This post was most recently updated on December 19th, 2020
Have you heard of Glenwood Springs, Colorado or have any idea of what to do in Glenwood Springs? Did you know it is home to the world’s largest mineral hot springs and America’s only mountain-top theme park? Or that it was the first city in the country to have an Alpine Coaster? Glenwood Springs hosts the highest elevation roller coaster in the US, was a favorite hunting spot of President Theodore Roosevelt, and is the burial location of historic gunman Doc Holliday.
With such a list of accolades, it’s a wonder this little beautiful town remains somewhat unknown, but it made a perfect getaway for my husband and me! We love to enjoy the outdoors and also avoid large crowds, so this was an ideal location to celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary. We spent three days in Glenwood Springs and loved the perfect balance between relaxing experiences and adventurous activities. Here’s what to do in Glenwood Springs…
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Glenwood Hot Springs Resort
At the top of the list when it comes to relaxing experiences was our visit to the pools at the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. The resort owns and operates the world’s largest mineral hot spring which is open year round. The swim deck sports three different pools as well as a new splash zone that opened in July 2019. The three pools include a small pool for children (closed during our visit), a therapy pool cooled to 104 degrees, and a large pool with a diving board and swim lanes, cooled to 90 degrees.
The water originates from the Yampah Spring at 122 degrees, hence why it is cooled, and contains 15 different minerals which are helpful for refreshing sore muscles and improving your body’s circulation. The new splash zone includes a kind of lazy river/winding slide you can ride on an inflatable tube (no need to rent, they are complimentary), as well as a waterfall, splash pad, and small wading area. The resort also provides towel and locker rentals (bring quarters for the lockers!). We totally forgot to bring our own towels so we were glad they had some to rent, but they are small – plan ahead if you want a nice, large towel!
OUR VISIT to glenwood hot springs
We visited the pools from about 9:15-11:15 am on a weekday in August. We felt that it wasn’t too crowded while we were there but it was getting more crowded as we left. It’s not only a great, relaxing activity for couples, our children would have loved it and I’m sure we would have spent up to 3-4 hours there if we’d had them with us. Between the slide, splash pad, diving board, and amazingly comfortable water, it would have been difficult to get them to leave!
Some parts of the year are more affordable than others. Summers, weekends, Winter Break and Spring Break are their peak times and cost $17.75 for children 3-12 years old, and $29 for adults. For a small family of 4, that’s almost $100 to get in, plus additional cost for lockers and food if you visit over a meal time. While it was definitely a fun experience, $100+ can be hard for a young family. When we bring our children in the future, we will definitely plan our trip during their value season, when entry costs $13.50-$19.75. You can also save a few bucks by going later in the evening (they close at 10 PM).
All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our soak in the pools and look forward to visiting again with our kids in the future!
Note: As is common in the travel industry, I was hosted by Glenwood Hot Springs in exchange for my review, which reflects my experience and honest opinions. I’m grateful for the opportunity to visit the hot springs!
Hiking in Glenwood Springs
You simply can’t skip this major perk of the Glenwood Springs area. We enjoyed three hikes but we barely scraped the number of incredible, highly recommended hikes available to us.
1. Hanging Lake
Wow, what a hike! You’ll definitely want to put this on your list! But don’t just show up at the trailhead, this hike now requires a reservation on a shuttle to reach the trailhead (as of Fall 2018), as it is a very popular hike and the reservation system helps protect the fragile ecosystem. The cost is well worth it – only $12 gets you the permit and spot on the shuttle that you need to get to the trailhead and enjoy the hike. While it was one of the harder hikes I’ve done in recent years, the destination and scenery were aetherial, and I have never seen such beautiful, clear water anywhere else in the world! The unique bowl-like, natural structure that holds the seemingly “hanging” lake, as well as the incredible color of the water, is created by the minerals present in the water.
You should arrive at the Hanging Lake Welcome Center (next to the Glenwood Springs Rec Center) with enough time to park, use the bathroom, fill up water bottles, and check in. The shuttle leaves promptly at your assigned time. Once you’ve driven the 15 minutes to the trailhead, you will have approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete the hike and return to the shuttle (if your reservation is for 2:15 PM, your return shuttle will leave the trailhead again at 5:45 PM). The hike is only 1.2 miles (2.4 miles roundtrip) but it is a difficult 1.2 miles.
