Hot springs hikes in Colorado: 5 stunning saunters with a soak
Our five favorite hot springs hikes in Colorado are a unique way to enjoy the backcountry, combining alpine views with a long, hot soak in the outdoors
If you’ve never sat in a Colorado hot spring on a cold winter evening with the snow falling on your steaming head, you’ve never truly lived. Our five favorite hot springs hikes in Colorado are a unique way to enjoy the backcountry, combining breathtaking alpine views with a long, hot soak in the outdoors.
The Rocky Mountain geology that created Colorado’s incredible scenery also left us with almost 100 hot springs around the state. These mineral-rich springs of geothermally heated water were used for their perceived health benefits by the Ute Indians, and later by mining settlers. Today, these steaming pools are frequented by Colorado locals and guests alike. Though the mystical healing powers of hot springs – such as silica for softening your skin – haven’t been clinically proven, soaking in a hot tub with mountain views certainly does the heart and mind good, and is a great way to relax after a day in the mountains, especially in winter.
Lots of Colorado hot springs are developed, which means you pay a fee to access them and can expect man made pools with amenities like towels and showers. These can of course be paired with a nearby hike, but for this article we’ve focused on some of the best primitive hot springs that you can hike to and don’t have to pay to access. We’ll be honest, these are no longer well-kept secrets so you’re unlikely to have them all to yourself unless you make like a local and adventure on weekdays and off-season, but they’re unlikely to ever be as mobbed as Glenwood Hot Springs.
As for etiquette, swimwear is sometimes required and often optional in Colorado hot springs, but it’s never forbidden. Drinking a beer in the hot springs is definitely considered kosher, but leaving your trash behind is not. Get your hiking boots on, pack your best water shoes, fill your water bottle and head out for a soak in the wild with these hot springs hikes in Colorado.
Conundrum Hot Springs, Aspen
Hike distance: 17 miles
A trip to Conundrum Hot Springs in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is more of a bucket list adventure than a quick afternoon soak, with a 17 mile round trip journey to get there, however at the end you’ll be rewarded with picturesque mountain views. These remote hot springs feature several pools and are some of the highest in the country, at 11,200ft and are best enjoyed on an overnight backpacking trip – however you’ll need to arrange a camping permit in advance. The trailhead is just 20 minutes down Castle Creek Road from downtown Aspen and is snow covered in winter so plan this between July and September.
Radium Hot Springs, Kremmling
Hike distance: 1.4 miles
If you’re looking for something a bit more accessible, Radium Hot Springs near Kremmling is easy to reach and can be combined with a bit of cliff jumping if you’re seeking more thrills. This hot spring sits right on the banks of the Colorado River and the river water tends to cool the waters down a bit, and you can even dip a foot in the river to cool off if you get too hot. However, in spring during snow runoff they are sometimes completely flooded and cold, so don’t go if the river is high or you’ll be disappointed. From Wolcott, take 131 North to Trough Road and drive to the end. Take a left on County Road 11 and park at Mugrage Campground, then hike down the dirt road to the river. You can make this an overnight trip by camping at the primitive campground. Once you’re soaking, you can watch daredevils jump off the cliff into the river, but take care if you decide to give it a try – it is not that deep.
Rainbow Hot Springs, Pagosa Springs
Hike distance: 10 miles
The day hike to Rainbow Hot Springs takes you to three lovely hot springs tucked away in the Weminuche Wilderness near a scenic waterfall that feeds the San Juan River. From Hwy 160 take 648 North and start from the West Fork Trailhead. It’s a moderate hike to the waterfall and when you cross the creek, you’ll find the first hot spring. Soak here or if it’s busy, keep going up the trail for another quarter mile to find the other two springs in an alpine meadow.
Piedra River Hot Springs, Pagosa Springs
Hike distance: 3 miles
South of Pagosa Springs in the San Juan National Forest, these three hot springs sit along the Piedra River and are reached by a pleasant, downhill hike on the way in. Once in the pools, you’re surrounded by rocks and pine forest for a secluded and peaceful vibe. Start from the Sheep Creek trailhead off County Road 166 and remember you’ll have to hike back up after your soak so drink plenty of water while you’re in the springs.
South Canyon Hot Springs, Glenwood Springs
Hike distance: 0.2 mile
If you’re seeking something less developed than Glenwood or Iron Mountain Hot Springs and still lamenting the loss of the Hippy Dip, South Canyon Hot Springs are only 15 minutes from town and offer great mountain views from their post up on the hillside. Take 134 south from 70 and find the trailhead just after the bridge about a mile down the road. Obviously, these hot springs don’t require much of a hike at all, but you can easily pair them with nearby Grizzly Creek or Hanging Lake (if you have a permit).
All the latest inspiration, tips and guides to help you plan your next Advnture!
Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.