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Glenwood Springs in Colorado is a glorious year-round playground. If you are looking for excitement and an adventure-filled getaway, then head directly to Glenwood Springs!
From breathtaking scenery, hot springs, hiking, skiing, and snowboarding, to delightful culinary experiences and luxurious stays, the activity options in Glenwood Springs are endless!
Following are the 14 best things you can’t miss on your first visit to Glenwood Springs, Colorado to make your getaway unforgettable.
- 1. 14 Things You Can't Miss on First Visit to Glenwood Springs
- 1.1. Soak in Hot Springs
- 1.2. Visit Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
- 1.3. Hike to Hanging Lake
- 1.4. Hike Storm King Mountain Trail
- 1.5. Hike Scouts Trail
- 1.6. Have a Donut at Sweet Coloradough Donut Shop
- 1.7. Ski and Snowboard at Sunlight Mountain Resort
- 1.8. Go White Water Rafting or Kayaking in Glenwood Springs
- 1.9. Visit Downtown of Glenwood Springs
- 1.10. Find Your Wings in Glenwood Springs
- 1.11. Visit Glenwood Springs Historical Society and Frontier Museum
- 1.12. Go Biking on Glenwood Canyon Bike Trail
- 1.13. Attend Glenwood Vaudeville Revue Show
- 1.14. Visit Linwood Cemetery and Hike to Doc Holliday's Grave
- 2. Intrepid Scouts 3 Tips for First Visit to Glenwood Springs
14 Things You Can't Miss on First Visit to Glenwood Springs
Soak in Hot Springs
Hands down, one of the top best things you can’t miss on first visit to Glenwood Springs is to soak in hot springs. Glenwood Springs has three hot springs attractions where you can swim, soak, and relax for hours:
- Glenwood Hot Springs Resort
Founded in 1888, the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort is home to the world’s largest mineral hot spring pool. This pool is enriched with 15 naturally-occurring minerals. Each day, 3.5 million gallons of naturally hot mineral water rises from the source of the spring.
For over 130 years, soaking in the hot pool has helped visitors relieve aches and pains, eliminate toxins, and reduce blood pressure.
What you need to know is that two pools are available for use: one large pool, which is kept at a warm, comfortable temperature, and another smaller pool maintained at 104 degrees. My recommendation is that you first enjoy the larger pool. This will make for a nice transition to the warmer pool. Needless to say, entering the warmer pool first will make the larger pool seem colder than it is—and also less enjoyable.
The floor of the pool is made of stone and you can choose to swim barefoot or wear water shoes.
Glenwood Hot Springs Resort / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
If you are staying at Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, then you will have complementary and unlimited access to the pools. If you are not a guest at a resort you will have to purchase an entrance ticket. The rates are variable, depending on whether it’s a peak time for tourism. The entrance tickets can be purchased on-site.
Now, towels are available for an additional fee (so I recommend bringing your own!). Also, separate locker rooms are available for men and women. The locker rooms are equipped with lockers, changing rooms, bathrooms, showers, and a swimsuit water extractor.
What you’ll need are a swimsuit, flip-flops or sandals and a water bottle. Remember to stay hydrated! Bring your water bottle to the pool or purchase water from a vending machine in the pool area.
Showers with soap are also available. You may also choose to bring a robe or even a coat.
Parking for the hot springs is available in a lot right off N River St.
If you are visiting in winter and plan on using the hot springs, then make sure to bring and wear a warm hat while you are in the pool. It will make the whole experience so much better!
- Iron Mountain Hot Springs
One of the most renowned attractions at Glenwood Springs is Iron Mountain Hot Springs.
What is cool is that Iron Mountain Hot Springs has 16 geothermally-heated pools that are positioned on a hillside and it offers beautiful views of the Colorado River and surrounding Rocky Mountains.
Iron Mountain Hot Springs / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
Now, each of the pools differs in shape and temperature. No two pools are the same! Some are pebble-bottomed, some have infinity views, and some even contain a waterfall. The temperatures of the pools range from 98 degrees Fahrenheit to 108 degrees Fahrenheit.
Before visiting the springs, you need to make a reservation online for a 2.5-hour visit at the springs. This reservation includes a locker. Locker rooms are equipped with showers, soap and shampoo, and changing rooms. Towels are available to rent for $5, or you can bring your own.
