The sun is shining, the weather is sweet, yeah…the day’s late August temps are in the low 70s…and we’re feeling good. Some reggae beats in the background are imploring us to get outside. It’s time to hightail it over to Hot Sulphur Springs for an afternoon soak.
Located just 1 hour 45 outside of Denver and 30 minutes from Winter Park, Hot Sulphur Springs is a fresh – and very pungent – breath of mountain air.
The natural hot springs are heated from geothermal activity and surface at about 104ºF to 126ºF. Over 200,000 gallons of natural, hot mineral-rich water flow through 24 mineral pools and baths every day at controlled temperatures of 95º to 112ºF. No chemicals are added to the water, and it is not filtered or re-circulated. Minerals in the water include sodium, sulfate, chloride, silica, potassium, calcium, fluoride, magnesium and trace elements of arsenic and lithium, all of which are beneficial to your body.
The lower pools are family friendly, while the upper pools are for adults only. The place is an amazing hodgepodge of concrete pools, cave pools, hot tubs, indoor pools, and outdoor pools. There’s even a slide that plummets into the lowest pool. And it all works perfectly.
As I slowly slink into one of the warmer pools, I can’t help but imagine what this place looked like 100 or even 150 years ago. Hot Sulphur Springs was once a winter camp for Native Americans who came to use the hot springs for medicinal purposes. It must have been such a unique gathering place. The warm water of Hot Sulphur Springs coupled with the Colorado River just a few feet away would have been quite a draw.
As for early European settlers, William Newton Byers, founder of the Rocky Mountain News, discovered the springs in 1840. The town was established in 1860, making it the oldest town in what is now Grand County. The first pool house was built around 1900. The first lodging rooms opened in 1926. The railroad arrived in 1928. The resort was extensively renovated in 1997.
It attracted famous visitors, including Zane Grey and John Wesley Powell. Imagine sharing the hot spring with the likes of Powell and then watching him practice rowing in the nearby rapids while he prepared for his infamous trip down the Colorado River into the Grand Canyon.
So much history of the West happened or flowed through Colorado. It’s bewildering how little places like Hot Sulphur Springs hold so much of the story.
We’ve been enjoying the pools for well over two hours. I guess it’s time to make our way back home. As we pull out of the parking area we catch a sign asking if we’re “Relaxed?”
Yup, the feel good vibes are still flowing. We pull up to a stop sign plastered in bumper stickers, cross over the railroad tracks that have been in place for nearly a century, and bounce up the hill to grab some ice cream.
If you’re ever in Hot Sulphur Springs, make sure you stop at the Dari-Delight. The owner is sarcastic as hell, and serves up some greasy food and soft serve treats. We met the owners last year while soaking it up at the springs, and we stop by every chance we get!
It’s been a great afternoon. Thank you Hot Sulphur Springs for satisfying my soul!