There’s no better reward for muscles tired from a high-altitude workout than a soak in one of Colorado’s soothing hot springs. Try out these hikes, and then make a beeline for nearby mineral-rich pools perfect for rejuvenation.
1. Mad Creek/Hot Springs Trail and Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Location: Steamboat Springs area
Hike: This sunny trail outside Steamboat Springs starts and ends right next to the Strawberry Park Hot Springs — an encouraging reminder of the reward that awaits after your workout. The aspen-laden path runs through meadows that are home to nearly 100 wildflower varieties and past Mad Creek Canyon landscapes and a postcard-worthy old U.S. Forest Service cabin. 4.5 miles round trip. More info
Hot Springs: Set amid a swath of trees four steep miles from town, the rustic Strawberry Park Hot Springs’ pools are encased by artfully crafted stone walls. Man-made waterfalls trickle sonorously into the water, and a small private pool is dedicated for watsu, a type of gentle, warm-water massage that will make the strain of your hike a pleasant memory.
2. Grizzly Creek Trail and Glenwood Hot Springs
Location: Glenwood Springs area
Hike: Cut into the north side of Glenwood Canyon, this challenging trail climbs 2,500 vertical feet alongside Grizzly Creek, a series waterfalls, lush forests and the canyon’s famously colorful walls. 7 miles round trip. More info
Hot Springs: Start your journey to relaxation in the Glenwood Hot Springs’ therapy pool, where Yampa Spring water is kept at 104 degrees and its 15 different minerals are purported to heal aching joints. Then hop in the massive, two-blocks-long big pool, kept at a chilly (by comparison) 90 to 93 degrees. Work out the rest of the kinks at the facility’s Spa of the Rockies, where the Kneipp Leg Release anti-inflammatory massage will focus on the muscles worked hardest during your hike.
3. Ice Lakes Trail and Orvis, Weisbaden or Ouray Hot Springs
Location: Ouray area
Hike: A proverbial alpine paradise, this trail leads to several crystalline glacial lakes, gentle waterfalls tumbling over sandstone rock formations and views of several 13,000-foot San Juan peaks. Fields of paintbrush, buttercups, columbines and other wildflowers fill the basin that surrounds the lake at the end of the hike. 7.6 miles round trip. More info
Hot Springs: Choose from three hot-springs options in nearby Ouray. Orvis Hot Springs’ seven pools range from 98 degrees to a very steamy 112 degrees. The main, gravel-bottom “pond” is known for Mt. Sneffels vistas. The Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa and Lodging offers a couple of soaking pool options, including one inside a natural vaporcave. The Ouray Hot Springs Pool is tailored a bit more toward families, with slides and shallow areas, but there are also good spots for restful soaks and a picnic-perfect green space.
4. Goulding Creek Trail and Trimble Hot Springs
Location: Durango area
Hike: Elk sightings are common along this steep trail outside Durango, which climbs above the striated Hermosa Cliffs on several switchbacks before dipping in and out of a series of vibrant meadows ringed by aspen groves (and home to a meandering cow or two). 6 miles round trip. More info
Hot Springs: Trimble Spa & Natural Hot Springs is located five miles from Durango. Two geothermal pools range from 101 to 105 degrees, and a refreshing Olympic-size pool offers a welcome cool off — it’s kept around 85 degrees. There are also two saunas, a poolside lawn that attracts sunbathers and a spa with delicious treatments like the honey facial. The Music on the Lawn Series makes summer an especially festive time to visit.
5. Conundrum Hot Springs
Location: Aspen area
Hike and Hot Springs: This undeveloped (read: free!) but popular hot springs pool can only be reached via a rigorous eight-and-a-half-mile trail that begins near Aspen. The raw beauty of the mountainous setting, the 102-degree water and the quiet seclusion of the area make it one of Colorado’s most unique adventures. In 2008, Time Magazine called a dip in this natural pool one of 50 Authentic American Experiences. 17 miles round trip. More info
Photos: Courtesy of Strawberry Park Hot Springs; copyright flickr/bartlec (Conundrum).