Now, this is important: children under 5 are not allowed in the small mineral pools but can visit the freshwater family pool that has an attached jetted spa.
Make sure to bring a water bottle that can be filled on the site. Alcoholic beverages and small plates are also available to purchase on-site.
- Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves
Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves is a definite stop on everyone’s list while visiting Glenwood Springs. So make sure that you add it to your list of things you can’t miss on your first visit to Glenwood Springs! This is a place that should not be missed.
What you need to know is that Ute Native Americans called the pools in Glenwood Springs “Yampah” or “Big Medicine.”
The Yampah Vapor Caves are natural underground hot mineral water steam rooms. Hot mineral water flows through the cave floors at 125 degrees Fahrenheit to fill the caves with steam. The temperature within the vapor caves themselves averages 110-112 degrees Fahrenheit. The water that heats the caves comes from the nearby hillside. It contains 34 different minerals and has healed and rejuvenated visitors for over 120 years.
In the caves themselves, there are three larger rooms with stone slabs for laying or sitting on.
Now, it can be jarring once you first enter the caves—the lighting is dim, the ceilings are low, and it’s incredibly warm and steamy. So take your time and move slowly through the caves.
There is also a cold shower available and buckets for collecting cold water. A good method for adjusting to the temperature of the caves and not becoming overheated is to soak your face towel in the bucket of cold water and apply the towel to your face and body as needed. Alternatively, you can also rest in the corridor closer to the staircase, which is significantly cooler. Also, remember to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water while in the caves.
What you’ll need to bring with you is a swimsuit, and flip-flops or sandals.
Before visiting the vapor caves, you will need to book a reservation. This can be done online. You will receive an email once your reservation has been confirmed. When you arrive at Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves, you will need to purchase the entrance ticket.
You will be provided with a complimentary shower and face towel. Additional towels or robes are available for a small fee.
There are separate locker rooms for men and women where you can change into your swimsuit before entering the caves or shower after leaving them. You’ll need one quarter for your locker and you can ask the front desk for a change.
Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves are located close to the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. Simply continue traveling on N River St until you reach E 6th St, and parking for the Yampah Vapor Caves will be on your left.
Yampah Spa offers a wide assortment of treatments including massages, facials, and herbal baths. Entry to the vapor caves is complimentary with any treatment. So make sure to book one of their massages and enjoy the vapor caverns for free!
Visit Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, situated at 7,160 feet, is the only mountain-top theme park in America. Needless to say, this amusement park takes thrills to new heights. It is a great place for families and thrill-seekers to visit.
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park offers two exceptional attractions: cave tours and amusement park rides.
What is fun is that you need to take a gondola to access the park!
- Cave Tours
Since 1999, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park has been offering guests the unique opportunity to observe beautiful caves within Iron Mountain.
Probably the most popular is Fairy Caves Tour. This tour passes through a quarter-mile-long passage that culminates at a viewing balcony called Exclamation Point. Fairy Caves Tour lasts about 40 minutes and can be managed by most fitness levels.
Fairy Caves Tour / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
The second tour is called King’s Row Tour and involves traversing a boardwalk with handrails to the most highly-decorated cave in Colorado. This tour also lasts about 40 minutes, however, it is more strenuous than Fairy Cave Tour. You will have to descend and then ascend 120 stairs. If you do not tolerate tight spaces very well, then this tour might be a better choice for you, since most of the rooms are huge and wide open.
For serious thrill-seekers, Glenwood Caverns also offers Wild Cave Tours. These are two-hour guided tours that allow visitors to experience the caves much as spelunkers did for the first time—by squeezing through tight spots and emerging into areas illuminated solely by their headlamps. Be prepared to crawl through sections as narrow as 18 inches square. You will be rewarded with views of the caves that are hardly ever seen.
The entire Wild Cave Tour takes approximately 3 hours, which includes gearing up. These tours are available only on Saturdays. Other dates are subject to availability, and Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park can be contacted for more information. Coveralls are provided, and it is recommended that you wear sturdy shoes with good traction. Guests are also provided with helmets, headlamps, gloves, kneepads, and elbow pads. If guests choose to wear their clothes, they must bring an additional change of clean clothes, to ensure the gondola remains clean once guests descend the mountain.
Tickets for all these tours can be purchased online. Tour times are posted at the park where the gondola drops guests off.
Caves are open year-round. If you are visiting during summer, then make sure to bring a light jacket, since the temperatures stay at about 52 F. Storage lockers are available for rent on the site.
