How to Have The Perfect Hot Springs & Hiking Tour in Colorado
Winter weather is on its way to my neck of the woods, and as the cold winds blow all I can think about is keeping warm. Specifically in water. Today we are talking hot springs, and it will be glorious.
In 2018 My bestie Corey and I did a hot springs and hiking tour around Colorado. I didn’t know what to expect going in, but it was one of my favorite and most relaxing trips of all time. I’m not sure why it’s taken me this long to write about it, but luckily the trip was memorable enough to withstand the years.
We started in the Boulder area, splashed our way through four different hot springs, stayed in Steamboat Springs, Glenwood Springs, and Buena Vista, and fit some seriously cool hikes along the way. Each hot spring had a different flavor and feel, so I’m going to give you the run-down. If you will find yourself in Colorado this winter or spring, then do yourself a favor and plan to visit some hot springs. (Maybe plan a whole hot springs & hiking trip!)
Driving a couple hours will be well worth it, and many of the springs have lodging on-site or nearby (If you’re too relaxed to drive back afterward!) I’ve arranged these in the order I experienced them, and not in order of favorites.
Colorado Hot Springs & Hiking Tour
Perfect 6-day Itinerary
1. Hot Sulphur Springs
Hot Sulphur Springs, CO
We started the trip with a visit to Hot Sulphur Springs, 2 hours and 40 minutes from Boulder according to Apple Maps.
These were the most mineral-filled springs of all. There are 21 pools of varying shape, size and temperature, and the sulfur for which the town is named was both pungent and abundant.
(Notice the spelling of the Springs uses a “ph” in Sulphur. “Sulfur” became the preferred spelling in 1990 in the US, but Hot Sulphur Springs was founded quite a bit earlier—in 1860!)
Corey tells me the sulfur in the water is healing. And there is plenty of Google research to back this up. Bathing in mineral-rich waters is said to promote relaxation, decrease stress, detoxify the skin, and serve as a natural pain reliever. How about them apples? I found this place to be a bit shabbier than the other springs we visited, not necessarily in a bad way, but in a rustic way. It felt as if you’d taken a step back in time. Still, we had a blast hopping from pool to pool. Corey tells me this is her favorite hot springs due to the magical healing waters.
There is lodging available on premises that appears pretty basic on the website. I’d recommend finding a nice little Airbnb like we did—perhaps in Steamboat Springs.
Monday-Sunday, 8am-10pm. For more info, visit their website.
“Never Ending Footsteps”
Lodging & Hikes
After Hot Sulphur Springs, we made our way to Steamboat Springs. We spent two nights in a gorgeous Airbnb overlooking a great expanse of flat grass and stream, ski-sloped mountains towering above in the distance.
Emerald Falls gives a great view of Steamboat Springs from the top. We went in April, so there was snow left on the ski runs in Steamboat, but the rest had melted leaving a gray/brown landscape in the surrounding area. On Emerald Mountain, there was a thick cover of snow on the upper portion of the trail. Be mindful of this if you’re hiking in Colorado in the spring or fall. We left with wet shoes and happy hearts.
For more info on this trail click here: Emerald Mountain via Blackmere Trail – Colorado | AllTrails
Fish Creek Falls was fantastic. Not only did we see a gorgeous waterfall, we also saw wildlife. A young moose and a marmot. Unfortunately I did not have my phone out to capture the moose, but I did get a pic of this little chunko. The trail is rated as hard on alltrails, but we definitely did not exert that much energy here. We may have taken a shorter route, or it might not be as hard as they say.
For more info click here: Fish Creek Falls Trail – Colorado | AllTrails
A cute marmot
view of Steamboat from the top of Emerald Mountain
2. Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Steamboat Springs, CO
Day 2 of our hot springs and hiking adventure took us to Strawberry Park Hot Springs, my favorite of the bunch. Going to Strawberry Hot Springs is like slipping into the pages of a fairy tale. Secluded in the woods with trees surrounding, you feel one with nature here. And if you stay after dark, you can really get natural—The springs become clothing-optional after sunset. (After my first foray into public nudity at Blacks Beach, you know I want to go back just for this!)
There are cabins for changing, restrooms on site, and lodging is available, too. As part of COVID precautions, reservations are required to use the hot springs. It was cash only the day we went, though that may have changed by now. Strawberry Park Hot Springs are open every day 10am-10pm. Only four-wheel drive vehicles are permitted to drive to the springs from Nov 1- May 1, but there are two shuttle companies that can bring you there.
