EnCompass Traveler: Soak in autumn
Fall colors abound while soaking in the hot springs pools at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort in Nathrop, Colo. Courtesy Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort
By Julie Bielenberg
Colorado is home to numerous renowned hot springs. While any soak in hot, natural waters, come autumn, would result in an astonishment of reds, oranges, yellows and purples and even pinks, there are a few spectacular soaks that will really bring out the beauty of the season.
However, don’t forget to factor in the colorful shrubs that often surround hot springs. “While everyone always comments on the bright yellows of the aspen leaves, there are also gorgeous scrub Oaks that transform into deep purples, pinks and bronzes throughout the hot springs area,” explains Panayoti Kelaidis, senior curator and director of outreach for the Denver Botanic Gardens. “Service Berry almost always turns an orange-pink in autumn and is very commonly found in hot springs locations.”
Kelaidis makes note not to overlook the grasses that also light up come fall. “People just always think aspen, these are certainly high notes in the fall symphony, but you need not just a violin, bring in the base and trumpets as well. Our Evergreen family is vast and can range from black to blue making for varying backdrops against fall leaves. And with the signature Colorado azure sky, there’s no better way to see autumn than to kick up your heels and soak it in.”
As with any Colorado activity, be very aware and educated. Certain high temperatures are not healthy for some age groups. Also take note of the signage at the varying hot springs to learn more about the healing benefits and minerals located in the waters.
45 3rd Ave., Ouray
Four tubs, ranging in temperature from 103 to 108 degrees F., include a 360-degree view of the surrounding San Juan Mountain range set amongst the backdrop of aspens, pines and spruces. Husband-and-wife owners Karen and Rich Avery meticulously landscape the grounds.
Conundrum Creek Road
Mark this autumn adventure for the more athletic of the family. Conundrum Hot Springs is an 18-mile round-trip hike from the end of a dirt road in Aspen. From the main, large water pool that remains around 103 degrees F. and smaller pools close by, soakers can take in the juxtaposition of the brilliant yellows against the pines. Beware, the elevation gain of this hot springs adventure is nearly 2,700 feet, which is truly intense and indicates that leaves will turn early. Yellows will pop up in early September most years.
Dunton Hot Springs guests can enjoy evening campside dinners while soaking in the fall colors. Courtesy of Dunton Hot Springs
52068 Road 38, Dolores
The most remote hot springs on the list, Dunton Hot Springs is located on the backside of Telluride in the San Juan Mountains. Both posh and exceptionally rustic, this luxury destination offers six pools ranging in temperature from 85 to 106 degrees F. The area is known for golds and yellows or its aspen and mature cottonwoods.
401 N. River St., Glenwood Springs
With nearly 3.5 million gallons of water flowing into two enormous pools daily, options abound. The “big” pool, the largest hot springs pool on earth, ranges from 90 to 93° F as you move west to east. A therapy pool averages 104 degrees F. Surrounding the pool you’ll see Mountain Ash, Honey Locust, Hackberry, Linden, Crab Apple, and Virginia Creeper.
5609 County Rd. 20, Hot Sulphur Springs
The drive to the namesake resort with its memorable odor is only half the fun. Located in Grand County, Hot Sulphur Springs is indeed what people conjure in their eyes and noses when hot springs come to mind. So get over the smell and hit Highway 40, relish the benefits of this sulphur seasonal surprise. There are 22 pools at the resort pumped by nearly 200,000 gallons of mineral-rich waters from seven natural springs offering temperatures ranging from 104 to 126 degrees F. This largest conglomerate of hot spring pools in the state, the 80-acre paradise glows come autumn with magnificent aspen trees.
15870 County Rd. 162, Nathrop
Named for the monster fourteener in the shadow of these pools, Mountain Princeton Hot Springs and Resort offers a plethora of choices: the 105-degree F exercise pool, a 90-degree sport pool with lounge chairs and fireplace, a 100-degree F relaxing pool (overnight guests only). For the best colors, head to the river. Located alongside the riverbanks are 30 pools with ranging water temperatures to take in the views of the cottonwoods and aspens turning to yellow and sometimes red if there’s a good rain that year.
65 Hot Springs Blvd., Pagosa Springs
With the deepest hot springs in the world, this resort offers 23 different pools—from the large cement family pool to in-river nooks and rock-bound hot soaking tubs. For the best autumn foliage, head to the super-hot springs by the San Juan River and watch as the aspens and cottonwoods explode with their yellows, oranges and reds. It’s magic to watch the leaves drop into the San Juan as you relax in the healing waters.
44200 County Rd. 36, Steamboat Springs
This is one of the more rustic pools, yet child-friendly with sand bars, smooth, rock steps and paths and fabulous lounge chairs scattered about to dry off and warm up in the color from the seasonal delights. The aspen give off an amazing yellow, orange or red display in September, depending on climate conditions. Pool temperature from 102 to 106 degrees F. It’s easy to get to from downtown Steamboat Springs and most locals just refer to the four pools as “the Park.”
6475 County Rd. 203, Durango
The only hot springs located in the Durango area, this is a terrific treat to take in the Needles Mountain Range. Two natural pools range in temperature from 103 to 109 degrees F. There is also an outdoor, heated, Olympic-sized swimming pool that offers 80 degree F waters. For the color array look to the cottonwoods trees to turn yellows and oranges come autumn.
8007 County Rd. 887, Gunnison
Once you have soaked in the Olympic size pool, with waters between 98 to 99 degrees F, and the hot tub reaching 102 degrees F, ride a horse through the surrounding Gunnison National Forest, predominately pines with pops of yellow from the Aspens. The third weekend in September is peak color.
Julie Bielenberg is a Denver-based freelance writer.