Take a Soak on the Wild Side

Crystal River at Redstone, Colorado

Take a Soak on the Wild Side

Wild springs are altogether different from what visitors to Iron Mountain Hot Springs might experience.

Far from the commercially-developed sites among Colorado’s many hot springs – and sometimes not so far – you can hike to free public locations called “wild” springs where users might make their own pools and clothing is often optional. Most have camping nearby. Wildlife, breathtaking scenery, and mineral-soak relaxation make even the longest hikes worthwhile. Here are six spots identified by Deborah Frazier in her book Colorado’s Hot Springs.

Radium Hot Springs

Radium Hot SpringsRadium Hot Springs is an example of a wild spring is a 20-foot-diameter rocky pool so close to the Colorado River that river water lowers its temperature to around 80°-90°F and sometimes washes it out in the spring floods. The pool is between Kremmling and Eagle in Grand County. Radium is a one-mile hike from Mugrage Campground, but it can be reached from the river by kayak. State-owned camping, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, is nearby. Access to the pool is free.

 Penny Hot Springs

Penny Hot Springs is along the Crystal River close to Highway 133 between Carbondale and Aspen in Pitkin County. The spring, named for onetime hotel and bathhouse owner Dan Penny, became popular for nude bathing in the 1960s, so neighbors bulldozed the bathhouse. About 25 years ago, the county restored the springs and opened a pool about 20 feet across and two feet deep, holding 10 people comfortably. Swimwear is officially required. The site is an easy walk from the highway.

South Canyon Hot Springs

South Canyon Hot Springs is on a hillside west of Glenwood Springs. The main pool has a temperature of 100° to 112°F; a second pool might be available depending on the season. Clothing is optional. The springs are south of Interstate 70 off South Canyon Creek Road, about 650 feet from a parking lot.

Piedra River Hot Springs

Piedra River Hot Springs are several pools along the Piedra River in San Juan National Forest south of Pagosa Springs. Some visitors dig their own pools and stack stones to block out the river water. Temperatures range from 100° to 107°F. Clothing is optional. The springs are a 1.5-milke hike from a parking area at Monument Park Road and First Fork Road.

Rainbow Hot Springs

Rainbow Hot Springs has two pools along the San Juan River north of Pagosa Springs in the Weminuche Wilderness Area. The pool on the river is 20 feet by eight feet, room for six to 10 people, with a temperature of about 95°F. The other pool is smaller, large enough for three, and reaches 105°F. The location is a hike of about 4.5 miles, with a 1,000-foot elevation change, from parking at the West Fork Trail-head.

Valley Hot Springs

Valley View Hot Springs is neither “wild” and free nor commercial – it is operated by the Orient Land Trust with rates for quick dips, day visits, and overnight stays. The area includes several natural rock ponds as well as pools of spring water heated by the facility’s hydroelectric power system, an unheated pool of spring water, and a wet or dry hydroelectric sauna with temperatures of 130° to 160°F. Clothing is optional. Tent and RV camping are available as well as cabins and a lodge. Valley View is on 2,200 acres protected by the Orient Land Trust 4.5 miles south of Villa Grove.

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Gene Stowe

Gene Stowe was a reporter for The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer for 13 years and head of the writing program at Trinity School at Greenlawn, a four-time U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School in South Bend, Ind., for 10 years before he became a full-time freelance writer in 2008. His first book, Inherit the Land: Jim Crow Meets Miss Maggie’s Will, was published in 2006. He lives in Monroe, N.C.

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