Postcards & Passports

Glenwood Springs via Amtrak

Glenwood Springs, Colorado is a wonderful place to visit. Haven’t heard of it? It’s the cutest and trendiest little town in the mountains, at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers. There’s something for everyone in Glenwood Springs, from river rafting, soaking in hot springs, fishing, hiking, cycling, shopping, restaurants, and even a theme park. While you can drive here, the closest airport is about an hour away in Aspen, CO and the fare is about $400 RT plus car rental. I want to share with you how easy (and inexpensive!) it is to travel to Glenwood Springs via Amtrak (only $68 RT with a spring fare sale).

And while Glenwood Springs is a great location for families, young adults, and adventurers, it also works really well for a retired couple like my husband and I. We chose to travel to Glenwood Springs via Amtrak because of all the benefits of train travel: low coach fares, scenic views without driving, convenience, and proximity. We live in Utah and could have driven to Glenwood Springs in about 5 hours…or take the train for a beautiful 7-hour scenic tour through the Rocky Mountains. The train option worked so well for us because Glenwood Springs is easily walkable. Continue reading for our two-day itinerary and tips for how you can duplicate our experience…

DAY ONE: Glenwood Springs via Amtrak

Probably the only challenge of our entire trip was the schedule for catching our train in Provo, UT. Our departure time was 4:18 am. But at that time of the day, we didn’t have to deal with any traffic or have problems finding a parking spot. It was quiet and dark on the train when we boarded, so if I weren’t so obsessed about not missing something, I would have slept for a few hours. My husband did. (Did you know that even in coach, train seats recline quite a bit making it much easier to sleep?)

Instead, I enjoyed watching the sun rise and spotting herds of mule deer along the route. At one point we rode along the White River which wound through the valley like a serpentine. We made short stops in Helper, UT and Green River, UT before going through Ruby Canyon (only accessible by train or river raft) and into Colorado. One more stop in Grand Junction, CO, and then we were pulling into Glenwood Springs at 11:45 am. Right on time!

Storing our luggage

We chose to stay at Starlight Lodge in Glenwood Springs. At $100/night including tax, it was very affordable and got great reviews. It was only a 9-minute walk (.4 miles) from the train station and included walking over a pedestrian bridge with views of the Roaring Fork River and Glenwood Hot Springs resort. We checked ahead and Starlight Lodge was fine storing our luggage before and after checking in/checking out. In fact, they actually gave us a key to our room early. That made it much easier to travel to Glenwood Springs via Amtrak.

By the way, we didn’t travel with much luggage for two days. We each used a backpack. I also carried a camera bag on my shoulder. So I wasn’t trying to walk from the train station to the motel with a ton of bags. If you need more luggage, you might choose one of the hotels closer to the train station: the Hotel Maxwell Anderson (across the street) or Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge (.3 miles), but they will cost more.

Tip: Glenwood Springs has a zero fare public bus that runs year-round, every 30 minutes with stops near tourist attractions, the downtown area, shopping centers and neighborhoods.

EXPLORing historic GLENWOOD SPRINGS

The first thing we did was find a place to eat. On a list of affordable but popular restaurants, we found Masala & Curry, with Nepali and Indian cuisine. It was delicious, and I highly recommend it. Staff were friendly and prepared our lunches quickly.

After lunch, we visited the Doc Holliday collection at the Bullock’s Western Store, on the lower level. We learned a lot about the gun-slinging dentist who ended up dying right at this location when it was a hotel. Viewing the collection is free, but donations are appreciated.

Next we walked a few blocks to the Frontier Historical Museum on Colorado Avenue. Here we were able to explore the former home of Dr. Marshall Dean and his wife Mollie. Artifacts include kitchen items from the early 1900’s, antique medical tools and supplies, and various antique furniture and musical instruments. Displays about Ute Indians and a visit by President Theodore Roosevelt were also very interesting. Fees are $5 for adults, $4 seniors, and children 12 and under are free. At the museum, we received this walking tour guide of historic Glenwood Springs. It allowed us to read about many older homes and buildings we passed walking around town. You might wish to download it and use it too!

Relaxing at Glenwood Hot Springs

The hot springs are probably the most well-known aspect of Glenwood Springs, and there are two different hot springs right in town that you can visit: historic Glenwood Hot Springs and Iron Mountain Hot Springs. We chose Glenwood Hot Springs for a few reasons:

  • Best price with in/out privileges
  • Most historic
  • Greater variety of pools
  • Addition of activities for children (my husband and I enjoyed riding tubes down the Shoshone Chutes!)
  • Closest to the center of town

We arrived at 3:00 pm and stayed until about 6:30 pm. The pools are actually open from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm, and they allow in-and-out privileges. If you’re like me, once you’re in the 104-degree water, you’re never going to want to leave! The temperature was perfect, and it was so relaxing. The minerals in the water have healing qualities, too, so I’d like to believe I exited a little healthier.

We tried all the different pools at different temperatures, except the cold plunge pools (no thanks!), and my favorite was the Grand Pool. The price for an adult is $46 for a day pass, and after I’d spent three hours there, I did feel it was worth the price. This is an experience worth splurging for. Lockers are free, but you’ll have to rent a towel if you don’t bring your own.

