The Hot Sulphur Springs Resort & Spa draws a diverse crowd all year round. Those seeking to relax wander from one pool to the next at this resort just a half-hour northwest of Winter Park, Colorado, and south of Grand Lake and Rocky Mountain National Park. A mix of altitude (elevation 7,662 feet), minerals and geothermic activity makes for good medicinal fun for everyone.
Once inside the pools area, everyone seeks out the pool they’ve seen in all the publicity shots beforehand. It’s one of the largest soaking spots and also the most naturally photogenic. A deep-pressure hot-water cascade falls onto the shoulders of the lucky one standing in the hotspot underneath.
From there, people find their niche in one of 20 other pools. Kids pull their parents toward a refreshing dip in the full-size swimming pool. The adults gravitate toward the hotter pools that are scattered throughout several levels of height and temperature. A group of bridesmaids on a wedding shower getaway weekend daringly dip their toes in Lupe’s Pool, one of the hottest on the premises with a temperature that reaches up to 112 degrees. Groups of foreign tourists chat in Japanese and German in the covered Pow-Wow Pool, shielding themselves from the rays of the high-altitude sun. For romancing couples, several tubs make ideal smooching nooks, especially at sunset or after dark until 10 p.m., when the pools close. A favorite is the Hillside Pool, which reaches temperatures between 103 degrees and 105 degrees and has a view of the small town surrounding it.
Every few hours an Amtrak train rumbles by, punctuating the quiet and relaxation. People have been arriving at Hot Sulphur Springs by rail since 1905, when the Denver Northwest and Pacific railroad first arrived and opened the area to a steady stream of that era’s version of medical tourism. Before that, the first attempts to promote the area and its medicinal properties began in the 1860s, when Denver businessman William Newton Byers, founder of the Rocky Mountain News, bought the site for development into a resort spa. Despite his building and rebranding of the area from “Saratoga West” to “Warm Springs” and “Hot Sulphur Springs” to convey its healing qualities, the site failed to emerge on the map until the early 1900s, when it was incorporated and a rail arrived. Today, Hot Sulphur Springs is still pleasantly more off the radar than some of the popular Colorado hot springs headliners like Glenwood Springs and Ouray.
The geothermic endowments that make Hot Sulphur Springs possible are seven natural hot springs that flow above volcanic fissures a baffling 35,000 feet below the surface of the earth. The temperature of these springs when they finally surface is anywhere from about 104 degrees to 126 degrees. Every day, the resort cycles 200,000 gallons of this naturally heated water through its 22 pools, keeping the temperatures controlled between 95 degrees and 112 degrees. The mineral content of the water includes silica, sulfate, chloride, sodium, fluoride, calcium, potassium and magnesium. No artificial chemicals are added. Don’t worry about the milky appearance of the water or even the traces of slippery white solids and sediments you’ll find in the water – it’s good for you.
Although Hot Sulphur Springs is closer to Denver than Colorado’s other major hot springs, it makes a better weekend getaway than day trip. After all, the point is to take it slow and enjoy some deep relaxation. The town of Hot Sulphur Springs has a handful of accommodations, and the resort has its own simple lodging of 17 motel rooms. There also are upscale cabins nearby, as well as camping options. Hot Sulphur Springs is in convenient proximity to fun outdoor activities to complete the weekend. Rent a boat on nearby Lake Granby or Grand Lake, or venture into Rocky Mountain National Park for all sorts of hiking options.
If You Go
Hot Sulphur Springs Resort & Spa
P.O. Box 275
5609 County Road 20
Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado 80451
970-725-3306 or 800-510-6235
General admission to the pools is $17.50. From there, you can upgrade to access to the private pools. Spa services such as massage therapy are the perfect complement to a day of soaking. Book your spa treatment in advance, as slots can fill up quickly.
Where there are built-up hot springs pool facilities, there are also natural hot springs for the finding nearby. The same fissures that heat up the Hot Sulphur Springs’ 200,000 gallons of water each day also heat up little pockets of water in the Grand River that runs through Hot Sulphur Springs. Off-the-beaten-path adventurers should follow the river along U.S. 40 west toward Kremmling and Radium. A trailhead at a campground near Radium leads to the spots in the river where people have arranged rocks to capture the hot water springing up into the river, forming their own hot springs pools right in the river. The best time of year to do this is the late summer, when the high water levels of the snowmelt have subsided and the makeshift pools are exposed. To get more information about how to access this spot in the river and if it is possible during your trip, contact the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Kremmling, 2103 E. Park Ave., Kremmling, Colorado 80459, 970-724-3000.
Cynthia Ord is a freelance writer based in her hometown of Denver CO, a contributing editor at The Travel Word (http://www.thetravelword.com/), and a Latin America addict.