Here are 9+ things to do in Glenwood Springs, Colorado sure to knock your socks off. And you, like us, might not want to leave! Located in Roaring Fork Valley where the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers meet, the historic resort town of Visit Glenwood Springs welcomes visitors seeking to explore the Rocky Mountains. We planned an overnight here on our way from Denver to Moab, but ended up spending almost a week because we loved it so much.
SOAK IN SOME HOT SPRINGS
Glenwood Springs is home to several hot springs resorts; just pick your preferred style of soak and go!
The most popular is Glenwood Hot Springs Resort Pool, Lodge and Spa. They’re home to the world’s largest host springs pool. You don’t have to stay at the lodge to have access to the pool; day passes are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
We opted to visit Iron Mountain Hot Springs because it’s perched right on the banks of the Colorado and looked gorgeous. Reality met the hype. Over our 2.5 hour visit we dipped into about 5-6 of the 16 different pools on the property. Each of them offer different views of the water and different temperatures.
The boys preferred the large Family Pool, which offered a jetted hot pool on the edge where Dan and I could sip a Bloody Mary and keep an eye on the boys. It was still winter when we visited, so the warmer pool was perfect for us. Take note if you are visiting with kids that tickets are for adults only at night.
A third option is the vapor caves at Yampah Spa. I’ll be honest, these looked super cool! In fact, they looked so cool that while it’s ok to bring kids, I would prefer to visit sans kids with hubby on a date night. The caves are natural underground hot mineral water steam baths with hot mineral waters flowing through the cave floors to create natural geothermal steam baths. There are three interconnected cave chambers you can visit in, but you’ll want to take cooling breaks in their cooling rooms.
TOUR A CAVE (JUST FOR STARTERS!)
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park could be considered a “touristy”adventure, but it was also really really fun. Buy your ticket online, then take the gondola to the top of the mountain where all the excitement lives.
We visited in winter on a windy day, so not everything was available but even with the abbreviated activities (for a discount) we had a fantastic time. The alpine coaster, with views of the Colorado, was our favorite. You can ride it as many times as you want and we did just that! I would swear we took the ride a dozen times!
An absolute MUST is to take one of the two cave tours (or both!) We picked the Kings Row Cave Tour, which took about an hour. It sits below the other cave, the Historic Fairy Cave, and was discovered relatively recently! Our boys (who don’t have the longest attention span) were captivated from start to finish. The hike is full of stairs – it’s a “down and back up” kind of “hike” but the pace is slow which makes it manageable.
Now, the Giant Canyon Swing…that’s a different story! I’m waaaay too wimpy to take on this thrill ride, but we still enjoyed watching other people do it! If you’re into death-defying awesomeness then this one is for you, swinging you over the 1,300 ft deep canyon below. Ooo. I’m getting woozy just writing about it.
Opening in July 2022, the adventure park will open America’s “highest looping roller coaster” on Iron Mountain. The coaster, named “Defiance,” will be located at 7,160 feet above sea level, and can reach speeds of up to 56 MPH! If you’re someone who would like to go on a 102-degree freefall drop, a 41-foot “heartline roll,” and so much more — this is the ride for you!
You’ll also find a Mine Drop, climbing wall, laser tag, two roller coasters, a zipline and more!
HIT THE SLOPES
As an avid snowboarding family, we were more than a bit skeptical about going to a smallish ski resort in Glenwood Springs when you have mountains like Aspen, Vail and Beaver Creek within a short drive distance. But if you’re going to do a smaller mountain, Sunlight Mountain Resort is the one. And with 72 trails on 730 skiable acres its not really that small.
And with tickets in the $40 (child) to $60 (adult) price range, they cannot be beat. If you’re already staying in Glenwood Springs you’ll want to spend at least a day here, and maybe more. It’s only a 13 mile, 25 minute drive from city center.
Sunlight Mountain is generally less crowded than larger resorts, which is another plus. Do check on snow conditions before you plan your trip. Due to its location on the other side of Vail Pass, and slightly lower elevation they tend not to stay open later in the year than you might see in the Breck area.
