Close your eyes and imagine, for a moment, soaking outdoors in toasty, steaming waters filled with skin-smoothing minerals, the fresh, brisk mountain air of the Rockies intermittently chilling your face as you absorb the brilliant Colorado sun.
Aaahhhh. Sounds magical, right?
It really is ... for the most part. But looks can be deceiving (and tushies can be frozen) if you don't know quite what you're in for. We did some learning in our first hot springs visit this winter; check out these travel tips before you take the plunge at Glenwood Hot Springs.
Travel Tips for Glenwood Hot Springs
First things first: Glenwood Hot Springs is not tied to a hotel. There are hotels near the hot springs, in the town named Glenwood Springs. But the facility named Glenwood Hot Springs is akin to a very large public pool. That's not necessarily bad; it's just important to know.
As with any public pool facility, you'll want flip-flops. You may want a robe, too--it's really, really cold walking from the bathhouse to the pool and from one pool to the other, especially when temps are in the single digits in the dead of winter. You may even want to bring your own beach towel; they'll give you two towels when you sign in at the pool, but they're rather thin and lackluster.
Bring a duffel bag for your clothes, too. There are small lockers inside the poolhouse, but they're not always super clean. And if you take your clothes outside with you in the winter unprotected, there's a good chance they'll freeze solid to the pool chair.
Other things to tote along on your visit to the hot springs: sunscreen for those brilliantly bright Rocky Mountain days; a hair tie or hat so your hair doesn't absorb the faintly sulphuric odor of the mineral waters; and soap for rinsing off in the poolhouse showers after you soak, because your skin might be sensitive to the water.
When we took the family for a trip, we booked a room at the lodge that is listed on the Glenwood Hot Springs website. When you look at the photos on the website, it wouldn't be hard to believe that the pretty stone building right beside the pool is the lodge. You would, however, be wrong. The actual lodge isn't bad at all, but it's a rather nondescript and somewhat dated structure, not the historic building connected to the hot springs across the street.
And that's the other thing to keep in mind: the hot springs pools are across the street from the lodge. To get from the hotel to the hot springs, you need to get suited up for possible frigid alpine air--socks and shoes, clothes, coat, the whole nine yards--and scoot across the road, down the hill and around to the front of the poolhouse. The lodge doesn't provide robes, so come prepared.
Do not come with your own alcoholic beverages; they're not permitted at the hot springs pools. If you want to go hot-tubbing with a glass of wine or a cold beer, you'll have to go elsewhere.
If you go in the evening, you may notice that it's suddenly much more crowded at 9 p.m. That's because Glenwood Hot Springs offers a special rate from 9 to 10 p.m., so many locals wait till the final hour to take a dip.
It took us a while to discover this, thanks to the extreme steam rising up in the bitterly cold night air, but there are actually two pools at Glenwood Hot Springs. One is hotter; the other, not as much. Depending on the time of day, time of year and your activity level and personal heat settings, you may need to hop out of the hotter pool on the regular.
That beautiful historic building that shows up in all the photos on the website? It's the historic bathhouse, now home to a lovely smelling spa and workout facility. But access to these amenities does not come with your hot springs admission, nor is it included in your lodge costs. Whether you want to while away the hours with a massage and facial, or you just want to get the blood pumping with 20 minutes on the stair machine, you'll have to pay extra.
And the question of the hour? Yes, the hot springs smell. The water bubbles up from the underground Yampah Spring with 15 different naturally occurring minerals, one of which is sulfate, a compound of sulfur. But the smell isn't strong, and it's actually evidence of a good thing: sulfur is used by your body to make collagen (the thing that makes your skin more elastic and younger looking); in keratin (the building block of strong hair and nails); and to ease irritated skin and relieve pain.
In short, every time that you bob in the hot cocktail that constitutes Glenwood Hot Springs, you're absorbing all kinds of healthy, earthy minerals. People in pioneer times used to drink it straight, no chaser, as you'll learn from the historic display. I prefer to absorb mine through my skin, thanks.
As well, there's residual chlorine in the pools, required by the Colorado Department of Public Health, and the pools are filtered and cleaned with an ozone purification system such that the water changes over every six hours. Fresh water also is added to bring the natural temperature of the spring water down from 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
The pools are closed for a day roughly every two months, too, so that they can be thoroughly cleaned. Check the calendar online before you plan a trip.
We thought it would be super to soak after a day of skiing, to ease the aches and pains of tumbling down the side of a mountain head over heels. (This is my version of skiing.) And it was. But my favorite memory comes from the following day, when we spent hours wandering back and forth and around in the cooler pool, getting in a little exercise and feeling the delicious mix of hot sunshine, cold breeze and soft steam. It was such a treat for the senses, especially considering the view of the snow-covered Rockies rising up all around.
So go! You'll be glad you did. Just check out some travel tips for Glenwood Hot Springs *beyond* the official website and know what's what before you go.