Make sure to bring your camera! And do not touch anything in the caves!
If your schedule permits it, I recommend purchasing a Glenwood Caverns Funday Pass. This allows you to have unlimited turns on the rides, and visit both the Historic Fairy Cave and King’s Row. If you end up purchasing this Pass, plan to spend at least a half-day at the park.
- Thrill Rides
If you are looking for some adrenaline rush, then Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is the place that is not going to disappoint you.
Hands down, Giant Canyon Swing is, without a doubt, something you need to put on your list of things to do in Glenwood Springs. It was named by USAToday as one of the most extreme rides in the United States! The giant swing perched at the edge of a cliff on top of a mountain moves back and forth reaching speeds of 50 miles per hour.
Giant Canyon Swing at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
Another fun ride that you need to add to your list of things you can’t miss on first visit to Glenwood Springs, is Alpine Coaster! USA Today and Park World Magazine named the Alpine Coaster one of the 10 Best Roller Coaster Rides of Your Life. What is neat about this ride is that you are in full control of your speed. And, if you prefer a slower speed, just ease up on the throttle.
Now, if you are visiting in winter, make sure to check the website to see which rides are operating in winter.
An exciting new rollercoaster is called Defiance Coaster and it features a 110-foot record-breaking 102.3-degree free-fall drop in the western United States.
Hike to Hanging Lake
Perhaps the most renowned hike in Glenwood Springs, the Hanging Lake Trail should be at the top of things you can’t miss on first visit to Glenwood Springs and every hikers’ list.
Hanging Lake was formed by a geological fault that caused the lake bed to drop away from the valley floor above. Water flows into the lake over Bridal Veil Falls. The lake edge is built up from dissolved carbonates which are deposited on the shore as the water flows over.
In 2011, the area was designated a National Natural Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior.
Hanging Lake / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
Bridal Veil Falls / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
What you need to know is that the Hanging Lake Trail is 1.2 miles long, with a continuous climb of 1200 feet to the lake.
There are not any restrooms at the lake, but there are flush toilets at the trailhead. Dogs and other pets are not allowed. From October through April, the trail may have ice. So, walk slowly, look for compacted snow, and wear traction footwear. Additionally, no water is available along the trail, so be sure to bring a water bottle.
The trail ends on a boardwalk that circles the lake. It is a perfect spot to take some pictures.
Hanging Lake Trail / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
However, before the boardwalk, there is a short offshoot from the trail that leads to Spouting Rock. This is a site to see—water has dissolved a passage through limestone and exits as a spectacular waterfall—or, as a spouting rock.
Spouting Rock / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
Spouting Rock / First Visit To Glenwood Springs
What you need to know is that you will have to purchase a permit and reserve a one-hour hiking slot prior to visiting the lake. The permit costs $12 per person. Hourly reservations can be made from 6:30 am to 5:30 pm. Hikers are not allowed on the trail after 5:45 pm.
Hike Storm King Mountain Trail
While visiting Glenwood Springs, one of the things that you can’t miss on first visit to Glenwood Springs is to hike Storm King Mountain Trail.
On July 6, 1994, a wildfire on Storm King Mountain trapped and killed 14 young wildland firefighters. Storm Mountain Trail was created by volunteers as a tribute to these firefighters.
Storm King Mountain is a difficult trail with steep inclines spanning over 4.2 miles out and back. Most of the trail has unsteady rocks, calling for extra caution or the use of walking sticks. The trail was intentionally left rugged and steep to demonstrate the near-impossible conditions in which the firefighters had to work.
What you need to know is that the trail is divided into two sections: the first section is 1 mile long and climbs over 700 feet. It ends at the observation point, which offers a great view of the area and homes that the firefighters were working to defend.
Storm King Mountain Trail / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
The second portion of the trail drops into a valley and then begins to climb over the next half mile. At the top of this rise, turn right to continue along an unmarked trail. Along this path, visitors can observe mementos left by others to honor the firefighters.
As you hike this trail, try to imagine what it might have been like for the 14 firefighters who were laden down with heavy equipment as they battled a raging fire.
Storm King Mountain Trail / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
Dogs are allowed on the trail. No water or bathrooms are available on the trail.
The trail is located about 5 miles west of Glenwood Springs.
