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Aspen Vacation Day Trips: Glenwood Springs

Brandon Wenerd's picture

Hot Springs PoolHot Springs PoolIf you live or play in Aspen, there are plenty of practical reasons to make the 40 minute trip down valley to Glenwood Springs: cheaper gas prices, a trip to Target or Wal-Mart for an inexpensive kitchen appliance, or a hassle-free and scenic mode of transportation to Denver or points west via Amtrak’s famous “California Zephyr” as it winds through a breathtaking alpine landscape and remote mountain passes.

Practicality aside, visitors to Aspen will find ample reasons to visit Glenwood Springs other than shopping at a discounted big box retailer or a quick petro fill-up after getting off I-70.

At an elevation of 5,400 feet, Glenwood Springs is the lowest point in the Roaring Fork Valley. In fact, Glenwood Springs is where the Roaring Fork River empties into the Colorado River after a 70 mile, 6000 vertical foot descent from the river’s headwaters above Aspen, near the Continental Divide at Independence Pass (elevation 12,095 feet). The town is situated on the western end of the Glenwood Canyon, a mammoth and spectacular peach sandstone gorge with soaring bluffs carved by the rushing currents of the Colorado River.

With a residential population of around 9,000, Glenwood Springs thrives as an important juncture for family tourism and commerce. The town boasts a fabled Wild West history as well as a plethora of family friendly attractions.

Since the mid-1800s, the biggest crowd-puller to Glenwood Springs has been the natural geothermic hot springs, believed by many to possess therapeutic powers. Each day over 3.5 million gallons of piping hot mineral water gushes out of a natural source in the hillside next to the Colorado River. The Hot Springs Pool diverts, filters, and cools these naturally hot artesian waters into a gigantic pool over two city blocks long. The pool is nothing short of a modern marvel and is considered the largest natural hot springs pool in the world. No matter what time of year, families will love the Hot Springs Pool. The main pool is kept at a refreshing yet warm 90 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit year round. The adjacent therapy pool is kept at a steamy 104 degrees Fahrenheit, guaranteed to make your skin silky soft as you delicately prune in the balmy waters.

Throughout its history, the Hot Springs Pool has attracted everyone from Hollywood elite to United States Presidents seeking the euphoric elixir of youth from a soothing and rejuvenating soak. Despite the size and modern bathhouse facilities, the pool can still get crowded, particularly on the weekends. Early mornings and twilight are spectacular and peaceful times to visit and avoid the crowds.

Immediately down the road from the Hot Springs Pool, Yampah Hot Springs and Spa offers a one-of opportunity to indulge in Mother Nature’s version of a sauna: a steamy vapor cave. Reaching temperatures of 110 -112 degrees, the caves and baths are heated by natural steam from an underground geothermal mineral springs. The Ute Indians regarded the location as sacred, naming it “Yampah” for “Grand Spring." Nowadays, Yampah offers a full service spa, completely with exotic herbal treatments and delightfully indulgent mineral baths.

Because of the town’s proximity along the Colorado River and the White River National Forest, Glenwood Springs is an ideal base camp for white water rafting trips on the Colorado River through the Glenwood Canyon or further east in Eagle County. The town also boasts another geological anomaly: Glenwood Caverns, an impressive and sprawling underground cavern of stalagmites and stalactites. A short tram ride to the top of Iron Mountain offers a beautiful overlook of the town and leads to the entrance of the caverns.

Hotel ColoradoHotel ColoradoHistory buffs will be fascinated by the town’s compelling history. Immediately above the Hot Springs Pool, the historic Hotel Colorado induces a splash of old-world Italianate grandeur, overlooking the Colorado River, downtown Glenwood Springs, and the perennially bustling rail yards. One of the oldest hotels in Colorado, President Theodore Roosevelt used the hotel as his base camp during his 1905 summer vacation to the Rocky Mountains. Doc Holliday, the legendary Wild West gambler and O.K. Corral gunslinger – perhaps nowadays best known for the catch phrase “I’ll be your huckleberry” from the movie “Tombstone” – spent the final months of his life in Glenwood Springs trying to ward off tuberculosis by bathing in the famous hot mineral waters. The hot springs did not remedy the disease and Doc died in Glenwood from consumption, rumored to murmur his last words from his bedside in the Hotel Glenwood: "Well I'll be damned. This is funny." The notorious figure is buried in Pioneer Cemetery on a hill overlooking the town that is easily accessible to visitors via a short uphill hike above Bennett Avenue. Ghost hunters can take a guided ghost tour into the cemetery at nightfall.

Downtown Glenwood SpringsDowntown Glenwood SpringsHungry Aspen day-trippers will discover a great variety of delicious lunch and dinner spots. Glenwood Springs offers everything from Bavarian to simple, mom and pop taco and barbeque stands. Located in the Hotel Denver, the Glenwood Springs Brewing Company is a funky, grassroots gastropub serving home-cooked comfort food and six house-crafted microbrews. Juicy Lucy’s Steakhouse chars up prime Colorado beef, lamb, and elk for lunch and dinner. For a quick lunch near the Hot Springs Pool, B B's Wing's & Q is an unpretentious and no-nonsense little barbeque shack with picnic tables near the I-70 ramp.

The Glenwood Canyon Brewery and the Hotel DenverThe Glenwood Canyon Brewery and the Hotel Denver

Glenwood Springs does not entertain the same aesthetic and geographical remoteness as a high alpine resort town like Aspen. For the most part, residents in Aspen know that the occasional trip to Glenwood is pretty much inevitable. Kitchen appliances break, one can’t always shop for casual wear at the Gucci or the Ralph Lauren boutique, the gas tank runs low, and cheap produce is hard to come by in our two tiny grocery stores. Yet Glenwood Springs is always a pleasant side trip, particularly for vacationing families passing through the Roaring Fork Valley and those seeking something slightly different from Aspen’s affluent glitz and glam. A trip to Glenwood is definitely worth leaving the Aspen roundabout.

Night falls on Glenwood SpringsNight falls on Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs Attractions:

Glenwood Hot Springs Pool and Rocky Mountain Spa
401 N. River Street
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
(970) 947-2955

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Yampah Spa Vapor Caves
709 E 6th St
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601

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Colorado Whitewater Rafting
2000 Devereux Rd
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
(970) 945-8477

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Glenwood Caverns
51000 Two Rivers Plaza Rd
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
(970) 945-8872‎

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Doc Watson’s Grave, Pioneer Cemetery
Bennett Ave.
Glenwood Springs, CO‎

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Glenwood Springs Hotels:

Hotel Colorado
526 Pine St
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
(970) 945-6511

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Glenwood Springs Restaurants:

Glenwood Canyon Brewing Co
402 7th St.
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
(970) 945-1276

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Juicy Lucy's Steakhouse
308 7th St
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
(970) 945-4619

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Rosi's Little Bavarian Restaurant
141 W 6th St.
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
(970) 928-9186

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BB's Wing's & Q
112 6th St.
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
(970) 928-9200

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