Salida folks have it all. The mountains, the 14,000-footers calling to climbers from afar. The trails, including Monarch Crest, a mountain biking treasure. The Arkansas headwaters, the premier destination for whitewater rafting and kayaking. The four-wheeling, some thrilling high-alpine roads for ATVs and dirt bikes, including Tincup and Hancock passes. The skiing, with a quick drive up Monarch Pass.

And supposedly, the biggest indoor hot springs in the U.S.

That’s the claim by the Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center, which is also the only publicly owned and operated pool facility in 100-plus miles. That means the aquatic center is mostly a hot spot for locals, with kids learning to swim, others competing with the swim team and adults taking classes for exercise. Visitors typically opt for the geothermal waters of Mount Princeton or Cottonwood hot springs, each closer to neighboring Buena Vista. But if swimming is what the family seeks, Salida’s aquatic center is a fine choice.

The widest and longest pool in the vicinity is here, with room for lapping in six lanes as well as diving and kayaking. The pool is kept at a cozy temperature between 84 and 86 degrees. A smaller pool, about 4 feet deep, is closer to a therapeutic 100 degrees.

In the recently renovated center, it’s hard to imagine the days of the Utes, who discovered the valley’s springs as a source of healing. But the legendary, mineral-rich source is used here – the water, clear and odorless, piped from a spring 8 miles away.

European-style pools can be rented hourly for private, intimate soaking. The pools, with room for three people, are drained after each use and refilled.

Rules: Clothing required. No alcohol, smoking or glass around pools. Must be 18 for private pools.

Address: 410 W. Rainbow Blvd., Salida, 81201

Hours: 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday and until 9 p.m. Friday, with open swim starting at 1 p.m. all days expect Sunday, when open swim is all day. 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday. Noon-6 p.m. Sunday.

Contact: 719-539-6738,

Getting there: Head south on U.S. 85 (South Nevada Avenue), staying straight to continue on Colorado 115, and then merge west onto U.S. 50 to Salida. The aquatic center will be on your right, about halfway through town.

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