Hurry Up & Relax

Joshua Hardin

Day 1  Adventure Base Camp

People might argue over the pronunciation of Buena Vista (locals say “BYOO-na Vista”), but no one argues about the accuracy of the town’s name. Spanish for “good view,” Buena Vista looks directly upon the goliath Collegiate Peaks: Mount Princeton, flanked by its Ivy League chums Mount Harvard and Mount Yale, all of them 14ers.

The view is the first thing people notice. The second thing is that seemingly every other business in town is an outfitter specializing in some sort of outdoor adventure. When it’s snowy, folks can rent downhill or cross-country skis, snowshoes or snowmobiles. Once it warms up, they can go kayaking or rafting down the raging Arkansas River, horseback riding, hiking, jeeping, rock climbing and ziplining, not to mention hunting and fishing.

No matter what strenuous outdoor activity people engage in, they often rejuvenate at one of the nearby hot springs. Closest to town is Cottonwood Hot Springs, a quiet lodge where alcohol is strictly forbidden, and children must vacate the pools after dark. A feeling of all-encompassing peacefulness is the goal of owner Cathy Manning, a spiritual counselor and licensed hypnotherapist specializing in past life regressions and hands-on healing.

Not far south of Buena Vista in Nathrop is a totally different experience at Mount Princeton Hot Springs. This large, swanky resort has spas, water yoga, a restaurant, bars (of both the cocktail and juice variety) and, of course, numerous geothermal pools and stone-encircled hot pots alongside Chalk Creek with scenic views of the namesake peak.

Day 2  Hermit Hangouts

There are vacations, and then there are getaways. For those who choose the second option and want to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the rest of humanity, there are three small hot springs just minutes down the road from Mount Princeton.

Creekside Hot Springs Cabin and Alpine Hot Springs Hideaway each has a large, private cabin with its own hot springs-fed soaking pool. Both operations have Wi-Fi and TV, allowing guests to retain some link to modern life while isolated in the mountains. However, those who want to sever any and all connections with the outside world – if only temporarily – find solace at Antero Hot Springs Cabins. Two of Antero’s three cabins (each with its own private pool) have no Wi-Fi and no TV. Cell phone service is also pretty spotty, leaving guests free to commune with nature and their own thoughts.

Farther south, Salida’s Hot Springs Aquatic Center is one of the nation’s largest indoor hot springs pools. About 200 men found jobs at a WPA project here during the Great Depression digging a 5-mile pipeline and constructing a concrete pool building. Two other hot springs, Joyful Journey and Valley View, await near the San Luis Valley town of Moffat, 45 minutes south of Salida. Both provide stunning vistas of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains poking dramatically from the lowland floor and provide ideal oases for exploring the desert-like scenery of Great Sand Dunes National Park nearby.

Day 3  The Deepest Abyss

Pagosa Springs is home to the deepest geothermal hot spring on the planet, and they have the Guinness World Records plaque to prove it. Townspeople gathered at The Springs Resort on Aug. 20, 2011, to watch as record adjudicator Amanda Mochan of Guinness World Records oversaw the official measurement of the resort’s Mother Spring. They knew the natural pool measured roughly 35 feet across, but no one knew how deep it went – and they still don’t. 

The crowd watched for 10 anxious minutes as hydrologist John Casey unspooled his plumb line into the abyss. When the entire 1,002-foot rope had been released and still hadn’t hit bottom, the crowd erupted into cheers. For now, we must take it on faith that the spring bottoms out eventually.

The unfathomable Mother Spring feeds The Springs Resort’s series of 23 terraced pools. Pagosa’s spring is not only the deepest, it’s among the hottest, reaching 144 degrees at the thermal layer 45 feet below the surface. Some of the most popular pools in the adults-only VIP section have a commanding view over the entire complex and can top out at toasty temperatures of around 110 degrees. Others are sandy-bottomed circles sitting alongside the San Juan River, where cold river water swirls with hot spring water for invigorating, sometimes sudden, temperature changes.

Just across Hot Springs Boulevard, Healing Waters Resort & Spa is much lower-key, featuring Western-themed cabins, European-style steam rooms and a world-class pool and hot tub. Overlook Hot Springs affords an aerial perspective of town from rooftop tubs and the refined ambience of Victorian-style mineral baths. 


For a full list of Colorado hot springs to visit click here

For the rest of the story see the March/April 2018 issue of Colorado Life.

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Classic Colorado Photobook by Joshua Hardin

Take a journey through colorful Colorado with this classic photobook, featuring shots of the most stunning scenery the Centennial State has to offer. Photographs by Joshua Hardin.
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