A historic thermal spring in western Colorado has been drawing visitors to its waters since 1888. Located between the ski destinations of Aspen and Vail, the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool is the world’s largest mineral hot springs pool.
Its water comes from the Yampah spring, which produces more than 3.5 million gallons of water per day at a temperature of 122 degrees Fahrenheit. The water is cooled before it reaches the pool, to a more comfortable temperature of 90–93 degrees Fahrenheit (30–34 degrees Celsius). Hot springs are naturally occurring bodies of water warmed by geothermal heat. When these types of springs are found near active volcanos, the water can become superheated and dangerous. But in non-volcanic areas, the heated water tends to be less dangerous and more relaxing, nature’s own hot tub.
Glenwood Springs is also home to the Yampah Vapor Caves, a series of underground natural steam baths. Long before Glenwood Springs was a spa town, the Ute people who originally inhabited the Great Basin region regarded the caves as sacred places for healing and rejuvenation. Though white settlers forced many of the Ute people to relocate to reservations in the southwestern part of the state in the late 19th century, recent years have seen a return to these hot springs. “For a lot of the Ute people, they didn’t realize this was here and this was something our ancestors have utilized for thousands of years,” Ute spiritual leader Kenny Frost told Aspen Public Radio. He has hosted traditional sweats in the caves, which he described as “a reconnection with the sacred site.”
Both the Glenwood Hot Spring Pool and the Yampah Vapor Caves are part of Colorado’s Historic Hot Springs Loop, a 720-mile driving route through the western part of the state that includes 17 of these natural relaxing soaks. The loop travels through Steamboat Springs, Glenwood Springs, Ridgway and Ouray, Pagosa Springs, and Chaffee County. You’ll find a historic bathhouse in Nathrop; waterslides in Steamboat Springs; and scenic trails, camping, and hiking all along the way.