Glenwood Springs is the perfect place to visit for a little relaxation and rejuvenation along with beautiful scenery and a small-town feel.
The city of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, is located in the Rocky Mountains where the Roaring Fork River and the Colorado River come together. Drivable from Denver or Grand Junction, either direction is a beautiful drive. Another option is to take Amtrak from Denver, which is a scenic adventure by itself.
For many years, Glenwood Springs has been a destination for vacationers due to its natural therapeutic hot springs. Development of the city has also brought about cultural events, a variety of dining experiences, and recreational activities, making it an ideal place to spend a long weekend or a vacation.
Here are the don’t-miss attractions of Glenwood Springs.
1. Iron Mountain Hot Springs
Colorado’s newest hot springs attraction, Iron Mountain Hot Springs, opened in 2015. It features 25 soaking pools and a family pool alongside the Colorado River. I enjoyed soaking in the 104-degree pool while looking over the edge at the river. It was the most relaxing afternoon and evening of my visit to Glenwood Springs.
A quiet zone surrounding the soaking pools ensures a peaceful, rejuvenating atmosphere. (There’s very little noise beyond soothing music playing while you soak.) The soaking pools are filled with 100 percent pure thermal mineral water. Temperatures range from 98 to 108 degrees to allow you to customize your wellness experience. The rain showers at the Cooling Corner allow you to cool off between soaks. They also have heated walkways connecting the soaking pools to keep you comfortable year-round.
There is a large freshwater pool available for swimming, and families are often in this area.
Something new this year is their experimental pool. They match the chemical composition of another hot spring from around the world. Iceland’s Blue Lagoon was the featured replicated spring when we visited.
A huge expansion is underway to add several adult-only soaking pools and ten additional experimental pools.
2. Glenwood Hot Springs Resort
Glenwood’s oldest and most famous hot spring attraction is Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. It is a historic attraction and home to the world’s largest hot springs pool. (Think the size of a football field.) I have visited three times and can’t wait to go back.
The thermal spring water has been drawing visitors from all over the world since 1888. The Yampah spring, which produces over 3.5 million gallons of water per day at a temperature of 122 degrees Farenheight, feeds the pools.
The water is cooled down to 104 degrees for the resort’s hot tub-like therapy pool — and even further, to the bathwater-warm temperature of between 90 and 93 degrees for the gigantic main pool.
In 2019, additional water features such as a lazy river, water slides, a children’s splash pad, and a pool at the Sopris Splash Zone were added.
While this is a wonderful place to soak for tired muscles and joint pain, be aware it is a family resort and it can get a bit noisy, although the expansion seems to have cut the noise level significantly.
3. Yampah Spa And Vapor Caves
One of Glenwood Springs’ most unusual attractions is also one of its most historic. The unique underground vapor-filled caverns at Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves were originally used by the Ute Indians for healing and rituals. The vapor caves are one of a few places in the world where guests can experience a natural (not man-made) geothermal steam bath. Mineral-rich steam fills the three underground chambers which are dimly, yet adequately, lit.
The main chamber is very warm and helps you to sweat out the impurities in your body.
On the ground level, they offer various spa services. When we visited, we enjoyed a mineral bath. There is also a room to relax in while you wait for your time in the caves or while cooling off.
There are stairs to navigate and low lighting conducive to relaxation, so if vision or mobility is a problem, you might stick with a ground-level spa treatment.
Glenwood Springs is known globally as a wellness destination. There are a number of spas offering a large array of treatments and services. The spas in Glenwood feature treatments that incorporate mineral hot springs amenities and touch therapy modalities from around the world.
5. Glenwood Canyon Bike Trail
Enjoy a ride through the canyon overlooking the Colorado River. You can rent bikes and enjoy a scenic day trip. The bike trails are paved and mostly flat, but there are a few hills that require a little extra effort. The trail has plenty of overlooks where you can stop, rest, take photos, and enjoy a picnic. There are bathrooms along the trail, too. This is a great morning or early evening activity.
6. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
This amusement park is small, but it gives you unique mountain-top views from various platforms and rides. The only way to the park is on the gondola. It carries you up the mountain, and you get great views of Glenwood Canyon as you go up and down the mountain.
If you enjoy rides, its home to the longest roller coaster in Colorado as well as zip-lining adventures, a haunted mine, a Ferris wheel, laser tag, an alpine coaster, and a climbing wall.
The ride I enjoyed most was the swings. The swings go out over the edge of the mountain with an unbelievable view of the canyon below. I rode the swings three times just for the views. I would go back to this park just to ride the swings again.
They also have two cave tours with an educational guide leading the way and explaining different things within the caves.
The caves do have steps and are sometimes damp, but they are well lit and the guides do an excellent job of keeping everyone safe.
