A tale of two Colorado hot springs

Hot springs dot the southeast portion of our state, providing serenity and play time across this breathtakingly beautiful region of Colorado. This is the story of two hot spring destinations that are located just 10 minutes apart, but couldn’t be more different.

We have visited a good portion of Colorado’s hot springs over the years and each has its own ambiance, but there’s no two springs more dissimilar than these two.

Ouray Hot Springs Pool, Ouray, Colorado

Located in the small village of Ouray, the Ouray Hot Springs Pool  has a family-friendly environment. We’ve been there several times and it’s always a lively place, even in the winter. One of our favorite Colorado travel memories is sitting in the Ouray Hot Springs Pool with snow falling on our heads.

Ouray Hot Springs Pool, photo by Haji Mahmood

The pool, right in town, offers a chance for climbers, hikers and other adventurers to soak away their aches and pains. Moms and dads can soak away the stress of daily life while their kiddos swim until all of their little fingers are shriveled up like raisins. Retired folks enjoy the restorative powers of the hot water that was called “sacred miracle waters” by the Ute tribe who spent their summers in the area long before white settlers discovered it.  

Ouray Hot Springs Pool, popular with tourists and locals, is often a busy place filled with screams of children’s laughter and the happy hum of conversations. Occasionally soakers are entertained by climbers who appear as miniature humans scaling the rock wall high above the pool.

Orvis Hot Springs, Ridgway, Colorado

Ten minutes down the road, in the small town of Ridgway, is an entirely different destination. At Orvis Hot Springs you’ll find a collection of pools and you’ll find a lot of quiet. The serenity here is in startling contrast to the family focus in Ouray’s pool.

Main hot springs pool at Orvis Hot Springs in Ridgeway, Colorado
Photos courtesy of Orvis Hot Springs’ Facebook page. Used with permission.

The clientele at Orvis can often be found dozing, meditating, cuddling or reading a book – it’s likely that they will be doing all of that in the nude. That’s right, Orvis Hot Springs is clothing optional. Of course, this means that children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

We visited Orvis on a Sunday morning when the pools were occupied by a lot of locals in their birthday suits. It’s a little odd, at first, but we got used to it. We’ve since learned that a lot of folks prefer to visit this place at night, when the nakedness is in shadow.

Please note: I originally wrote here that Orvis is pot-friendly at the smoker’s pond. It is the position of the hot springs in a statement issue in January that while they do allow marijuana to be smoked in their smoking hotel rooms, in keeping with state regulations pot is not allowed outside on the premises. Please be courteous and follow these rules. I apologize for  insinuating  that pot was allowed outside – I was misinformed. (11/5/14)

There’s a type of tranquility at Orvis that I haven’t found at any other hot springs in Colorado. I can only describe the property as a sort of Garden of Eden, and they must spend hours working on the beautiful and peaceful landscape.

The Island Pond at Orvis Hot Springs, Ridgeway Colorado

While these two Colorado hot springs couldn’t be more different, they are both wonderful and located in one of the most scenic areas of our state. Like us, you could find that both fit your style, depending on the day, your mood and the type of trip you’re intending to embark upon. For those looking for a quiet escape, Orvis is the place, but if you’re towing along the kids, Ouray would be best.

Thank you to Ouray Colorado for providing us complimentary passes to both hot springs facilities.  


  1. Nice article. I LOVE hot springs but the idea of sitting in a pool with naked strangers is not appealing to me. I like the pools that are in nature the most as we have enjoyed in Saturnia, Italy. So I’m always looking for pools in a natural setting without naked strangers. Wish me luck, right?


    1. LOL, Mickey! In Colorado I would wish you luck. Even Strawberry hot springs in Steamboat is clothing optional after dark. I’m also not a huge fan of naked strangers, but after a while at Orvis it wasn’t a big deal. At first it’s definitely odd and I see why some choose to only go after dark. 🙂


  2. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to spell “Ridgway” correctly.

    That said, Orvis is NOT pot friendly: they indeed have a sign that notes it’s ILLEGAL to smoke there, which is the case in any public space in Colorado. I’ve been an Orvis member for years and have NEVER even smelled pot there. That’s not to say some haven’t partaken, but they’re doing it contrary to the rules, and I’ve never witnessed it.


    1. I appreciate the comment, Randy. I indeed misspelled Ridgway once in this article, but got it right the second time.

      I have emailed you.


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