As you ease into the earth-heated water, it’s hard not to feel like the mountains are giving you a close, cozy hug.
That’s what I thought as I slid into the hottest pool in the thermal caves at Indian Hot Springs. The water was 112 degrees Fahrenheit and I didn’t last long before climbing back out into the steamy, underground air.
After a few more dips, I retreated upstairs to the lush community pool to float and soak some more. Outside, it snowed and snowed and the traffic was thick on Interstate 70, but I had escaped, at least for a little while.
There’s no such thing as a bad hot spring in the winter, and Colorado is blessed with many options, near and far. There are a few that stand out as more accessible and deserve mention. Here are my top five:
302 Soda Creek Road, Idaho Springs
Hours: pool open 9 a.m.-10 p.m., caves 7:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m., private baths 7:45 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
More info: indianhotsprings.com; 303-989-6666
Let’s start with the closest; you’ve driven by it a thousand times on I-70, but have you ever stopped at Indian Hot Springs? Even when the clogged highway outside is at its coldest and crustiest, the main pool at Indian Hot Springs, enclosed in a greenhouse dome, is a gorgeous garden of tropical trees and flowers. The caves (gender-specific, clothing optional, additional $22-$24 per person) feature rough-hewn walls and small, extremely hot baths (106-112 degrees Fahrenheit) that are intensely relaxing. If you schedule a massage in the spa upstairs, you get VIP access to the pool and caves included in the fee.
15870 County Road 162, Nathrop
Hours: pool open 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
More info: mtprinceton.com; 719-395-2447
Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort is at the base of the mighty Collegiate range and offers unparalleled winter views of surrounding snow-capped peaks as the steam rises around you from one of several outdoor soaking options. The upper pool and waterslide are closed in the winter, but the historic bathhouse, natural Chalk Creek pools, and spa remain open all year. The scenery is stunning and there are upscale of cabins and rooms, as well as hot springs packages from which to choose.
165 Hot Springs Blvd., Pagosa Springs
Hours: open 7 a.m.-midnight (24 hours for overnight resort guests)
Cost: from $26/adult
More info: pagosahotsprings.com; 1-800-225-0934
Spend all day skiing Ski Wolf Creek Ski Area, then soak away the evening in one of three downtown Pagosa Springs options along the San Juan River, all with water bubbling up from the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring. Springs Resort & Spa has no less than 23 hot mineral pools on a slope along the river, including a bigger splash pool for the kids. It also has a range of on-site resort rooms and suites. The other two spots in town are the Overlook Hot Springs Spa and Healing Waters Resort & Spa.
1220 Main St., Ouray
Hours: pool open noon-9 p.m., on weekends 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
More info: ouraycolorado.com/hot-springs; 970-325-7073
Come for the ice climbing (Ouray Ice Festival is Jan. 24-27), stay for the hot springs. This winter, Ouray Hot Springs Pool & Fitness Center is showing off its recent multimillion-dollar makeover and renovation. It has a lap pool, large shallow areas and slides, and wonderful views of the surrounding canyon walls and peaks. The other nearby option is Orvis Hot Springs, located a few miles north of Ouray, a smaller, quieter and (mostly) clothing optional gem, with a designated smoking pool.
415 East 6th St., Glenwood Springs
Hours: pool open 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
More info: hotspringspool.com, 970-947-2955
As the driving snow falls around your car, it’s easy to be tempted by Glenwood Hot Springs, the giant, steaming pool visible from I-70. It’s the world’s largest geothermal pool, located next to its iconic bathhouse building and high-end spa, and the state’s most well-known. Down the block, descend into the Yampah Spa & Vapor Caves; it’s like walking into some medieval dungeon, but with hot, therapeutic, eucalyptus-scented steam rising out of the rocky floor. Just downstream along the Colorado River, and also next to the highway,Iron Mountain Hot Springs has 16 soaking pools overlooking the Colorado River, as well as a café serving food, beer and wine; it also has a happening scene at night.