Revered throughout history for their soothing powers, hot springs have been popular and sought out all over the world. Europe and Asia created huge bath houses dedicated to the therapeutic effects of natural spring water, and legend states the Native American people of North and South America have always deemed the land surrounding hot springs as sacred ground and avidly maintained a truce of peace while visiting the many pools across the west. Upon the arrival of settlers in southwest Colorado, perhaps the Ute Indians found some level of camaraderie through the soothing waters known and respected by both peoples.
Southwest Colorado boasts many towns and spas with natural mineral hot springs, but Ouray has the added good fortune to possess hot springs with very low sulfur content; soakers can enjoy the soothing heat of water full of minerals such as magnesium and calcium, without the distinctive odor of sulfur. Common to almost every mineral hot spring is a high content of sodium, which may explain the lightness so many bathers comment on when enjoying this natural wonder.
Bubbling to the surface at temperatures from 140 to 180 degrees, Ouray does have to cool its water to make it safe for bathing. The Box Canyon Lodge provides four redwood tubs tiered on the hillside in our courtyard for guests to enjoy the peace and beauty of the San Juans while soaking in a more private, natural setting. The temperature of our mineral hot spring water is maintained between 101 to 108 degrees varying by a couple of degrees from tub to tub.
The City Pool at the north end of town contains over one million gallons of mineral hot spring water ranging in temperature from a cool 82 degrees to a balmy 104. There is a section set apart for swimming laps and a large water slide. The Swim Shop offers everything from water toys for sale or rent to bathing suits just in case you forgot yours, to snacks. Upstairs, the newly renovated gym provides a fantastic view of the pool below as you work up a healthy sweat prior to a soothing soak.
The Wiesbaden is on the east side of Ouray. This facility has a large soaking pool outdoors; it also is home of the Lorelei, a small yet private outdoor soaking pool that can be rented by the hour, and the unique vapor cave in the basement of the hotel.
Although there are just a few known sources where the mineral water rises to the surface, evidence of the hot springs flowing beneath Ouray is all over, from steaming drainage grates, to portions of road that never seem to be quite as frozen as the rest of the ground in deep winter. Driving past Ridgway, Colorado, north of Ouray, it is not unusual to experience the sensation of driving through a cloud, as the heat from the springs creates a surreal mist across the highway near Orvis Hot Springs, a bathing suit optional facility well worth visiting if only to view the beautiful grounds and natural setting of the several tubs scattered about the property.
Just 5 miles north of Durango on US Highway 550, Trimble Hot Springs boasts warm water too. Like Ouray, the water is essentially odorless; it is high in iron and calcium. Trimble Hot Springs has two geothermal pools that are opened year round and they range in temperature from 101-105 degrees Farenheit. In April - October, they also open an Olympic-size swimming pool. Noting its proximity to Mesa Verde National Park (less than 1 hour away), it seems likely the ancient puebloans may have soaked in these waters too.
Pagosa Springs too has natural hot springs. The water in Pagosa has the traditional odor of sulphur. There are three separate facilities that cater to the public and all are in downtown Pagosa. Healing Waters (formally known as The Spa at Pagosa Springs), the Overlook, and the Springs Resort.