For more information, click here: Strawberry Hot Springs Information
Strawberry Hot Springs was a magical place
Lodging & Hike
Stay in Glenwood Springs. (We stayed in Bond, CO, on our 2018 hiking & hot springs tour, but we visited Glenwood Springs in November 2021 and had a great time.) It’s a cute town that feels like the old west but has plenty of creature comforts, coffee shops, and funky stores. Check out one of the crystal shops if you’re into that sort of thing, and stop by the Chocolate Moose Ice Cream Parlor for a treat!
just clowning around in Glenwood Springs
Hanging Lake, Gypsum, CO
This is one of the most beautiful hikes I have ever done. Unfortunately, the trail is closed indefinitely due to damage from intense rains. Apparently whole bridges were wiped out. This makes it all the more lucky that we got to experience the magic of this trail when we did. And it was pretty magical. HOPEFULLY by the time you get to CO to complete this itinerary, Hanging Lake will be open once more. You can stop off on the way from Steamboat to Glenwood Springs, the trail entrance is right off the highway.
I was feeling under the weather the day we went to Hanging Lake. The weather was even under the weather– snow then sun, then gray clouds and rain, then sun again. Between my sniffles and the unpredictable weather, we went back and forth the whole way. Should we or shouldn’t we? Risk getting sicker? Trudge up the mountain in the cold while my body was aching? In a moment of decent-looking weather, as we passed the exit, we decided to give it a shot. And we ended up being so glad we did.
You see, the weather turned on us. Within 15 minutes of hiking, fluffy white snowflakes were coming down hard and fast. But while it sucked getting wet, my nose running down my face, and snowflakes slapping me from all directions, it kind of made the experience better. Crazy, I know. But no one else was on the trail. We had the woods to ourselves. And the snow made the already quiet scene even more muffled. It was honestly like a dream. We hiked all the way up, stopping to take some incredible photos, and were stunned to see Hanging Lake, in all it’s blue-green glory, once we got to the top. This is a super popular hike. Had the weather not turned, we would have shared the view with potentially hundreds of other people. Instead, we got to see Hanging Lake, pristine, quiet, framed by sparkling snow.
I spent the evening sneezing and sipping cold medicine, but it was 100% worth it. If you ever happen to be driving by Hanging Lake, do not debate. Pull off, park, and hike the trail. Thank me later.
For more info, click here: Permits & Reservations for the Hanging Lake Trail in Glenwood Canyon (visitglenwood.com)
Hanging Lake gets it’s color from minerals in the water.
This was SO worth the cold.
3. Iron Mountain Hot Springs
Glenwood Springs, CO
Iron Mountain was the fanciest stop on our hot springs and hiking tour. It’s resort-style, the pools actually look like swimming pools in concrete. The locker rooms have amenities like showers, hair dryers and even a swimsuit drying machine. You can purchase locally-made lotions and soaps, bathing suits, and other souvenirs in the lobby gift shop. The pools overlook the Colorado River, which would be nicer if you couldn’t see the Petco and HomeGoods across the highway. Corey and I went back to Iron Mountain this past November when I was visiting her in Vail. This time we went in the evening, and it was wonderful. I highly recommend a sunset soaking at this hot spring. The views are nicer, there is relaxing spa-like music, and when we went mid-November, there were little lanterns and white lights strung up that made it prettier and much more cozy.
for more info, click here: Iron Mountain Hot Springs ~ Glenwood Springs, Colorado
There is a gondola right next door to the spa, so if you’ve got time, I recommend taking a ride up. The views are fantastic. If you have kiddos with you, there is a small theme park and seasonal rides up top. There are also caves to be explored and some dining options. If nothing else, go for the views.
This was fun during the day, but I definitely preferred Iron Mountain at night.
Lodging & Hikes
Buena Vista, CO
Buena Vista is just 15 minutes away from Mount Princeton Hot Springs, which is the next stop on our list. Corey and I stayed in a lovely little Airbnb, ate good food, and relaxed like there was no tomorrow. Buena Vista is known for having a chill, mountain-town vibe. We can vouch for that. I wish I could remember the restaurants we ate at, but I cannot. All I know is delicious vegetarian fare was had, followed by fancy tea and pastries. This is the perfect location to spend the night in between your hot spring adventures.
Plan your visit: Buena Vista Vacations, Activities & Things To Do | Colorado.com
Riverside Trail, Buena Vista, CO
This is an lovely easy trail along the river. There are several trails that connect, so if you’re looking for a better workout or views of the Collegiate Peaks, you will have come to the right place! We had an awesome choose-your-own-adventure hike here, and took lots of photos to prove it.
