If you’re looking for adventure and the authentic “Colorado Mountain Experience,” look no further than Glenwood Springs. Easily accessible via I-70, this picturesque small town has its own post-worthy attractions and also works great as an affordable central hub for some of the region’s other great attractions.
So, pack your bags and head out west for an amazing local experience.
History of Glenwood Springs
Long before western settlers entered the area, the Glenwood Springs region was occupied by Native American Utes who regularly visited the region’s most unique feature: the Yampah Hot Springs. Yampah, meaning “Big Medicine,” was named for its healing and therapeutic properties.
The spring was developed by early western settlers into what is known today as the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. The pool, in combination with the Hotel Colorado, is a world-renowned destination resort, and the area has been a popular tourist destination for over 100 years.
Glenwood Springs is roughly a four-hour drive from Colorado Springs, depending on your route, weather and traffic:
- No traffic and clear weather? Take I-25 north to C-470 around Denver and then head west on I-70. You’ll be there in close to 3.5 hours.
- Prefer to avoid Denver? Take Highway 24 west to Highway 9 (turn north past Hartsel). Head over Hoosier Pass, through Breckenridge and turn west on I-70 at Frisco. That’s about 4 hours.
- May-October and feeling adventurous? Take Highway 24 up Ute Pass to Highway 82 and over Independence Pass to Aspen and on down to Glenwood Springs in about 4.5 hours.
Don’t want to drive? Take the California Zephyr from Union Station in Denver through the mountains and the scenic Glenwood Canyon. It’s a relaxing, memorable 6-hour train ride.
The historic, but recently improved Glenwood Hot Springs Pool is the largest outdoor hot springs in the US. The Therapy Pool operates at 104 degrees Fahrenheit — perfect for soaking after a full day of adventuring. The Cool Pool is maintained year round at about 94 degrees. The facility also recently opened up new features: a kids zero-entry splash pad/fountain that lights up at night, a wading beach pool and Hanging Lake, a kiddie pool with slides. Also new to the Hot Springs is the exciting Shoshone Chutes tubing adventure river. Designed to make you feel like you are tubing down a raging mountain stream, this 3-minute ride will surely get your heart pumping.
Perched high atop Iron Mountain in Glenwood Springs, a smooth gondola ride will transport you to the top. There, you will find the highest rollercoaster, a canyon swing, alpine coaster, zipline and haunted mine drop. These rides are sure to check the adventure bucket list. Finally, don’t miss the amazing tours of Glenwood Caverns, and be sure to grab a bite to eat at the Lookout Grille. You won’t be disappointed in the views.
One of the most beautiful and memorable hikes around. This gorgeous, suspended travertine lake is located in Glenwood Canyon. Take a shuttle from downtown Glenwood or ride a bicycle on the Glenwood Canyon bike path. Due to huge popularity of this pristine wonder, you must obtain a permit for the hike. But it is well worth it.
Looking to relax and unwind? Try Iron Mountain Hot Springs. This hot springs has a very different vibe from the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. It has 16 terraced, intimate, geothermal pools ranging in temperature from 99 degrees to 108 degrees. This cozy operation is a perfect destination for a romantic weekend getaway. The pools overlook the Colorado River and a full bar is available on site.
Glenwood Canyon is 16 miles of pure geologic wonder. This winding expanse can be taken in by car or train, on foot, biked or floated down in a raft guided by one of many great local raft guiding companies, or individually by boat or kayak. Your best option will depend on the level of adventure you seek. Raft trips are available in half or full day trips and vary in difficulty. The other most popular way to soak up the scenery is by bicycle. If you don’t have your own or couldn’t bring it, there are several rental options in town. If you get your fill of biking the canyon, you can also ride the Rio Grand Trail on a continuous bike path from Glenwood all the way to Aspen.
Five Family-Friendly Activities
Glenwood is an adventure center in the Rockies. If you love the great outdoors, you’ll love Glenwood for its unique attractions and as a jumping off point for other activities. Full disclaimer: I am a little biased because I grew up here. But I think that puts me in a good position to offer some of my favorite activities, and eateries from a local’s perspective.
If you like Monarch Mountain, you’ll love Sunlight Mountain Resort. A well-kept secret, this little resort is a short 25-minute drive from downtown Glenwood and is full of great terrain, awesome views and short lines. Options for snowshoeing, hut trips and horseback riding (season dependent) are also available. If Sunlight is a little too small for you, you are also just 45 minutes from the Aspen Ski Company’s big 4 mountains: Aspen, Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk. When you are done shredding the slopes, you can wrap up your day in one of the hot springs and melt all that tension away.
