Despite its name, Steamboat Springs only has two places where people can take a dip in healing waters. You would think there would be more to dip and soak in, but there aren’t.
The two Steamboat Springs
One – Strawberry Park – is not even within the city limits. Once a truly rustic hangout, its popularity has grown as Steamboat’s visitor numbers have. It still retains some of that hippie flair. To wit: unpaved and tripping-prone walkways and the clothing-optional adult-only switchover at night.
RAS and I went there at night on our last trip to the area. I liked the near-lobster pot temperatures of the pools. Yes, I’m one of those weirdos who loves a super-hot bath. But I couldn’t peel off the swimsuit, and I twisted my ankle on some unseen dip in the rocks.
Those were the two major reasons why we didn’t take my elderly in-laws T and G to Strawberry Park. We then opted for the springs pools, right at the entrance to the main drag. Called the Old Town Hot Springs, it makes a good alternative to soak your tired muscles and creaky bones in some therapeutic waters after a hard day of skiing, biking or hiking. Or if you don’t want to be around people who shouldn’t be shown in the altogether.
Swimming, soaking and climbing
The Old Town Hot Springs is essentially a fully functioning recreation center, but its main attraction are its eight pools of varying sizes and temperatures. The most functional is an Olympic-style lap pool with eight swimming lanes and is way more comfortable than the icy ones I’ve been in. One of the smaller pools has a climbing wall where you can jump into the water once you’ve reached the top, as well as the landing space for some enclosed waterslides.
Next to this area is a rock formation with two manmade waterfalls, which pour out at such force that you can get a nice hydrotherapy massage on your shoulders.
A massive 3,000-gallon soaking pool with curved edges and two arch bridges spanning opposite sides is where most swimmers congregate. But I personally didn’t like this one because the temperature was not warm enough for me.
Healing waters for all
Instead, I spent most of my time in the three bathwater-temp pools, one of which is called the Heart Spring. It represents a significant historical moment for the town and the feature that gave Steamboat Springs its name.
The Heart Spring provided a sacred place for the native Ute Indians for medical and restorative purposes. When settlers arrived in the nineteenth century, they used it for bathing and for healing as well, likely after long days of farming, ranching and hunting. Self-generating from an underground well, the source water pumps 220 gallons a minute and fills all eight pools.
My in-laws stayed in the original Heart Springs pool and smaller one adjacent to it. G was convinced that soaking would help some of the pain he suffered. I certainly hope it did…that, or the Cabernet he had for dinner later on.
Here’s a quick video to give you an overview of the place:
Just across the pools is this throwback motel. With its slightly creepy but cool retro neon sign, it takes its name from the pass you cross as you descend into Steamboat’s valley. I can’t tell you what the place is like, but it’s definitely a Steamboat landmark, and likely popular given the “no vacancy.”