Colorado road tripping: hot pools and buff burgers in Idaho Springs

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A few days ago, a particularly fierce Rocky Mountain summer storm landed me in Idaho Springs, a narrow town in a narrow canyon, next to a very busy highway, Interstate 70. Idaho Springs is the kind of place I’ve driven through hundreds of times without ever wondering if there was more to it than coffee and gasoline, the only reasons I’ve ever stopped there.

But on this day, I couldn’t see 50 feet through the rain and visions of hydroplaning tankers had me crunched up against the steering wheel, white knuckles and all. Much to my wife’s relief (and mine), I pulled off and turned back to Idaho Springs, where, following a billboard and a whim (and my wife’s childhood memories), took my family to Indian Hot Springs, where the water is actually hot (other excellent hot springs in Colorado, like Valley View, are phenomenal but the water rarely breaks 100 degrees).

Our room was small, moist, and dumpy with carpet like AstroTurf, but we still had a fun family picnic on the floor, eating burgers from the Buffalo Restaurant and Bar, one of many good cantina-food options on Main Street. Still, the room price of $93 was well worth it, since it gave us access to the hot pool, enclosed in a greenhouse dome and home to a gorgeous tropical garden of banana plants and exotic trees and flowers. I’m also told it is the only hot springs in the state with a liquor license, so you can sip a cold one while hanging in the pool.
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