Despite all the snow in Colorado lately, there are places where it's always balmy. But you've got to find a way to get to them first -- and some are easier to access than others. Colorado is home to hundreds of hot springs. There are popular pools like Glenwood Springs, wild springs gurgling in remote areas, and "clothing optional" bathing spots.
Former Rocky Mountain News reporter Deborah Frazier profiles 44 hot springs in her book "Colorado's Hot Springs." The third edition hit bookshelves recently. She spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner about the history and health benefits of the state's "sweet soaking spots," like the Iron Springs, which is set to open in Glenwood in April.
Popular springs like Pagosa and Steamboat can be reached by car. But Frazier says there are six "wild" ones open to the public. They are located in remote areas of Colorado and require a sometimes lengthy hike to enjoy their soothing pools.
This sizable, natural pool is located on the Colorado River near Vail. To reach the springs, it's about a mile hike across a mesa to a cliff above the Colorado River, then a scramble down a rock chimney. Radium is a popular spot for rafters, boaters and kayakers as well.
This wild spring is on the Crystal River near Carbondale. At one time, it was bulldozed over because a neighboring ranch owner complained about people bathing nude. But devotees to the springs removed the boulders and revived the pools. It's unofficial caretaker is a Sikh, who reportedly wears only his white turban. The Colorado Department of Transportation has added a large parking area.
Just outside of Glenwood, this wild spring is always full of surprises. Frazier says it can sometimes be a clean and pleasant soak -- or you may discover a lot of trash left from previous bathers.
This warm watery getaway outside of Pagosa Springs requires a mile hike. You may encounter deer and other wildlife enjoying the shallow pools. Frazier says, at this particular hot spring area, people will sometimes dig and rearrange the rocks to create new pools.
A remote hot spring near the Pagosa Springs region, the only way to reach Rainbow Hot Springs is a seven-mile hike. During the summer weekends, dozens of people with their dogs soak in these pools.
This wild spring is the most remote one in Colorado. Located in the Maroon Bells Wilderness near Aspen, it requires an eight and a half-mile hike uphill with a 2,500-foot elevation gain. Yet, this hasn't hampered people from bathing in its above-treeline pools surrounded by views of mountain tops towering over 14,000 feet.
*However, Frazier has started warning people that this particular soaking spot has become a popular place for late-night, summer partying. More than 700 people navigate their way there every weekend from spring to late fall. With the influx of people, there has been an uptick of drunken brawls and polluted water. Because of this, the Forest Service is considering establishing a permit system for Conundrum.
Frazier set up a Facebook page to keep devoted bathers in the loop.