Eat. Soak. Eat. Steam.
What is it about January that makes me feel like I need a vacation? Maybe it’s the post-holiday blues, or maybe it’s the fact that my next vacation day is in May. Yikes! Whatever the case may be, my husband and I were itching to get away and wanted to see someplace new.
The goal for this trip was to relax as much as possible. We had one night and two days – Saturday and Sunday. We decided on Glenwood Springs because of the proximity to Denver (only a 2.5 hour drive), and because of Glenwood Springs’ reputation for being a place to release stress and return home rejuvenated.
We packed our itinerary pretty tight with “chill activities” and made a few mistakes that I would warn others against. However, for a quick two day weekend, Glenwood Springs was a great weekend getaway.
Getting To Glenwood Springs
From Denver, the quickest route is I-70 W to CO-82 E in Glenwood Springs. You may hit some skiing traffic on your way, depending on what time you leave Denver. We got a late start, leaving at about 9:00 a.m., and still hit some traffic. Waze navigation routed us on and off I-70 W to avoid vehicle buildup. Anytime you travel through Colorado on a weekend, I recommend downloading a real-time navigation app to reroute you in the event of a pile-up. Be warned: As of January 2018 Waze and Apple Maps were not aware of the construction taking place in Glenwood Springs. The new bridge is a great addition to Glenwood Springs, making traffic more manageable, but the navigation apps thought we were below the bridge and navigated accordingly. We caught on – and relied on intuition rather than navigation for getting around town.
We did not stop at Hanging Lake on this trip and I have not been to Hanging Lake, so my advice is purely word-of-mouth. As you head west on I-70, you will approach Hanging Lake around Exit 125 in Garfield County. An electronic billboard will update you on the Hanging Lake parking situation. If parking is full, you will need to park elsewhere and hike/get a ride in. Bottom line: get here early. There are plans to limit the number of visitors to Hanging Lake each day, read about that here. Our trip was in the middle of January and we wanted to avoid hiking an icy trail but we will be back in the summer to witness all the beauty that is Hanging Lake.
A Picnic In The Park
One of our new road trip traditions is to pack a little picnic, regardless of the weather. It was cold and windy but we grabbed a table at Two Rivers Park and shared a fruit and cheese platter. We also had a cheap bottle of wine but it tasted more like rubbing alcohol than wine – that was a mistake. Spend a few extra dollars and get a decent bottle of wine! Two Rivers Park is a cute little area with a few trails along the river, a playground and an open field. This was one of those times when I wished we had a dog – this would’ve been more fun with a dog.
Iron Mountain Hot Springs
Selecting a hot spring for this trip was tricky – it came down to Glenwood Hot Springs or Iron Mountain Hot Springs, both are viable options. We appreciate variety, so decided to go with Iron Mountain Hot Springs which offers a freshwater family pool and 16 hot springs mineral pools. The hot spring is also located alongside the Colorado River, which reminded us of our beloved Pagosa Hot Springs (read about that experience here).
What To Bring
You’ll need a swimsuit, nudity is not allowed at this family-friendly hot spring. We also brought a water bottle, flip flops and our underwater camera. We wish we would have brought towels – rookie mistake, but you can rent towels and grab a new towel whenever you like. This was arguably the better option because our towels would begin to freeze as the temperature dropped outside. Lockers are free and easy to use – keep your valuables locked up.
When To Go
I’m always a little disappointed in Colorado during winter and spring, the landscape looks dull and the weather is depressing. However, I do enjoy a hot spring in the colder months when the 108 degree mineral water feels especially nice. I imagine that the view from Iron Mountain Hot Springs during fall is stunning. We prefer the hot springs in the evening, but appreciated that Iron Mountain Hot Springs allows you to come and go all-day, so we stopped in after our picnic for a few hours before returning for a dip after dinner.
For a full map of Iron Mountain Hot Springs, click here.