Getting to the lake
It is basically a staircase of varying sized boulders/rocks as steps all the way up, with very few flat spots. We actually hiked in a light but continuous drizzle of rain, but it hardly bothered as we were so wet from sweat anyway! Many hikers had hiking sticks and I will do the same next time I hike this trail. My husband and I are in good hiking shape and we completed the hike, with about 30 minutes at the top for picture-taking and relaxing, in 2 hours and 45 minutes. If you do not make it back from the hike in time for your shuttle, you are not guaranteed a spot on the remaining shuttles, but can standby for any extra seats.
2. Grizzly Creek
The Grizzly Creek Trail can be a long 7.9 mile hike up a steep canyon if you’d like, but if you’re just looking for a beautiful nature stroll (like we were), the first mile of the hike is a completely flat trail that follows the river. We set up hammocks and I read a good book while enjoying the sound of the river.
3. Mushroom Rock
This is one of many trails you can find on Red Mountain. It was a real beast to hike in the heat of the day, and quite steep, but the views at the top were spectacular! You can see the entire surrounding valley as well as Mt. Sopris. To be honest, I didn’t see any rocks that looked like mushrooms though.
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
We honestly went back and forth about visiting this small but unique mountain-top amusement park. With other parks we’ve visited like Lagoon (Farmington, UT), Disneyland, and Knott’s Berry Farm to compare it to, we were worried we would be bored or that it wouldn’t be worth the $58 per person. But reviews on travel sites made it sound fun so we decided we’d better try it out.
After purchasing your tickets, you get to the park by riding in orange gondolas all the way to the top of Iron Mountain. Our first stop was at the Giant Swing, a large yellow arm with 4 seats on it that swings you out over the edge of a cliff, facing straight down. This ride is thrilling and terrifying, and I immediately felt like it was worth my $58!
Other attractions include the nation’s highest elevation roller coaster, a zip line, an alpine coaster, a climbing wall, a mine drop (voted best new ride in 2017 by USA Today), two cavern tours, a 3-D theater, and more! Both cavern tours were about 40 minutes long, were led by expert cavers who were both knowledgeable and entertaining, and were a cool 52 degrees inside (a nice break from the August heat!). Only complaint? The food was meh and it was really hard to find a drinking fountain to refill our water bottles. We stayed from about 2-8 PM on a Saturday in August and never felt like it was too crowded. Our longest wait for a ride was about 30 minutes.
Eating in Glenwood Springs
Downtown Glenwood Springs is also known for its exciting food scene! We enjoyed meals at these restaurants:
Daily Bread: A breakfast/lunch spot with the best fries I’ve ever eaten.
Rocky Mountain Pizza Company: Delicious! Loved the “standard pizza” which was definitely more exciting than it’s name implies!
Zheng Asian Bistro: Delicious sushi and the wait wasn’t long even though we went at a peak lunch time.
Where to stay in Glenwood Springs
Airbnb in Spring Valley
We stayed in an amazing guest cabin and it was the ideal place to relax after a long day of hiking. Located in Spring Valley just above downtown Glenwood Springs, it was the best of both worlds. Only 15 minutes from almost everything we wanted to do, but also tucked away from the noise and bustle of the city with amazing scenery. Even though the guest cabin is right next door to the owners’ home, it was very private. When we did finally see the owners on our second day there, we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them.
As if this place needed any more perks, it was half the price of hotels in town, and sleeps up to 6 people. We were so obsessed with the smart layout and beautiful craftsmanship of the cabin that we took lots of notes and want to pattern our own cabin after it some day! (Building our own family cabin is on our bucket list…some day!)
I hope I’ve given you an idea of what to do in Glenwood Springs. Whether it’s relaxing at Glenwood Hot Springs or enjoying an adventure on the mountaintop or on a beautiful hiking trail, I think you’re going to love it!
Many thanks to my daughter, Jessica Heaton, for sharing her three-day getaway to Glenwood Springs with us. All photos are taken by Jessica or LJ Heaton, unless otherwise noted. Our motto is “Travel strengthens family”; we highly recommend it! If you’d like to see other articles written by Jessica, check out:
Light of the World Garden (Thanksgiving Point, Lehi, Utah)
North of Anchorage: Adventure Closer Than You Think (Anchorage, Alaska)
Luminaria — A New Christmas Tradition (Thanksgiving Point, Lehi, Utah)
Free for Kids in Salt Lake County (Salt Lake County, Utah)
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