The Iconic Hot Springs in the Switzerland of America

Photo Credit: Christian Murdock, The Gazette.

Ouray, known as the Switzerland of America, can thank geologic uplift for its soaring aesthetic. Tucked in a narrow valley through a box canyon, the town can also thank that uplift for creating the pressure and heat necessary for springs to bubble from the Earth. Settlers and visitors throughout history have delighted in the waters, with the most celebrated site being the pools at the heart of town.

Ouray Hot Springs Pool and Fitness Center is listed on the National Historic Register, though it looks as if it opened yesterday, not in 1927. Back then, residents bought memberships and businesses contributed dollars to build a state-of-the-art pool, and the community effort continues today.

After a demolition and renovation approved by the City Council in 2016, recent additions have been the nearly three-story-tall slides that boldly proclaim the place a family fun zone in summer. Kids also take turns on the inflatable obstacle course and climbing wall at the so-called activity pool. In winter, though, Ouray Hot Springs is a quiet refuge, a one-of-a-kind experience surrounded by snowy canyon walls.

At the center is a pool with eight lap lanes. To the side is the “hot pool” kept between 100 and 106 degrees, with curving spots that couples and groups can have to themselves. Soakers must be 18 or older in the more intimate “overlook,” the hottest pool with the best views of the San Juan Mountains.

Rules: Suits required. No glass, alcohol or smoking.

Address: 1220 Main St., Ouray, 81427

Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. every day

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