Spa is the place this winter, and Manitou Springs is a charming Colorado town that’s not to be missed.

Best Hidden Gem: Avalanche Ranch

Hidden away in the spectacular Crystal River Valley, Avalanche Ranch is the epitome of a hidden gem. The property hosts log cabins, an eight-person ranch house and cozy two-person covered wagons, alongside three-tiered natural hot spring pools and a bucket-style pool inside of a barn setting. 

Day passes to the springs are available, and The Lodge is open to all guests with restrooms, soda machines, games, ping pong and DVDs. 

Amid constant progress and growth, Avalanche Ranch remains a nostalgic tribute to Colorado’s historic roots. The ranch remains family owned, and that personal touch of hospitality doesn’t go unnoticed. 

The property is sprinkled with endearing quirks like statues, a clawfoot tub cold plunge, an antique shop housed in a wooden barn and paddleboats for use at the pond. This is the place to disconnect…and reconnect to what’s important. 

The property is thoughtfully kept, the hot springs are peaceful and this swathe of Colorado remains largely untouched by modern civilization. 

Best For Adventure: Rainbow Hot Springs

I’d be remiss not to mention some of Colorado’s primitive hot springs. They remain, aside from the handy work of hikers and campers, in their natural state. The payoff is exceedingly sweet after putting in the work to get there, and the experiences are that which will be remembered for a lifetime. 

However, I do not recommend attempting either of these hikes in the winter unless you’re experienced in navigating the backcountry in snow. Avalanche threats are present and trail conditions pose an extreme challenge. 

Always Leave No Trace when accessing the backcountry. 

A true diamond in the rough, Rainbow Hot Springs is accessed by taking West Fork Campground Road near Pagosa Springs to West Fork Trailhead. From here, embark on a 5.5-mile one-way trek through an unearthly-looking burn scar until you reach Rainbow Hot Springs. 

When you arrive, a few (depending on the time of year) natural hot spring pools harbor sweet relief from the long hike and cold temperatures. 

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