Colorado, known for its stunning landscapes and vibrant cities, also harbors numerous hidden gems that often escape the typical tourist’s itinerary. From secluded hot springs to tucked-away natural treasures, this state is a trove of lesser-known sites begging to be explored. This article delves into the hidden gems in Colorado, with a special focus on Colorado Springs and other regions, offering a guide to some of the state’s most precious and less-traveled spots.
Colorado’s geothermal activity has blessed it with numerous hot springs, many of which remain hidden or lesser-known to the general public. These hidden hot springs in Colorado offer a serene escape, away from the crowded commercial hot springs, and are perfect for those seeking solitude and a connection with nature.
Tucked away near Aspen, this natural wonder requires a hike to reach, but the reward is a series of stunning, steamy pools overlooking the scenic Conundrum Valley.
- Location and Accessibility: Conundrum Hot Springs is situated in the Elk Mountains of Colorado, approximately 8.5 miles southwest of Aspen. The trailhead starts at the Conundrum Creek Trail. To access these hidden hot springs, visitors must embark on a challenging hike. The journey covers approximately 17 miles roundtrip and is considered moderately strenuous. Hikers should be prepared for changing weather conditions, as the elevation gain is substantial. It typically takes 6-8 hours to complete the roundtrip hike;
- Hot Springs Experience: Once you arrive at Conundrum Hot Springs, you’ll find several pools of varying temperatures. These mineral-rich pools offer breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, making it an ideal spot to relax and soak in nature’s beauty. The serene atmosphere, combined with the effort required to reach the springs, provides a profound sense of accomplishment and tranquility.
Located near the Colorado River, these natural and rustic hot springs are a hidden gem for a rejuvenating soak.
- Location and Access: Radium Hot Springs is situated along the Colorado River, near the town of Radium, close to the Colorado-Utah border. To reach these hidden hot springs, visitors need to navigate a moderately challenging trail. The hike is approximately 1.5 miles, making it a relatively short but scenic journey through the wilderness;
- Hot Springs Experience: Upon arriving at Radium Hot Springs, you’ll discover primitive pools situated along the banks of the Colorado River. The hot water flows naturally from the source, providing a soothing and tranquil environment for a relaxing soak. The remote location and natural surroundings make this spot an excellent choice for those seeking solitude and a genuine connection with nature.
This exclusive retreat near Telluride, set in an old mining town, offers luxurious hot springs amidst an idyllic mountain setting.
- Location and Accommodation: Nestled within the rugged San Juan Mountains of Colorado, just 30 miles southwest of Telluride, you’ll find Dunton Hot Springs—an extraordinary escape. Unveil the allure of this secluded haven, where history blends seamlessly with opulence in beautifully restored cabins and a stately main lodge;
- Hot Springs Experience: The hot springs at Dunton are a testament to nature’s bounty. Sourced from pristine mineral springs and channeled into a series of artfully crafted pools, this oasis promises an intimate and unforgettable experience amid the tranquil mountain backdrop. Whether you seek serenity or romance, Dunton Hot Springs invites you to immerse yourself in rejuvenation. Pamper your senses with luxurious spa treatments and savor exquisite dining, elevating your retreat to unparalleled heights;
- Colorado’s Geothermal Activity: Colorado’s unique geology offers a mesmerizing display of geothermal phenomena. Nestled on the western fringes of the Rocky Mountains, the state boasts an abundance of geothermal springs. Deep within the Earth’s crust, geothermal heat brews, heating the water that seeps into the earth. As it ascends, it gives birth to the captivating hot springs that define Colorado’s natural beauty;
- The Hot Springs Culture in Colorado: Colorado’s hot springs have etched themselves into the tapestry of the state’s history and culture. Indigenous tribes were among the first to unearth and harness the therapeutic and spiritual potential of these natural wonders. Fast forward to the 19th century, and hot springs had evolved into coveted health resorts, attracting wellness enthusiasts in pursuit of the rejuvenating properties of the mineral-rich waters. Dive into Colorado’s hot springs culture and experience the centuries-old traditions that continue to soothe both body and soul.
Tucked away near Steamboat Springs, this natural oasis is a blend of rustic charm and natural beauty, offering a tranquil retreat in the heart of the mountains.
- Location and Accessibility: Strawberry Park Hot Springs is located in the Routt National Forest, just a few miles north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Access to these hot springs involves a scenic drive followed by a short hike. In winter, the roads can be snowy and challenging, requiring four-wheel drive or a shuttle service from Steamboat Springs. The journey is part of the adventure, leading you through beautiful mountain landscapes;
- Hot Springs Experience: Upon arrival, visitors are greeted with a series of natural stone-lined pools with temperatures ranging from warm to quite hot, nestled along the banks of a small stream. The setting is rustic and serene, surrounded by forested hills and the sounds of nature. Nighttime visits offer a unique experience under the starlit sky, making it a perfect spot for relaxation and rejuvenation. The hot springs maintain a peaceful atmosphere, ideal for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and immerse themselves in the tranquility of nature.
