Why we love it: What’s not to love about a healing mineral soak—sans any trace of sulfur smell that pervades other hot springs—after a weekend of powder skiing, hut-tripping, and snowshoeing in the San Juan Mountains backcountry?
When to go: We recommend a snowy winter day when the surrounding mountains are freshly coated in white and the steam rises off the pools in waves.
When you’ve spent a few days working your lungs and your legs above 10,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains, any kind of hot spring sounds like heaven. Recently, we’d set up shop for the weekend at a backcountry hut outside Silverton, not quite an hour from Ouray. We’d hit the trail on snowshoes, gotten our fill of powder on skis, sledded till our faces were frozen, and battled avalanche-strewn mountain passes. As we loaded up the car for the long haul back to Denver, we decided we’d earned ourselves a pit-stop at the Ouray Hot Springs.
From the road, the hot springs pool looks like your typical community pool: A lifeguard chair stands watch over one end, lane dividers mark a lap pool on the far side of the complex, and a water slide twists down into the center. The difference is not only the water temperature, but also the water quality. Built around 1927 and now a fixture on the National Historic Register, the pool attracts tourists and locals alike for its unpretentious vibe and its variety. You can soak in the hot section at 101 to 104 degrees, take a refreshing cold plunge in the next pool over at 70 degrees, or hit the mid-range 97-degree pool just outside the main building for something in between. The areas are adjoining, so you can hop from pool to pool—more than a million gallons of water, total—without dragging yourself fully out of the warmth. Plus, the springs are noticeably deficient of sulfur, meaning your soak will be mineral-rich—barium, fluoride, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphate, zinc, the list goes on—without the vague tinge of rotten eggs.
Boxed in by the majestic snow-dusted peaks on Ouray’s perimeter (pictured), our soak was restorative and refreshing—just what we needed to unwind and refuel before the journey back to the city.
Getting there: From Denver, take I-70 West to Exit 260 for CO-470 East toward Colorado Springs. Continue 5.7 miles and exit onto US-285 South toward Fairplay. After 102 miles, take a slight left and another left to continue on US-285 South, then follow for 21 more miles and turn right onto US-50 West. Follow for 123 miles and continue onto East Main Street for .8 miles until you see a sign for "Ouray Hot Springs" on your left. 1200 Main St., Ouray, 970-325-7073
Cost: $12 adults, $8 children, free for kids four and under; $144 for a 20-punch pass.
Bonus: If healing mineral waters aren’t enough to soothe your weary muscles, schedule an on-site massage (choose from a menu that includes everything from traditional Swedish to Thai massage to reflexology) with Healing Touch Therapies and let the masseuse work out the lingering kinks. $65 for an hour.
Tip: Check out the Facebook page for daily updates on pool temperatures and weather forecasts.
—Image courtesy of Shutterstock