For more information, click here: Riverside Trail Hiking Trail, Buena Vista, Colorado (hikingproject.com)
4. Mount Princeton Hot Springs
Mount Princeton Hot Springs was another place where you could really get down with nature. There is a large hot swimming pool, but that is not where we went. Chalk Creek, which runs behind the main bathhouse, is where the action is. This is the only hot springs we went to that felt completely natural—we weren’t in a man-made pool. The creek itself is cool, but there are geothermal springs along its sides, surrounded by rocks that form individual pools. Each one varies in shape and size, and you have a bit of control of the temperature. Just move a rock to let some of the cool creek water in if you’re getting overheated. Plug it back up when you want it warmer. You can essentially build your own hot spring pool by moving these rocks around. (They range from grapefruit to basketball size, for reference.)
In addition to the Chalk Creek, there is a heated infinity pool as well as a waterslide area. It is worth mentioning that this resort is family friendly. There is lodging if you’d like to stay on property, and there are locker rooms for changing and leaving your things. Towels can be rented. Mount Princeton Hot Springs is open every day of the year 9am-9pm.
For more information, click here: Hot Springs Rates & Hours Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort (mtprinceton.com)
I’m not sure why we look like such babies in these pictures, but I sure am glad for our 2022 hairdos.
So I’ve given you the perfect 6-day hot springs and hiking itinerary. Now you can have the best girls trip/ couple’s trip/ solo trip EVER in Colorado. But what to bring?
Don’t worry, I’ve got you. Read on for what to bring on your CO hot springs & hiking tour.
What To Pack for your Hot Springs Tour
Do NOT bring your brand new bathing suit. Leave your brand new bathing suits at home, and pack your older ones for this hot springs and hiking trip. Not only will you be in a creek and climbing through the woods, but the minerals in some of the waters can fade or discolor your suits. And that sulfur smell sticks around!
Weirdly, some of the hot springs only accepted cash. Make sure you have some on hand. I realllly don’t want you to miss out on Strawberry.
3. Packable Microfiber Towel
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. This is a MUST HAVE item for any travel involving pool, beach, hot springs, or any other water activities. These towels dry in half the time of traditional towels (or less) and roll up into tiny, packable tubes.
If you haven’t bought yourself a packable towel yet, here’s your cue to do it. There are a million options on Amazon and they are all reasonably priced.
I dare you to try this SPF and not fall in love.
A packable microfiber towel is essential for travelers.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall; If you’ll be out in the daytime in Colorado, you need SPF. The elevation makes the sun super strong, and if there is snow on the ground the UV rays will reflect, making it even stronger.
You didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway. Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen is the way to go if you want a face sunblock that won’t cause breakouts, sticky feeling, or a “sunblock” smell. It has the consistency of primer, can be worn daily with or without makeup and is just freaking AWESOME. If you’re looking for a new everyday SPF, here is your sign. (SPF 40, Reef-safe, cruelty-free, and for the fellas, it is apparently “beard friendly”, whatever that means.)
5. Your Zen
Hot Springs are a perfect way to soak away the stresses of daily life. Do your best to stay in the moment, relax, and enjoy your surroundings. Snapping a few pictures is fine (IMO, as you can see), but otherwise try not to be on your phone. Talk to some strangers, or your soaking companion, or just sit quietly by yourself. I guarantee you’ll feel like a million bucks if you surrender to the waters.
6. Your Bestie
This trip would not have been any fun at all if it weren’t for my awesome, adventure-loving, trip-planning, BOSS of a bestie. This nature-filled trip was an AMAZING alternative to the typical “girls’ trip”. Definitely recommend grabbing your best friend, packing the car and hitting the road next time you need a getaway. (And hot, healing waters are not the worst way to do it😉)
An adventure-loving bestie is The best travel accessory.
And that is that. Your hand-picked (by my awesome travel-planning bestie) hot springs and hiking tour itinerary. This is the perfect way to get a taste of the best Colorado has to offer. Hot water, cool towns, dope views. Any other questions?
If you have more hot springs recommendations—in Colorado or literally anywhere else—send them my way! Leave it in the comments or send me a DM. Hot springs are all I want as soon as I feel the first chill in the air.
I hope this helps someone plan an awesome CO getaway. I know I am dying to relive this week.
Until then, happy travels y’all. Stay safe and warm out there.