Take the 170 to Canyon Creek (Exit 109) and follow to frontage road east about 1 mile to the trailhead.
Hike Scouts Trail
While lesser-known, Scouts Trail is one of my favorites due to its moderate undulation and an unmatched view of the city of Glenwood Springs.
The 6.2-mile hike begins at a steep incline, but for most of the route thereafter, hikers can enjoy a moderate walk through shallow inclines and declines. Overall, this loop trail has a 3-mile climb up, followed by a 3-mile decline.
Dogs are allowed on the trail but must be kept on a leash. Bathrooms and water are not available on the trail or at the trailhead, so plan accordingly!
At some points, the trail itself sits right at the edge of a cliff leading into a ravine below. As the trail can become slippery with compacted snow (if you are hiking in winter), ensure that you are walking carefully and wearing shoes with good traction.
The trailhead is located at the end of 8th street in a small neighborhood. Hikers can park on this street or along any of the neighboring streets.
Scouts Trail / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
Have a Donut at Sweet Coloradough Donut Shop
Sweet Coloradough Donut Shop is a delicious stop you can’t miss on your trip to Glenwood Springs. I honestly have to tell you that it is one of the absolute things to do in Glenwood Springs!
Owned by a family originally from Denver, Sweet Coloradough Donut Shop boasts a menu full of breakfast items, such as bagel sandwiches and breakfast burritos, as well as lunch items, including sandwiches.
However, their specialty, of course, is their donuts! Donuts are handcrafted daily and sweetened with honey and you can choose from a rich selection of donuts, croughnuts (a donut with the texture of a croissant), and fritters. Feel free to ask their staff to explain their selection to you—they are very kind! And don’t forget to grab a cup of joe—free refills!
Sweet Coloradough Donut Shop / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
Sweet Coloradough Donut Shop / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
I highly recommend a cronut or a blueberry fritter. These rich bakes go perfectly with a cup of coffee. Or, try the breakfast burrito—it has green chili sauce inside!!
Ski and Snowboard at Sunlight Mountain Resort
Powder-enthusiasts can get their fix at the Sunlight Mountain Resort.
Sunlight Mountain Resort is one of the few remaining independent ski areas in Colorado. The 72 trails span 680 acres and feature one of the steepest runs in the state, as well as a crowd-pleasing cruiser that spans 2.5 miles. This means that this resort is great for both experienced and beginner skiers and riders. All of the trails lead back to the lodge. This makes it easy to find your friends and family before grabbing some delicious food from the grill!
For snowboarders, Sunlight Mountain Resort has a terrain park where riders can practice skills.
The resort also features a gear rental shop, a retail store, snowmobile tours, cross-country skiing, and a ski and snowboard school. Sunlight is usually open from Thanksgiving to early April. Parking at the lift is free.
Sunlight Mountain Resort / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
If you plan to spend more than one day in Glenwood Springs, I would highly recommend booking the Ski, Swim, Stay package through Sunlight Mountain Resort. With this package, one child 12 and under per each paying adult skis for free. The Sunlight Mountain Resort partners with several different hotels that guests can choose from, based on their rates.
Go White Water Rafting or Kayaking in Glenwood Springs
Rafting and kayaking in Glenwood Springs is a bucket list summertime activity that adventurers of all ages and skill levels can enjoy.
You can take a guided rafting trip, led by an experienced guide who not only knows how to “read” the river but can entertain you with stories about the area.
If you are into kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding, then check out Glenwood Whitewater Activity Area. Here, kayakers, stand-up paddleboarders, and playboaters can show off and practice their skills at Glenwood’s White Water Activity Area where a G-wave feature. The standing wave, also known as a G-wave, depending on the time of year, can range from 4,000 to 22,000 cubic feet per second.
Rafting and kayaking in Glenwood Springs / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
Visit Downtown of Glenwood Springs
Downtown Glenwood Springs has no shortage of amazing shops, good eats, beautiful art, and historical sites.
The shopping district of Glenwood Springs / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
The shopping district itself sits between Grand and Cooper Avenues, 7th and 11th Streets, as well as across the pedestrian bridge along 6th Street.
Many of the stores are unique and independently owned. Collectively, the shops offer an eclectic blend of boutiques, art galleries, thrift stores, and outdoor-gear retailers. While there, be sure to check out Bullocks, a western-style clothing store complete with an homage to Doc Holliday, a gunfighter from the 1800s.