Today, hot springs in Colorado continue to be a beloved attraction for both locals and tourists. They offer not only relaxation and rejuvenation but also a deep connection to the state’s natural beauty and geothermal wonders.
Colorado Springs, nestled at the foot of the majestic Pikes Peak, is home to several hidden gems that offer unique experiences away from the usual tourist attractions.
While not entirely hidden, this challenging trail is less known to tourists and offers breathtaking views for those willing to tackle its steep ascent.
- Location and Trail Details: The Manitou Incline is a famous yet relatively less crowded hiking destination in Colorado Springs. It’s located in the Manitou Springs area, just west of downtown Colorado Springs. The trail is a former cog railway track, and it’s renowned for its steep incline, climbing approximately 2,000 feet in just under one mile. Hikers should be prepared for a strenuous workout, but the views from the top are well worth the effort;
- Hiking Experience: The Manitou Incline provides a challenging cardiovascular workout and is a favorite among fitness enthusiasts. The trail offers stunning panoramic views of Colorado Springs, the surrounding mountains, and the Manitou Springs area. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker looking for a physical challenge or a nature lover seeking breathtaking vistas, the Manitou Incline delivers an exhilarating experience.
Beyond the popular paths lie lesser-known trails in this famous park, offering quiet and stunning views of the rock formations.
- Location and Access: Garden of the Gods is one of Colorado Springs’ most iconic attractions, known for its towering sandstone rock formations. While the main trails are well-traveled, hidden gems await those willing to explore less-frequented paths within the park. Garden of the Gods is easily accessible from the heart of Colorado Springs;
- Hidden Trails Experience: To escape the crowds and discover the hidden beauty of Garden of the Gods, consider exploring less-known trails such as the Siamese Twins Trail, Palmer Trail, or Scotsman/Buckskin Charlie Loop. These trails offer solitude and a closer connection with the natural wonders of the park. You’ll encounter unique rock formations, wildlife, and tranquil spots perfect for contemplation and photography.
Often overshadowed by the Garden of the Gods, this area provides a tranquil hiking experience with equally spectacular scenery.
- Location and Features: Red Rock Canyon Open Space is located southwest of downtown Colorado Springs and offers a peaceful alternative to the more crowded Garden of the Gods. This open space is characterized by striking red rock formations, meandering trails, and a diverse ecosystem;
- Hiking Experience: Red Rock Canyon Open Space provides hikers with a serene and less crowded experience compared to its famous neighbor. The park features a network of trails that cater to various skill levels, from easy walks to more challenging hikes. As you explore, you’ll encounter towering red rocks, unique geological formations, and opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife spotting. It’s an excellent choice for a quiet escape into nature.
Often overlooked in favor of more famous locations, this park offers a serene hiking experience amidst diverse wildlife and stunning mountain landscapes.
- Location and Features: Cheyenne Mountain State Park is located just south of Colorado Springs, near the base of Cheyenne Mountain. This state park boasts over 20 miles of trails spread across 2,701 acres. It’s known for its diverse ecosystems, ranging from prairie to mountain terrain. The park provides a mix of easy to moderate trails, making it accessible for hikers of all levels;
- Hiking Experience: Hiking in Cheyenne Mountain State Park is a journey through varied landscapes, from open meadows to dense forests. The trails here offer spectacular views of the eastern plains and Colorado Springs. Wildlife is abundant, with opportunities to see deer, coyotes, and a variety of bird species. The park’s tranquil atmosphere makes it a perfect destination for those seeking a peaceful hike away from the bustling tourist spots. Whether you’re after a leisurely walk or a more demanding hike, Cheyenne Mountain State Park provides a beautiful backdrop for outdoor enthusiasts.
The state’s diversity in landscapes ensures that hidden treasures in Colorado are not limited to hot springs and Colorado Springs. From ghost towns to secluded natural wonders, Colorado’s lesser-known sites are as diverse as they are numerous.
An iconic 19th-century wooden mill, situated near Marble, offers a picturesque glimpse into Colorado’s mining history.
