Length: 3 miles, one-way
Difficulty: Easy
Why We Love it: This streamside hike rewards you with a relaxing soak in Steamboat’s famous hot springs—and the satisfaction that you’ve helped to protect this fragile alpine environment.
When to go: May through October, when the trail is clear of snow.
Pre-hike buzz: Before you leave town, stop by Lil’ House Country Biscuits and Coffee for a classic chicken lickin’ biscuit and a tall slammer or caffe latte.
Dogs: Not allowed on the hot springs property

One of Steamboat Spring’s most popular attractions, Strawberry Park Hot Springs features a cascading series of mineral pools with temperatures ranging from 101 to a toasty 106 degrees Fahrenheit. While many people choose to access these serene pools, which are located about seven miles from town, by driving down a rutted-out dirt road (four-wheel-drive recommended, especially in the winter months), you can do your part to help keep the area pristine by hiking or biking to the hot springs once the trail is clear of snow.

The trailhead where this trek begins is a bit tricky to find. From the large Mad Creek trailhead sign on Elk River Road (County Road 129), cross the parking lot and follow the narrow dirt path south along the road towards town. After a quarter mile, at a ‘No Parking/Private Property’ sign, turn left onto a wide dirt road and briefly follow this to a junction. Veer left here and continue walking northeast along the dirt road.

After about 0.3 miles, you’ll reach a junction where a small sign marks the start of the Hot Springs Trail. Turn right onto this smooth but narrow dirt path, which winds through tall grasses to the banks of gurgling Hot Springs Creek. From here, the trail climbs gently for a couple of miles as it generally follows the stream, passing tall evergreens, dense shrubs, and lush patches of ferns along the way.

In what seems like far too short a time, you cross onto the hot springs property, which is marked by a simple wooden sign. About 0.25 miles farther along the path, you’ll reach a large building with a slanted roof that houses the restrooms. The beautiful stone masonry hot springs pools are visible along the creek a short distance below.

To help protect this beautiful but fragile environment, the owners have renovated their solar system to operate completely off the grid. Thus, Strawberry Park offers limited amenities for visitors. You’ll find a changing cabin, restrooms, and a small selection of rustic overnight accommodations (reservations required), which includes a renovated train caboose, a few covered wagons, and a large and small cabin. There is also a tent camping area that can be reserved during the summer months.

Before enjoying the pools, be sure to walk a few minutes uphill to the parking area, where you can pay the attendant. Once you’ve soaked your sore muscles into relaxation, retrace your steps back down the valley to your car.

Getting there: From Steamboat Springs, drive west on U.S. 40 (Lincoln Avenue) to its junction with Elk River Road (County 129). Follow this northwest for about 5.5 miles to the large Mad Creek Trailhead parking area on the right.

Logistics: A soak in the hot springs costs $15 for adults ($20 on holidays or holiday weekends.) Children (ages 3–17, $8–$10) are not allowed after dark, when clothing becomes optional. Be sure to bring a headlamp and warm attire if you plan to hike out after sunset. Note that the Hot Springs Trail is closed from November 1 until May 1.

Terri Cook
Terri Cook
Terri Cook is an award-winning freelance writer based in Boulder. More of her work can be found at down2earthscience.com.