Colorado hot springs are a destination for therapeutic purposes and overall relaxation. The warm, mineral-rich waters are a true phenomenon that everyone should experience.

So why is the water in hot springs so warm? In volcanic areas, groundwater is heated by magma and recirculated to the surface. In non-volcanic areas, thermal springs are heated by groundwater percolating downward where the Earth’s rocks are much warmer than on the surface. In both cases, the result is either a soothing hot tub-like experience, or water that is so hot that it can kill those that dare to enter.  

Hot springs are considered sacred healing places by tribes such as the Ute and Arapaho. The Glenwood Springs hot springs were referred to by the Ute’s as Yampah – meaning “Big Medicine.” The Ute are the first known visitors to many of Colorado’s hot springs, including Glenwood Springs.

According to the Indian Hot Springs resort in Idaho Springs, the area that the resort sits on today was a neutral ground between the Ute and Arapaho tribes because the hot springs were located on the dividing line between the two nations.

Another legend surrounding the Pagosa hot springs recounts a terrible plague that infected the Ute tribe that could not even be cured by the medicine men. After praying and dancing around a fire, the tribe awoke to a pool of boiling water. After drinking and bathing in the water, the plague was cured.

Hot springs are a great resource and recreational opportunity, but like many of Colorado’s places, they are fragile. Human impact can seriously damage these areas and they must be treated with utmost respect. Many hot springs are commercialized, but there are still areas in the state that remain remote and secluded. A classic example of human impact in a hot springs area is the Conundrum Hot Springs near Aspen. This remote hot springs, which requires a several-mile hike to reach, has had a horrible problem with trash and human excrement. The Forest Service is actually instituting a permit system starting this summer to limit the number of visitors. It is important to remember Leave No Trace principles in these delicate areas, so remember to poop responsibly and take out your trash.

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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