Southern Colorado is very different from the rest of the state's mountainous landscape. Near Royal Gorge, the mountains in the Pikes Peak Region fade down from behemoth heights to the red barren sand thousands of feet below. After spending a day exploring around this other-worldly area, some girlfriends and I were exhausted and looking for an escape. We found the perfect oasis at Desert Reef Hot Spring!
Located in Florence, Colorado, just outside of Canon City, Desert Reef Hot Spring is a one-of-a-kind place. I say that, mainly, because it touts being a "family friendly, clothing optional pool". I can't say I've ever heard that combination before! The tag line isn't what drew us in, but it definitely made the day interesting.
When we arrived at the small park, we had no idea what to expect. It was just one small building and a parking lot seemingly in the middle of nowhere. We went in and spoke to the lady at the front desk to gain entrance. It cost $20 for the day, and once we paid, we were given the rules including the ones about nudity.
6 p.m. is when clothing becomes optional, and it was almost 4:30 already. We knew we would be soaking during these times. Since nudity is allowed, the guide asked for no phones or cameras to be near the pool area. She lead us to our locker room and showed us where we could keep our items. After that, we were free to do as we pleased. We quickly undressed down to our suits, at first, and headed out to the pool area.
It is just one large hot spring pool kind of like a shallow swimming pool. We saw pool floats laying around, so we grabbed some and slowly walked into the nice, steaming water to start our relaxing evening.
We spent right up until 6 p.m. lounging, laying, and playing in the water. When 6 o'clock hit, though, and the nudey-hours started, more and more people, seemingly locals, started to show up.
We made the decision to keep our clothes on and had a few comments made toward us about how we should strip down and join in. After politely declining a few times, we decided it was getting close to leaving time, since the sun was setting, so we packed up and headed out.
The end of our evening didn't overshadow the lovely few hours we had spent there. We knew the people were joking and playfully antagonizing us, and we never truly felt uncomfortable. That being said, we wished we had been left to relax and not been bothered at all. It was definitely worth the stop after the long, hot day!
After a cold, snowy day hiking at St. Mary's Glacier, a group of friends and I hopped on down to Idaho Springs to warm up in Indian Hot Spring's geothermal pools. Even though it is less than an hour and a half away from Denver, none of us had ever stopped here before!
We were all frozen from hours of trekking through snow, so Indian Mountain was the perfect stop on our way home. It was still snowing when we arrived at the front door, but the lobby was nice and warm.
The entrance looked like a typical hotel or motel lobby, since that is the property's primary function. The walls were covered in newspaper articles chronicling the history of the spring, the resort, and the spa. After learning about the igneous magma heating the spring, we walked up to the desk and paid our entrance fees.
We chose to do both the swimming pool and caves. The swimming pool is the main attraction, but the hanging photos of steam caves looked really inciting, and I had never been to another hot spring that offered these, so we chose to add it on! It cost $34, per person, for access to both amenities. If you would like to see a detailed breakdown of rates, you can visit their website, here.
We were given a quick briefing of the layout: the men's and women's locker rooms and steam caves are downstairs on their respective sides of the front desk, and the swimming pool is down the hallway to the left. We all agreed to check out the swimming pool first.
We all headed down to our locker rooms, and once we were changed and ready, we met up to walk down the carpeted hallway to the large, steamy swimming pool. What the end of this hallway held was an absolute surprise to us.
The swimming pool area was like a tropical paradise set inside a greenhouse with a hot pool in the center. We were blown away. There were gigantic palm trees and brightly colored flowers lining the walls surrounding the crowded, turquoise water. There was even a tiki bar complete with a thatched roof, and one side of the pool hosts picnics and chairs.
Once we got our wits about us, we found a place on a picnic table to leave our items before slipping into the tantalizing water. Even though it was the middle of the day on a Friday, it was still relatively crowded.
We found ourselves a nice, open corner near the hot water spring. The water flowing from the spout was super hot, but the water around it was the perfect temperature. The farther we moved from the spring the colder it got, but we knew we should share when more groups arrived.
We swam and lounged in this gigantic pool for quite some time. When we were ready, the boys and girls went our separate ways to check out the geothermal caves.
