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Travel: Strawberry Park Hot Springs

Strawberry Park Hot Springs | Steamboat, Colorado

Hot tubs have their recuperative merits (as well as time machine properties, apparently, and definitely more than a little skeeve factor), but hot springs really expose the hot tub as the synthetic approximation of a truly inspired experience.  Witness Strawberry Park Hot Springs, located an easy, ten-minute drive from the postcard-perfect town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Don’t expect a glitzy wellness retreat. No surprise, given that the area was settled in 1870 by dust-covered pioneers!  Instead of haute add-ons, this “public bathing facility” boasts a network of all-natural springs that rise out of the earth at 140 degrees F, and is then tempered by mixing with the cooler waters of Hot Springs Creek to a tolerable heat of around 104 degrees F.

Two stone-encased pools are nestled against the banks of the creek in a narrow valley dominated by a beautiful wall of foliage, all of it accessible via a series of stairs from the parking lot.  Modest changing rooms, bathrooms, picnic areas with chairs, and a communal tee-pee (yes, a tee-pee) add just the right measure of civility. The springs are the perfect place for an après soak for a few hours after you’ve spent the day hiking, mountain biking, cycling, horseback riding, or skiing in the acres-upon-acres of backcountry that dominates this section of the Rocky Mountain State (winter visitors take note: the last two miles are unpaved, and four-wheel-drive may be required to drive to the parking lot).

Those truly invested in the timeless experience can also bed down overnight at Strawberry Park, choosing from a variety of lodging options from barebones campsites and rustic cabins to covered wagons and a bona fide train caboose.  But the modest should take heed: after sunset Strawberry Park’s occupants tend to embrace the bathing-suit-optional policy. Thankfully, a lack of ambient light makes for all-consuming, unfettered views of the expansive star scape, which should give you something really interesting to watch. And unlike that sketchy hotel hot tub, you can take comfort in knowing that the pools are drained and cleaned every Thursday from 7 to 10 a.m.

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