One of my personal favorites, Hookers Fly Shop, offers a wide array of top-quality clothing, accessories, and fishing gear. Whether you’re an avid angler or have never case a line, I guarantee you will find something you like in this trendy store.
Hookers Fly Shop / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
Concerning restaurants, I would recommend Mama’s Pierogi, Masala & Curry, and Las Palmas.
However, perhaps my favorite is Grind. This burger joint is focused on doing it right. They source their food from local sellers, offer both grass-fed and grain-fed beef options, and use quality ingredients. All of their meats are ground in-house, daily. With 20 different beers on tap and 8 different proteins on the menu, there is no shortage of excellent options for you to enjoy. I highly recommend the Hoggfather with a side of onion rings.
The Grind / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
The Grind / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
What you need to know is that street-side parking is available for 2 hours at a time on weekdays. On weekends, parking is unlimited after 6 pm.
On 9th Street and Cooper Avenue, all-day parking is available in a parking garage. All-day parking is also available in a lot on 7th Street and Colorado, as well as on 7th Street behind the city government buildings.
Find Your Wings in Glenwood Springs
One of the most unique things about Downtown Glenwood Springs is its rich collection of art and history.
One of the newest art installments is called the Wings of Glenwood Springs. This piece is comprised of nine sets of wings painted on various walls throughout the heart of downtown. You can find them in alleyways or even on historic buildings.
Download the wings map and build a collection of photos to take home a piece of Glenwood Springs.
Visit Glenwood Springs Historical Society and Frontier Museum
While in town, I would also highly recommend a visit to the Glenwood Springs Historical Society and Frontier Museum.
This beautiful museum is situated in a 1905 Victorian-style house. Exhibits in the museum show visitors what life was once like for residents of Glenwood Springs. Guests can learn about ranching and mining, the Ute tribe, and some of its famous and infamous residents.
Tours through the museum are self-guided. Visitors are equipped with a tour pamphlet and map that even guide guests through the historic downtown area. The cost for adults is $5.00. The cost for children aged 12 and older and senior citizens is $4.00. Children under the age of 12 are admitted at no cost.
Go Biking on Glenwood Canyon Bike Trail
Glenwood Canyon Recreation Path is 16.3 miles one way and spans the entire length of Glenwood Canyon. It is a perfect route to explore on foot or on a bike.
The paved trail is easygoing and suitable for all fitness levels.
What you need to know is that the trail is closed in winter and sometimes into the spring when the water level in the Colorado River is high.
The trail follows the winding Colorado River and offers plenty of viewing and resting areas, as well as picnic sites, restrooms, and fishing access points.
Glenwood Canyon Recreation Path / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Canyon Recreation Path / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
The trail follows the winding Colorado River and offers plenty of viewing and resting areas / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
Be prepared for some wildlife viewing, especially, a band of bighorn sheep introduced into the area in the early ’90s.
Bighorn sheep were introduced into the area in the early ’90s / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
Start the trail in Glenwood Springs at Glenwood Canyon Resort, 1308 County Road 129. The trailhead is located between the resort entrance and the rest area. If you want to just bike one way, then you can take a shuttle back to Glenwood Springs.
Attend Glenwood Vaudeville Revue Show
Make sure to attend Glenwood Vaudeville Revue Show. I assure you that you will have a good time and it definitely should be on your list of things you can’t miss on first visit to Glenwood Springs.
The show is relevant, clever, and entertaining!
Visit Linwood Cemetery and Hike to Doc Holliday's Grave
No visit to Glenwood Springs would be complete without a visit to Linwood Cemetery and then a short, yet strenuous, trek to Doc Holliday’s Grave.
Doc Holliday’s Grave / First Visit to Glenwood Springs
John Henry “Doc” Holliday (August 14, 1851 – November 8, 1887) was an American gambler, gunfighter, and dentist. A close friend and associate of lawman Wyatt Earp, Holliday is best known for his role in the events leading up to and following the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
At age 21, Holliday earned a degree in dentistry from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery. He set up practice in Griffin, Georgia, but he was soon diagnosed with tuberculosis. Hoping the climate in the American Southwest would ease his symptoms, he moved to that region and became a gambler, a reputable profession in Arizona in that day.
Holliday spent the few remaining years of his life in Colorado and died of tuberculosis in his bed at the Hotel Glenwood at age 36. Source: Wikipedia