Born out of the coal mining industry and located at the confluence of the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers, Glenwood Springs is one Colorado town the can’t be missed. In 2015, Outside Magazine named this quaint hamlet the “5th Best Place to Live in America”, and it definitely lives up to its reputation.
With a population of roughly 10,000 residents, you’ll be able to find all the amenities you need here compared to other, smaller Colorado mountain towns. There’s a local hospital, a slew of new restaurants, plenty of shopping, and even a Target. Whether you’re visiting in summer for the mountain bike trails, the hikes through lush waterfall-filled canyons, kayaking, or a relaxing time at local Glenwood Springs hot springs, you’re sure to have a great weekend in Glenwood Springs.
Day 1 – Nature’s Finest Workout
Thanks to nearby rivers, Glenwood Springs is a very green part of Colorado, a striking contrast to the more arid landscape due west of town. While there are plenty of ways to get through and around this terrain, the most accessible means is simply hiking.
Chances are, you’ve already heard of the nearby Hanging Lake trail. It’s been attracting a ton of controversy lately, as some visitors have ignored posted signage meant to protect the natural ecosystem and then display their transgressions on social media. Though the trail and the environment have suffered because of this misuse,, the trail is truly one-of-a-kind, and if it’s your first visit to the area, it really can’t be missed. The turquoise pools and waterfalls seem like they should be in Hawaii, rather than the Colorado Rockies. That’s why we recommend checking out this trail first. Just remember to be respectful of the land and follow all posted signs to ensure that this breathtaking feature can remain open to visitors for years to come.
Getting there is simple. There’s actually an official rest stop right at the base of the trailhead. From the parking lot, head down a paved walkway until you reach a cascading waterfall. This is where the trail starts.
Don’t expect an easy walk. The trail is steep and rugged, dotted with slick rocks. It can be dangerous, so proceed with caution, especially if you’re not used to the altitude. If you have small children, make sure you’re realistic about their hiking stamina and their ability to follow trail rules.
While it might be a workout, the view from the top is worth it. After roughly one mile and a thousand feet of elevation gain over bridges and up switchbacks, the big reveal happens. You’ll climb a few final steps and come upon Hanging Lake and its iconic blue water. There’s a boardwalk built around the pool, letting you easily view the waterfall from any angle.
After you’ve recovered from your initial hike, head up a bit further to Spouting Rock. It’s well-marked by signs and splits off the same trail right before you reach Hanging Lake. Spouting Rock is a massive free-falling waterfall that some consider more beautiful than Hanging Lake itself.
Now that you’ve seen one of the most beautiful destinations in the state, head back to Glenwood Springs for lunch. Grand Avenue is the place to go—relax, stroll along the historic street, and grab a bite to eat. We’ve got another hike planned for your afternoon.
A few great trails to choose from for your afternoon activity include Grizzly Creek Trail, Horseshoe Bend, No Name Trail/Jess Weaver Trail, and Red Mountain Trail. They’ve all got great views, and you really can’t go wrong. Just make sure to pick one that matches your skill-level.
If you’re tired after your day of hiking (we would be!), we recommend going to Iron Mountain Hot Springs. It’s one of the more developed, luxurious Glenwood Springs hot springs, meaning you’re sure to have plenty of space to yourself. As an added bonus, it’s located along the river giving you great views to go along with your soak. Pair it with a colorful sunset and you’ll have an experience you’ll never forget.
RELATED: Colorado’s Most Relaxing Hot Springs
Don’t stay in the tubs too long though, you still need to eat some dinner. Head to Smoke Modern BBQ downtown for some of the best meats you’ll find in the city. Don’t forget to grab a side of the mac n’ cheese.
Day 2 – Thrill Ride Extravaganza
After a full night of rest, head to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Home to caves, rides, and more, a day ticket gets you an unlimited experience for everything the Adventure Park has to offer. With tickets costing a little more than $50, this mountain-top adventure park is much less expensive than other similar destinations in Colorado.
You’ll start your day at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park by taking a gondola ride to the top of Iron Mountain. Theme park rides await you at the summit, including America’s highest roller coaster, a massive swing that dangles you above Glenwood Canyon, and the country’s first alpine coaster – a handbrake controlled trip down a steel track. There’s also a zipline, a climbing wall, and a spinning swing, along with several other thrills. If you’re really in the mood for an intense experience, check out the brand new Haunted Mine Drop. This rides sends participants falling 110 feet underneath the crust of Iron Mountain.
With a restaurant and plenty of food stands, there’s no need to leave the mountain for lunch. After a quick bite, expect temperatures on the mountain to heat up. This is a great time to embark on both of the adventure park’s cave tours. Each is 40-minutes long, both exploring completely different sections of the onsite underground caverns.
Once you’ve had your fill, you’ll head back down the mountain the same way you got up – on the gondola. Just make sure you don’t leave without also trying the fudge. The mint chocolate seems to be a fan favorite.
As your weekend in Glenwood Springs comes to a close, grab one last meal before leaving town. The Glenwood Canyon Brew Pub is a great place for local beers and great food. Whether you’re headed out of town towards Denver, Aspen, or Rifle, expect beautiful scenery to set the stage for the perfect ending to your weekend in Glenwood Springs.
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We are driven by our deep respect for our environment, and our passionate commitment to sustainable tourism and conservation. We believe in the right for everyone - from all backgrounds and cultures - to enjoy our natural world, and we believe that we must all do so responsibly. Learn More