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.
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.
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.
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.