These caves are naturally filled with hot water from the spring underneath. There were about a dozen different small pools to soak in, and some are hotter than others. Since the cave walls are all natural, they really trap the heat, and the room itself was like a sauna. We ladies didn't stay in here for more than 30 minutes before it got too hot.
The caves make for a beautiful sauna, but since it was clothing optional, I wasn't allowed take any photographs.
We came out and went back to the pool area to discover that the boys were already there. We joined them for a while, then both groups began to go back and fourth between the pool and caves until it was finally time to dry off and pack up.
We were all sufficiently toasty and were ready to make the rest of the drive home. We were all blissful and decided to stop at Indian Springs with every opportunity we get!
In May of 2019, my close friend came to visit me in Colorado for a week. She is just as adventurous as me, and I wanted to show her all of the best highlights in the state. I decided to plan a road trip that would take us to a bunch of different towns to ski, hike, and soak in hot springs - something we didn't have growing up in Alabama!
You can watch my YouTube video HERE to see even more!
One stop along our trip was Hot Sulphur Springs. We noticed this town on the map while planning our hike to nearby Radium Hot Springs - it's name really drew us in. With a quick search, we found Hot Sulphur Springs Resort and Spa which boasts 22 pools filled with "sacred waters where the Ute Indians once bathed, healed mind, body, and spirit," so we made sure to include it on our road trip.
We arrived at the spring's front office a little bit more skeptical than we expected to be. "Colorado's finest" was housed inside a teeny-tiny shack in the middle of nowhere. Regardless, we went inside and got ready to spend the afternoon enjoying the hot, steamy water.
For less than $30 each, we gained access to the hot springs, swimming pools, showers, and lockers. We paid our dues, got a quick tour, and were shown to the locker room to put away our items. It wasn't long until we were briskly walking from the warm locker room through the frigid open air toward our first hot spring pool.
Each pool is relatively small and only holds a couple of people. Some hold more than others and a few only hold one or maybe two people! It wasn't crowded when we were there, but every now and then, we did have to skip over an already full pool.
The first we checked was the larger, indoor, tented pool. It was the first empty pool we found, because it wasn't ultra hot, but it was a nice start to our exploration of the resort. We hung out in the pool for a minute until we could tell that the close-by outdoor pools were open again.
We bounced around the three tiny pools just outside of the tented one before hopping over to the larger pools in the middle area. Our favorite over here was a pool tucked away in the corner with a little waterfall. It had a nice view of a small pond on the property, and it was all very calming while we had it to ourselves.
After we spent plenty of time in this area, we decided to wrap up and walk across the property to the next area of pools. We walked up the stairs and around the other side of the building getting closer to the pond. Here, we found, by far, the most relaxed-looking pool in the entire place. It was occupied by a nice woman reading her novel, and we joined in and found some peace for a long while.
We eventually said goodbye and moved back down the boardwalk toward the pools we had passed on our way up to the relaxing pool. Here, we found the spa's hottest pools including its hottest, The Lobster Pot.
The Lobster Pot only holds one person and is about 110-115 degrees. This pool is definitely cooking! We took turns sitting in the pot for only a few minutes at a time before it got too hot. Once we each got hot enough, we walked over to the last pool area.
We had about 5-6 pools left to check out, and most of these were pretty packed. There were two large groups, one bachelorette party and one birthday party, sprawled out among the larger pools. We sat in some of the smaller ones waiting for them to leave and enjoying every minute of it.
Finally, after checking out every other pool in the spa, we had the most picturesque, waterfall-fed spring in the place all to ourselves! We saved the best for last, and we loved the frothy, turquoise-colored water. We hung out here and made new friends as they showed up, but eventually, as all good things, our day had to come to an end.
We were so relaxed and warm leaving Hot Sulphur Springs that the 3 hour drive home to Denver felt like floating on a cloud.
Pagosa Springs Resort and Spa - Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Conundrum Hot Springs Hike - Aspen, Colorado
Strawberry Hot Springs Park - Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Talkin' 'bout Tacos:
I'm Taylor, aka Tacos! I am sharing my journeys and experiences from across the world hoping to inspire travel and adventure in all who read!