Dinner in Glenwood Springs
We’re brewery lovers, it’s a Colorado thing. Glenwood Canyon Brewpub exceeded our expectations. The restaurant itself is huge without feeling cold and busy without feeling crowded. We shared the Wild Mac N’ Cheese with jalapeno cheddar elk sausage and the IPA BBQ Pulled Pork with citrus slaw on a brioche bun. I’m normally the mac and cheese lover, but I preferred the pulled pork sandwich because it was so perfectly smoky while my husband preferred the mac and cheese and its kick of heat with the added jalepenos. I suspect everything here is good. A nice cold beer rounded out our selection perfectly, and really hit the spot after a tough day at the hot springs. Ha!
Iron Mountain Hot Springs At Night
Our second time back on Saturday we were a little more prepared. Instead of bringing everything but the kitchen sink, we simply wore our swimsuits under our clothes with a small swim bag of essentials. We ordered a drink from the bar and enjoyed a (very cold) evening in the pools. As the temperature drops, the hotter pools become more crowded, but there’s something about the environment that allows people to drop their nerves and talk amongst each other freely. We met people from all over the country and were shocked to come across locals as well. Everyone enjoys the Iron Mountain Hot Springs, apparently.
Breakfast in Glenwood Springs
After an evening at Iron Mountain Hot Springs, we retired to our hotel room and planned our last day in Glenwood Hot Springs. Sunday morning, we decided to splurge a little and go out to breakfast, opting out of the free continental hotel breakfast. We decided on Daily Bread, a local joint. Delicious. Fabulous service. I only have good things to say about this place.
A Walk Through Town
As much as I love shopping, I’m not a big fan of “small town shopping.” There are too many souvenirs and all of the shops are the same (usually). However, Glenwood Springs offered a couple of shops that I was very impressed with. In particular, my husband and I both loved Toad&Co which had eco-friendly clothing at reasonable prices. Before we left down, my husband insisted that we stop back at Toad&Co so he could buy a hat that he had been eyeing. I also bought a hoodie at Dancing Bear Trading Post that says, “The Mountains Are Calling and I Must Go.” So Colorado. So cheesy. So cozy. So worth it.
Yampah Spa and Salon
This was arguably the coolest thing we did on this trip. The Yampah Spa and Salon offers a variety of services, but we focused our time in the Hot Springs Vapor Caves. Upon arriving, the woman at the front desk offered us a full sized towel and a hand towel each, then gave us a brief tour of the amenities. We walked down the steps and entered a dimly lit vapor cave with several nooks for sitting. The first room is slightly cooler than the others, at around 95 degrees, as you work your way back into the cave the temperature reaches 112 degrees. You can only handle about 15 minutes in the cave before needing a break in the solarium (sun room upstairs). We went back and forth between the caves and the solarium for hours, rehydrating and taking little naps.
It was nearly impossible to take a good photo of the caves with my camera, so I requested a photo from Yampah (above). Normally, the caves are filled with natural vapor, very cloudy and dimly lit. The caves are completely natural with only a few benches and a cold shower for cooling off. The caves are huge, I’d guess the tallest was nearly 40 ft. I would recommend this to anyone because it was honestly the coolest thing we’ve done in a long time.
We messed up. We left Glenwood Springs around 2:30 p.m. thinking we’d miss traffic and we ended up in Vail right when the ski lifts were closing for the day. We were stuck in traffic near the Eisenhower Tunnel for three hours. We might as well have stayed in Glenwood Springs until dinner, we probably would’ve made it home at the same time! While it took us about two and half hours to get to Glenwood Springs, it took close to five hours to get home. It was a lame way to end our fabulously relaxing weekend.
Overall, I was thrilled with our trip to Glenwood Springs. I wish we stopped at Hanging Lake because the trip felt a little incomplete without physical activity. However, it was ultra-relaxing and fun to try something new. I am adding Glenwood Springs to my list of recommended weekend getaways!
Thanks for reading,