You’ve heard of the usual places. You know, the ones that make it into the top 10 lists in magazines, places like Strawberry Park Hot Springs and Conundrum. Places that are great, but also a wee bit crowded. Places that are known, places where you’ll see people. Places that, yes, are on top 10 lists.
Well, forget those places for a minute. Forget the magazines and their lists because we have something better for you. A humble list from a humble newspaper that knows you don’t want crowds, you don’t need amenities and you don’t care about trends. Because what you want is hot water and a soak in solitude. Here’s the Hot List of Hot Springs from Boulder Weekly.
Rainbow Hot Springs, Pagosa Springs, CO
Perched at 9,000 feet high in the Weminuche Wilderness outside of Pagosa Springs (which, incidentally is home to commercial hot springs pools), Rainbow Hot Springs is a 5-mile hike in but well worth it. With temperatures hovering around 100 F and plenty of hot water bubbling out of the earth, these springs are enhanced by primitive, volunteer soaking pools built on the edge of the San Juan River. The pools comprise two options, a lower larger and slightly cooler option that can hold up to 10 or 11 people and a hotter upper pool that’s intimate with room for about three.
Piedra River Hot Springs, Pagosa Springs, CO
Also down Pagosa Springs way and at an elevation of approximately 7,400 feet, the Piedra River Hot Springs are at the end of a challenging 2-mile hike. The water, at approximately 110 F is plenty hot and the location, on the banks of the Piedra River in the San Juan National Forest, is peaceful. One caveate: these are primitive soaking pools and can be under water in the spring, when the Piedra River is swollen with snowmelt.
Valley View Hot Springs, Villa Grove, CO
A funky combination of developed facilities and primitive gravel-bottomed soaking pools outside of Villa Grove, these springs are a throwback to an earlier, less polished era in our state. With rustic cabins and tent camping spots on site, it’s no surprise that this is a popular spot, so popular in fact that entry is limited to retain the simple vibe of the spot. The springs and associated facilities are owned and operated by Orient Land Trust, a charitable nonprofit organization, which has the mandate to preserve this delicate and peaceful ecosystem, Even when accommodations are available people are still turned away, especially on weekends when pool capacities are reached. Because of this, reservations are highly recommended.
Penny Hot Springs, Redstone, CO
Penny Hot Springs are a rugged roadside attraction, with water that’s as hot as 133 F flowing out of a bank next to the Crystal River outside of Redstone. You might be tempted to go au naturel here, but the proximity to the road means that you’re better off bringing your swimsuit. With volunteer pools strategically placed to allow for the mixing of the icy waters of the Crystal River and the steaming flow of the Penny Springs, its easy to find the right spot with the right temperature for you. Find these springs on the east side of Colorado 113, .2 miles south of mile marker 57.
Spence and McCauley Hot Springs, Jemez Springs, NM
OK, so these two beautiful and spectacular springs aren’t in Colorado. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t gas up a jalopy, load up some friends and their friends too and take a road trip down New Mexico way. Both springs are located north of Jemez Springs, a peaceful small town tucked into the folds of the Jemez Mountains, approximately three hours south of Durango. In town there are some restaurants, galleries and spa hotels (with associated commercial hot springs), along with the Bodi Manda Zen Center, a Buddhist retreat. For those on a budget there is ample camping in the mountains and the hiking and biking is also excellent.