SAVOR OLD HISTORY
If you’ve got a history buff in the family then make sure you take stroll at Linwood Cemetery. This is where Doc Holliday’s grave can be found. You know, the gangster…gambler…and dentist (huh?) He died here in 1887 of tuberculoses. Why was here here? He thought the healing hot springs would heal his ailment, but alas it did not.
TAKE ON THE WHITEWATER
If you’ll be visiting in warmer weather than we were (May thru September-ish), then be sure to add whitewater rafting to your list! Multiple companies offer rafting on the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers in Glenwood Springs. Trips vary from mild and great for families, to trips exclusively for physically fit, experienced rafters.
There is nothing as mesmerizing as rafting through these grand and glorious canyons with the mountains climbing high on either side of you and the water glistening like a diamond.
WALK BEHIND THREE WATERFALLS
Rifle, CO is just a short trip down the road from Glenwood Springs and a visit to Rifle Falls State Park is an absolute MUST! My boys said it felt to them like we were visiting the Shire from The Hobbit…and they were so right!
The easy 1.5 mile Coyote Trail is the trail to take. I recommend taking it clockwise from the parking lot. You’ll notice some “caves” at the trailhead, which are fun for the kids but they are nothing compared to what’s ahead.
This trail will take you up over the three waterfalls, giving you a bird’s eye view of them. You’ll circle back to the other side of the waterfalls where you’ll find even more caves…larger, and so much fun. Bring flashlights and don’t be afraid to explore. We wedged our way into a few small places only to walk into HUGE caves rooms with dozens of nooks and crannies.
Once you’ve had your fill of the caves, keep walking until you’re standing in front of the waterfalls. Splash in the water or dive right in, depending on the time of year. Keep walking to the other side where you can climb behind the falls for a really unique perspective.
Another great hike for the family include Grizzly Creek Trail. Easily one of the best hikes in Colorado, picnic spots and plenty of places to enjoy river views make this popular in summer. The clear, cold water comes from snowmelt on the Flat Tops and it is full of fishing holes.
SAMPLE AWARD-WINNING BREWS
Glenwood Canyon Brewpub is a favorite in the area among locals and visitors alike. Not a big beer drinker, I still ordered a flight on their homebrews and loved everyone one! The boys were in heaven about their home-brewed root beer, as well. You’ll also find sparking seltzers and ciders, too.
Lest you think this is just another brew pub, let me correct you. The food here was sensational. Bavarian pretzels, beer cheese soup, pub tacos, beer brats. You name it; it’s delish. I know this sounds strange, but the Reuben was my favorite! Oh, and the kids’ meals? They are served on a frisbee, which made for fun times that evening!
FLY-FISH ON THE COLORADO RIVER
The Glenwood Springs area is world renowned for its fly fishing. And while camping right next to the Colorado River, it was a dream to be able to walk 30 feet from our RV down to the water to make a couple of casts. The section of the river we were on was a bit deeper and faster, and locals recommended using a “nymph” rig and a small bobber called an indicator.
Alas – we didn’t get anything on this particular trip, and really want to check out a local guide next time around. Waders and float fishing on kayaks or tubes is another great option here.
HANG OUT AT HANGING LAKE
Hanging Lake is another of the most popular attractions in the area. Unfortunately it was still closed when we visited so we had to skip it (no worries – we’ll be back to Glenwood Springs over and over again.) There had recently been a forest fire, and clean up and conservation efforts were still underway.
The hike is only about 1.2 miles, but it is very steep and rocky so be prepared – you’ll be climbing over 1,000 ft in elevation.Secure a permit before heading out, which is $12 per person. You’ll find tickets here. No pets, no restrooms, no fishing, no cell service…I can’t wait to visit!
WHERE TO STAY IN GLENWOOD SPRINGS
To be honest, we didn’t stay in Glenwood Springs. Ironically, we stayed at the Glenwood Springs KOA, which is actually in Silt, CO. If you’re in an RV, there is no other place you want to be. We backed our rig right up to the Colorado River, which was pure bliss.
You can stay here even if you don’t have an RV. They have the cutest (new) cabins available. They don’t sit right on the river like the RV sites, but you still have access to the river and river trails while you stay.
If you want a traditional hotel in the city of Glenwood Springs, then I recommend either Glenwood Hot Springs Resort or the historic Hotel Colorado. There are also plenty of killer rentals in the area and on the slopes.
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