- Location and Historical Significance: The Crystal Mill, also known as the “Old Crystal Mill” or the “Dead Horse Mill,” is located near the town of Marble, Colorado. It is a historic wooden powerhouse built in the late 19th century and was used to generate compressed air for miners working in the nearby silver mines. The mill is perched precariously on the edge of the Crystal River and has become an iconic symbol of Colorado’s mining heritage;
- Visiting the Crystal Mill: Access to the Crystal Mill is an adventure in itself. Visitors typically need a high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle to navigate the rugged terrain leading to the mill. The journey offers breathtaking mountain scenery and is a popular route for off-road enthusiasts. The mill itself, with its rustic charm and stunning location, is a favorite subject for photographers and history enthusiasts alike.
This geological marvel, east of Colorado Springs, showcases colorful clay formations that are a photographer’s dream.
- Location and Geological Wonder: The Paint Mines Interpretive Park is located in Calhan, east of Colorado Springs. This unique park features an array of colorful clay formations that have been shaped by erosion over thousands of years. The clay deposits vary in shades of red, pink, purple, and white, creating a surreal and visually captivating landscape;
- Exploring the Park: Visitors to the Paint Mines Interpretive Park can explore a network of trails that wind through the colorful formations. The park offers an excellent opportunity for photographers to capture the vibrant hues of the clay and the striking contrast with the surrounding landscape. It’s a place where geology and artistry come together in a mesmerizing display.
Near the Great Sand Dunes, this hidden waterfall requires a short hike and wading through water to reveal its beauty.
- Location and Access: Zapata Falls is located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, not far from the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. To reach the falls, visitors must embark on a short hike along a trail that leads to the base of the waterfall. Be prepared to wade through icy mountain water, as this adds to the adventure;
- Waterfall Experience: Zapata Falls is a hidden gem known for its spectacular 30-foot waterfall, which is hidden within a narrow, rocky crevice. The trail offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains, and the sound of rushing water adds to the ambiance. It’s a relatively easy hike suitable for families, and the reward of seeing this hidden waterfall is well worth the effort.
A natural wonder and a National Natural Landmark, Hanging Lake is a breathtaking sight with its turquoise waters and scenic setting.
- Location and Environmental Significance: Hanging Lake is located in Glenwood Canyon, just east of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. This geologically unique lake was formed by a geological fault which caused the lake bed to drop away from the valley floor above. The lake is fed by waterfalls and is known for its clear, turquoise waters, surrounded by lush vegetation and dramatic cliffs;
- Visiting Hanging Lake: The hike to Hanging Lake is a popular and scenic trail, about 2.4 miles round trip with a moderate to difficult rating due to its steep and rocky path. Despite the challenging hike, the reward is a serene and stunning natural lake, perched on the edge of a cliff. Due to its fragile ecosystem, visitors are required to follow strict guidelines to preserve its beauty. This includes no swimming or fishing in the lake. The enchanting scenery of Hanging Lake makes it a must-visit destination for nature lovers and those seeking a unique hiking experience in Colorado.
In this exploration of Colorado’s lesser-known treasures, we uncover a world beyond the common tourist trails, revealing serene hot springs and hidden natural wonders. The state’s unique geothermal activity brings to life secluded spots like Conundrum, Radium, and Dunton Hot Springs, each offering a distinctive experience of tranquility and connection with nature. These natural spas, set against Colorado’s stunning landscapes, are not just destinations but journeys into the heart of the wilderness. Beyond the springs, Colorado Springs emerges as a hub of hidden gems. From the challenging Manitou Incline to the peaceful trails of Garden of the Gods, each location invites adventurers to delve deeper into the state’s natural beauty, offering solitude and breathtaking vistas.
This journey through Colorado’s hidden gems reveals a state rich in diverse experiences, from the rustic charm of hot springs to the quiet grandeur of its lesser-known trails and parks. The enchantment of places like Crystal Mill, the Paint Mines, and Hanging Lake underscores the state’s varied landscapes, each offering its own unique story and beauty. Colorado, therefore, stands as a testament to the wonders that lie off the beaten path, encouraging explorers to seek out the quiet corners and hidden nooks that hold the true essence of its natural splendor.
Q: Are the hidden hot springs in Colorado accessible year-round?
A: Most hidden hot springs are accessible year-round, but it’s important to check local conditions, especially in winter, as some trails may be difficult to navigate.
Q: Do I need special equipment to explore these hidden gems?
A: Basic hiking gear is recommended for most sites. For more remote locations like Conundrum Hot Springs, proper camping gear is necessary.
Q: Are these hidden gems suitable for families?
A: Many of these locations are family-friendly, but it’s important to assess the difficulty and safety of each site based on individual family needs.
Q: How can I respect the natural environment while visiting these sites?
A: Always practice Leave No Trace principles, stay on designated trails, and respect wildlife and natural features.