Tip: It may work out better for you to stay at the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge because it includes use of the hot springs. But we saved money by staying elsewhere and paying for the day pass.

Dinner at the Italian Underground Restaurant

We passed the Italian Underground Restaurant earlier while exploring and decided it was where we wanted to eat dinner. We really enjoyed the intimate casual atmosphere and delicious food. The waitstaff was very friendly and we didn’t wait long for our dinners. They don’t take reservations, but we didn’t have to wait for a table on a Tuesday evening. I loved the homemade bread they brought us to eat while waiting for our meals, and I liked all the historic photos on display. And our dinner? Oh, it was amazing!

After dinner, we browsed the lobby and hallways of the historic Hotel Colorado, built in 1893. Famous guests included Theodore Roosevelt and the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown. I admired the antique furniture and framed memorabilia displayed throughout the hotel.

DAY TWO Itinerary

We had a little over half a day to fill before catching our train back to Provo, Utah. We wanted our remaining time to be mostly relaxing.

Riding a gondola

Another Glenwood Springs attraction that is quite unique is the Glenwood Caverns Gondola. I was intrigued as I could see it out our hotel window. Bright orange gondolas seem to float up and down the mountain, to and from the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. I knew I wanted to ride on one of those gondolas to see the incredible views.

We checked out of Starlight Lodge (leaving our luggage stored there) and walked .5 miles to the base of the Gondola ride. Boarding the gondola is easy and pretty fast once you have your tickets in hand. We watched a wheelchair rider use the gondola also, so it is handicap-friendly. They will completely stop the gondola to make it easier to get on. Tickets are $35 for adults in person, $30 if purchased online. You get a much better deal if you purchase a combination package that includes the cavern tours and the amusement rides.

Tip: Gondola rides are free during the month of June 2024 as part of Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park’s 25th Anniversary celebration.

The gondola views are definitely spectacular – both looking up the mountain…or towards town and the two rivers. A one-way ride is about 7-8 minutes long, and that gives you enough time to see a lot. My husband and I were busy taking videos and photos so we could share them with our grandchildren. I’m thinking it would be fun to bring them back here with us someday!

Disclosure: As is common in the travel industry, I was given complimentary passes for the gondola ride so that I could provide a review. Please be assured my review is an honest reflection of my experience!

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Fun fact: Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is the highest theme park in the United States, at 7100 feet above sea level. It’s also the only theme park on the top of a mountain. In many cases, the park capitalizes on this to make the rides much more thrilling. Just imagine riding a swing that hangs out over a huge drop-off!

While I opted not to ride, my husband and I did walk around to see them all and to take in all the views. From one viewpoint in the park, you can see Glenwood Canyon and the massive tunnels that take you through the mountain. From another viewpoint on top of the gift shop, you can see majestic Mt. Sopris in the distance and the confluence of the rivers below.

My husband and I browsed the gift shop and bought our traditional water bottle sticker and deck of cards that we buy wherever we travel. There were lots of fun knick-knacks to purchase. Finally, we opted to eat at the Lookout Grille so we could watch the gondolas and continue to take in the views while we ate very tasty Cowboy Burgers with fries.

More options could have included gold panning, laser tag, touring the caverns, riding an Alpine sled or a ziplineĀ  — and I’m sure we would have had a lot of fun. However, it was about time to start making our way back to the Glenwood Springs train depot for our return trip home.

TWO RIVERS PARK and the Train Depot

We stopped at the Starlight Lodge to pick up our stored luggage and walked to Two Rivers Park at the confluence of Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers. You can walk out on a bridge that spans the Colorado River to see the joining of the rivers. There’s a walking path along the river that would be nice for strolling or birdwatching. You can also watch river rafters floating down the river.

We arrived at the train station about an hour early. I had checked the Amtrak app and learned our train was arriving early, and I wanted to be there when it arrived. (Trains don’t leave earlier than their scheduled times, even if they arrive early). The Glenwood Springs historic train depot opened in 1904. It was originally built with two waiting rooms — one for women and children, the other for men. Today, one of those waiting rooms is reserved as a members’ lounge and the other for the general public. Beautiful details like carved wooden benches and historic art plus the original ticketing office are a treat. This is a staffed depot and there are restrooms available.

Sure enough, our train arrived early, and we were soon boarded on a comfortable train waiting for our return trip departing at 2.44 pm. Knowing we could comfortably ride in our seats, or enjoy the observation car views meant we could continue to benefit from our very relaxing trip to Glenwood Springs via Amtrak. For more details about using Amtrak to travel, please check out my upcoming post. I’ll drop a link here as soon as it is completed.

We saw several eagles’ nests and eagles on our return trip as we watched the sun dip below the horizon. You’ll be happy to know we made it home without incident and on time. I hope I’ve inspired you to make a trip to Glenwood Springs via Amtrak someday!

Here’s our 5-minute video recap of our Glenwood Springs trip:

If you are interested in trying more adventurous activities in Glenwood Springs, read my daughter’s account of her three-day visit.

Glenwood Springs via Amtrak

Glenwood Springs via Amtrak

 

 

 

 

 

 

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