Whether you book a guided float tour or go out on your own with a bag of worms, if fishing is your jam, you’ll find clear waters here. Glenwood is located at the confluence of the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers. The Roaring Fork and Frying Pan Rivers are Gold Medal fisheries and have great public access. So head down to the Roaring Fork and cast your lines with other hopefuls up to their hips in waders and fun.
Glenwood has an amazing community center with great facilities that include ice skating and indoor rock climbing. If you are looking for something to keep the family entertained, check them out. Public skate times are listed on the website and you can’t beat the prices.
There are so many amazing hiking trails in Glenwood — varying degrees of difficulty, but all with outstanding views. If you are just getting started, try the famous hike to Doc Holiday’s Grave. If you are a more experienced hiker keep going and head up Boy Scout Trail. No matter which way you turn, there are great trails awaiting you in basically every direction.
Five Great Places to Stay
Glenwood has you covered with a wide variety of lodging to cover every taste.
This historic hotel is a great experience all to itself. Located right next to the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge and Pool, it is within walking distance to everything. You can immerse yourself in the 18th century atmosphere and walk the hallways of this gorgeous redstone building. Absorb the history of historic guests — from Teddy Roosevelt to the Unsinkable Molly Brown. Take advantage of one of the hotel’s vacation packages if you are planning to take in the sites.
Recently renovated, this place is a great, fun scene. It offers themed, updated rooms in a prime location for access to everything from the pool to downtown restaurants and bars (including its own). Located across the street from the train depot, it’s a perfect little spot for a weekend getaway when you come up on the train.
Another good option for being close to everything. Located within walking distance of the Glenwood Gondola and Adventure Park, Iron Mountain Hot Springs and Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, they offer adventure packages and are a great local choice.
Families options for about $175/night. Book early and mid-week to get the best price.
If hotel costs are out of the budget, camping in the heart of the White River National Forest is a great option for about $30/night. From May to September, camping near Glenwood is a splendid experience. If you are looking for options close to town with options from classic tent camping, glamping and cabins, you can’t beat Glenwood Canyon Resort.
There are many great dining options in Glenwood — all cuisines from ethnic to classic American and in all price ranges. Many downtown are within walking distance from main attractions and many more are worth the drive. Here are some of my favorites, in order of meals.
The Espresso Hut. Locally owned and ready to get you on your way. If you are headed out on a grand adventure and just need a cup of coffee for the road, stop by The Espresso Hut on Grand Avenue, located near City Market.
River Blend Coffee House. This little gem is tucked inside the Hotel Denver and aside from coffee has a great menu of little bites.
Bluebird Cafe. Located downtown near the bridge on Grand Avenue. Stop in for your morning cup of Joe; stay for breakfast.
Rosie’s Little Bavarian Restaurant. I have been all about this awesome little German restaurant since childhood. Amazing dishes with sweet and savory tastes await you here.
Daily Bread. A great spot for breakfast or lunch and located downtown.
Sweet Coloradough. If you have a sweet tooth and love pastries, this is your stop. Also serving lunch and drinks, don’t miss this unique little Colorado Favorite on Highway 82 on the South end of town.
19th Street Diner. Looking for a throwback dining experience? Classic breakfast dishes served all day.
Slope and Hatch. The best tacos I have ever had were at this 7th Street eatery. Order them on tortillas or with lettuce wraps — amazing combinations you won’t regret.
Rocky Mountain Pizza Company. By the pie or by the slice and located downtown, this little pizzeria is amazing. Great salads and fast service.
Chomps Deli. If you are after a great sandwich with bold flavors, you can’t go wrong here. Located next to the Hot Springs Pool across from the Hotel Colorado, it’s a great place to stop after a hard day of play.
River’s Restaurant. In summer, make sure to ask for a seat on the deck. Overlooking the beautiful Roaring Fork River, you’ll find an awesome atmosphere and great cuisine.
Juicy Lucy’s Steakhouse. If you are looking for a great steakhouse with unique dishes, this is the place.
Glenwood Canyon Brewing. Way beyond “bar food,” you’ll get a great menu of classy takes on old favorites. Don’t forget to add a local beer with dinner. My favorite is the Grizzly Creek Raspberry Wheat.
The Pullman. Another one-of-a-kind dining experience. This downtown spot has a unique menu with lots of variety.