Penny Hot Springs – Carbondale, Colorado - Atlas Obscura

Penny Hot Springs

Carbondale, Colorado

A little-known hot spring haven right below the highway. 


Sure, you know about Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, but that’s for tourists and takes a lot of pennies. The Penny Hot Springs 30 minutes south is for those in the know, and is absolutely free.

The Penny Hot Springs are located below the large granite cliffs named “Hell’s Gates.” They were named for hotelier Dan Penny, who set up a hotel and bathhouse and made good use of the springs. The cultural revolution of the 1960s brought less modesty, and visitors started to enjoy the springs au naturale.

Unfortunately, locals were not pleased with this, and essentially shut the bathhouse down. About 20 years ago, the county purchased the property and restored the pools.  Today the natural, non-commercialized setting is peaceful and makes you feel like you’re in on a secret. 

The white hot spring water mixes with the frigid Crystal River and creates varied temperature pools, depending on how much river water is allowed into the rock pools. The water can be deceptively hot—it will scald and you cannot tell if the stream running into the river is cold or hot by sight, so step over until you know for sure.  

Know Before You Go

Coming from the North, look for the extra wide shoulder on the east side of the highway (2 lane) near mile marker 55. There are no signs, but you've missed it if you pass mile marker 55. Park on the shoulder of the highway and hike down a steep hill to the river. There are no signs, and unless you know just where to look you might miss them, but in a ditch at the bottom of the hill is Penny Hot Springs. Spring is a poor time to visit as the snow cold runoff overwhelms the heat of the springs, but the rest of the year is very wonderful for visits. These hot springs are bare bones and completely natural, with no facilities beyond what nature provides. 

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