Glenwood Hot Springs Pool: Soaking up History

At the mouth of Glenwood Canyon, the Yampah Springs bubble up from deep in the Earth and trickle blissfully to the Colorado River. The Ute tribe knew about this spot for centuries and called it Yampah – meaning “Big Medicine.” And “BIG” is an apt name – the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool is actually the world’s largest hot springs pool.

The multi-level highway in Glenwood Canyon
Glenwood Canyon

Over a million gallons of water fill the main pool at a perfect bathtub temperature (90 degrees). The main pool is over a football field long, has a half-dozen swim lanes, and two diving boards. It is absolutely massive! Even the “smaller” therapy pool, is nearly the size of a basketball court. At a comfortable 104 degrees, it’s heavenly.

There’s a smaller, shallow children’s pool that is open in the summer, with a very comfortable bath tub temperature.

The Glenwood Springs pool and old lodge building
The pool at Dusk

Opened in 1888, the hot springs pool in Glenwood continues to host hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and is one of the most popular hot springs in Colorado. The pool has been in continuous operation for over 125 years.

This includes during World War II when the facility was operated as a U.S. Navy Convalescent Hospital. Returning GIs discovered the healing powers of the mineral waters. And the relaxation didn’t hurt either.

The water slides at the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool
People enjoy lounging in the pool

In 2008, the Spa of the Rockies at Glenwood Hot Springs was built. This world-class spa facility occupies the historic building right next to the pool. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to take in a massage, but it’s on my list for next time.

As I approached the red sandstone entrance to the Glenwood Springs pool, I immediately smelled the sulfur in the air. Crossing through the locker room, I was filled with anticipation. Emerging from the locker room (or “bathhouse” as they call it), the pools stretched out for over a quarter mile before me.

Sliding into the “small” therapy pool, I could imagine the minerals seeping into my skin and healing me with the “Big Medicine.” Lounging in the pool, watching the sun set on the mountains and the stars come up in the sky was perhaps the perfect way to end the evening.

Sunset at the Glenwood pools
Sunset over the pool

In the winter, soaking in the Glenwood pools after a hard day of skiing is very popular. The pools are very close to many of the local ski resorts, including Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass, which are all located south of town down the Roaring Fork Valley. The local ski mountain, Sunlight Mountain Resort, is just 12 miles out of town.

And there’s nothing more magical than sitting in the hot therapy pool in the winter and let the snow fall down around you. The cold little slow flakes hit your skin and actually sizzle.

On this summer trip, I was thankful for experiencing the healing waters after my day full of adventure. I’d spent the whole afternoon taking in the sights and thrills of the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. This adventure park is perched 1,400 feet above the city on Iron Mountain. A serene and scenic gondola ride up the mountain belies the thrills and terror atop the mountain.

Families at play
Families at Play in the big pool

I made straight for the Alpine Coaster – the first such coaster in the United States. This is very different from the alpine slide in Steamboat Springs I experienced last year. The alpine coaster is a true coaster on rails allowing for maximum speeds and zero possibility of flipping (trust me, I tried it with a wide open throttle!).

After numerous runs on the Alpine Coaster, I descended 150 feet down into the mountain to experience one of the two natural caverns on the property – The King’s Row Cave. The informative tour guide, Kathy, explained the unique formations of the cave and explained how the geology of this cavern is related to the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool over a 1,000 feet below.

The railroad crossing through the mountains of Colorado

Be sure to check out our video of the alpine coaster at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park:

Special thanks to the Glenwood Hot Springs, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, and Visit Glenwood for hosting my visit. As always, opinions of the fast and relaxing are my own.

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