They have three different levels of ticketing for Glenwood Springs Adventure Park:
- You can purchase a ticket for everything. (This is what we purchased.)
- They have a ticket option for the cave tours and the gondola ride.
- You can purchase a ticket for just the round-trip gondola ride.
Pro Tip: If it is a warm day, enjoy the outdoor activities early in the day or later in the afternoon. Spend the heat of the day doing the cave tours. The temperature inside the cave is in the 50s year-round, so you might need a jacket.
7. Gondola Ride
If you aren’t interested in any of the park features, at least take the gondola ride to the top of the mountain. The cost of the round-trip is $25. You can ride up, get off and take pictures from the top, shop, enjoy a nice meal, and then ride back down the mountain on the gondola whenever you are ready.
The gondola runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Pro Tip: Lightning or high winds in the area cause the park to stop running the gondola for at least half an hour.
8. River Rafting And Tubing
There are a variety of companies that provide river adventures on the Colorado and Roaring Fork rivers. Whether you enjoy whitewater rafting, floating, paddleboarding, kayaking, fly fishing, or just a relaxing river tour, you can find it in Glenwood Springs. There are plenty of opportunities for adventure or just a scenic tour for taking photos.
We spent an afternoon whitewater rafting on the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon with Defiance Rafting. They take care of loading the raft, taking you to an entry point, providing your gear, and teaching you how to maneuver in the raft. A guide steers the raft and instructs you as you go through the rapids. The day we were there the water looked like chocolate due to a major storm upstream the evening before.
9. Hanging Lake Trail
If you want more activity, this hike is an uphill climb but well worth the trip. The trail delivers you to the edge of Glenwood Canyon’s cliffs, where the waterfalls spill into a crystal blue lake. Hanging Lake was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 2011. There are some rules to consider, like no swimming or standing under the waterfalls and no dogs, so be sure to visit their website for all the regulations. And by all means, don’t forget to bring water for the hike.
There is a nice flat hike leading up to where you start up the mountain. There are several places along the river before you start up to sit. At the foot of the mountain, there are two picnic tables where you can wait on others if they choose to do the hike while you stay at the base or vice versa.
Currently, you are required to make a reservation to hike the Hanging Lake Trail. Reservations can be made in advance on their website and only a limited number of people can be hiking at any given time.
Take bug spray and sunscreen. Bug spray is especially needed if you wait at the bottom for those who make the climb. This is a great strenuous early morning or evening activity.
10. Doc Holliday’s Grave
While visiting Glenwood Springs, you should take the 25-minute walk from downtown to visit Doc Holliday’s Grave. The journey to get there is an adventure in itself. Before arriving at the historic cemetery, you’ll walk through a neighborhood of shops. You can also visit the former hotel where he died (it’s now a clothing store) and the museum nearby to learn more. All in all, it is a fascinating way to spend an hour or two.
11. Rock or Ice Climb
Outstanding rock climbing is available in the area. For those who love the cold weather, Rifle Mountain Park and Glenwood Canyon offer excellent ice-climbing opportunities. Conditions at both locales can vary so be sure to check with guides and outfitters before you attempt to climb.
Pro Tip: Rifle Mountain Park has limited parking and does charge a fee for day use.
Perfect your swing at the Championship Golf Courses in the area or try your hand at disc golf. You will find excellent, well-kept courses with gorgeous views and fresh mountain air.
13. Search Out Public Art
The newest public art displays in Glenwood Springs are the Wings of Glenwood Springs.
Nine sets of beautiful wings are in discrete locations in the downtown area. It is like a scavenger hunt to search them out in pocket parks, on historic buildings, and in alleyways.
The whimsical wings also are a great photo opportunity and Visit Glenwood encourages people to tag #VisitGlenwood and post the photos on social.
I found a set of colorful wings on the Hotel Colorado.
Don’t Just Take My Word For It
Glenwood Springs is one of my favorite places to visit. But don’t just take my word for it. Others have singled it out as outstanding, too! Reader’s Digest named it one of the 9 most iconic American road trip destinations in 2018. In 2017, Glenwood Springs was featured in Where to Retire magazine’s article “8 Invigorating Outdoorsy Towns,” and in 2016, it was featured in the book 1,000 Places to See in the U.S. and Canada Before You Die.
These are just a few of the accolades Glenwood Springs has received. But you get the picture; it is a great place to live and to visit and it isn’t just for kids and young adults.
Whether you come to Glenwood Springs for relaxation or a little adventure, you’ll be sure to find lots to see and do.
- Check online for discounts to the places you plan to visit. We found several online bargains that saved us money.
- There is certainly no shortage of things to do in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, but most of them are outdoors, so take plenty of water and sunscreen on your excursions.
- There are often sudden weather changes. Be prepared.