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Find Peace at Rustic Cottonwood Hot Springs

Cottonwood Hot Springs Pools

When I think of Cottonwood Hot Springs, a vision of the old Comanche drive-in movie theater sign, with rugged snow-capped mountains in the backdrop, flashes through my mind – a beautiful view you pass on the way to the natural pools.  Or I conjure up an image from a photograph years ago when Josh and I celebrated one of our first anniversaries at Cottonwood Hot Springs. His longer hippie hair, a mischievous look on his face, cheers-ing with a coffee mug. The background is the inside of one of the rustic creekside cabins. That weekend, we spent hours upon hours upon hours in the natural hot springs. Between dips, we played cribbage, drank wine, discovered the bouldering rocks near South Main Street in Buena Vista, and enjoyed dinner and beers at Eddyline Brewery.

Comanche Drive-in Theater
Comanche Drive-in Theater

A friend recently invited us to her father’s house just north of Buena Vista, and we jumped at an opportunity to visit the area once again. And an excuse to spend some quality time relaxing and soaking up minerals.

We try to hit up Cottonwood Hot Springs every time we’re in the Arkansas River Valley.  So I was surprised to learn that it had been several years since our last visit. When I asked whether the hot springs hotel had been remodeled (I thought it looked slightly different), the hostess explained they had a fire 3 years ago. The fire destroyed a portion of the backside of the building – which used to give the appearance of going through a cozy little house before entering the hot springs area.

Peaceful Solitude

The pools were just as I remembered in my daydreams. Nestled in Cottonwood Canyon, the brisk wind whips through the hot springs. Something about how the pools are situated allows you to forget that anything else exists. Maybe it is the lithium, but just a few minutes in Cottonwood Hot Springs and your mind and body will be transported to a place of pure peace. If you’re lucky enough to enjoy the pools without too many other people around, you can hear the babbling Cottonwood Creek below.

Soaking in Cottonwood Hot Springs
Soaking in Cottonwood Hot Springs

Therapeutic Services

Cottonwood Hot Springs offers different types of massages and subtle bodywork. On our most recent trip, we overheard several different people talking about how much they enjoyed the ashiatsu offering – where the therapist walks on your back for deep compression.

What to Expect

The old cabin – which used to offer a changing space for women on one side and men on the other – is now just the men’s locker room. The women’s locker room is a trailer on the right as you head up to the wooden storage cubbies and pools. There are showers too. But if you are expecting posh facilities, lower those expectations; instead, find gratitude in the rustic environment.

Cottonwood Hot Springs Cabin #1
Cottonwood Hot Springs Cabin #1

Want to maximize your time at Cottonwood Hot Springs? No problem. You can reserve a tent site, bunk it up in the dormitory, book a room at the lodge, kickback in one of the rustic cabins, or rent one of Cottonwood Hot Springs’ nearby homes. I recommend the cabins, some of which include a private soaking pool!

Sacred Geothermal Mineral Water

Like most of Colorado’s natural hot springs, Cottonwood Hot Springs was a sacred space for Ute Indians. It was a spiritual gathering place because of the geothermal mineral water’s medicinal and therapeutic benefits.

Whether it is fond memories with Josh or a sanctity similar to what the Utes experienced, Cottonwood Hot Springs holds a special place in my heart.


Cottonwood Hot Springs is open year-round from 8am to 10pm. Unlike some other Colorado mineral springs, swimsuits or clothing is required. The pools are fed by all natural spring water, and the temperatures range from 94’ to 110’.

Cottonwood Hot Springs Inn & Spa | 18999 County Road 306 Buena Vista, CO 81211 | 1.800.241.4119 |

Cottonwood Hot Springs Totem
Cottonwood Hot Springs Totem

More To Do in the Area

I have no problem soaking up natural minerals at Cottonwood Hot Springs and doing nothing else.  But not everyone loves sitting in hot water hours on end.  For those looking for more, Buena Vista and the surrounding area offer many amazing adventure options. Hike one or more of the infamous Collegiate Peaks (many of which are Fourteeners), camp in the San Isabel National Forest, or raft down the Arkansas River.

Liz PM

Liz was fortunate enough to grow up in Steamboat Springs and is proud to have thru-hiked the Colorado Trail. These days, in addition to mountain biking, hot springing, and photographing her way through the Centennial State, Liz teaches yoga and constantly inspires others to enjoy the finer points in life!

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