And while most springs have been used for centuries by successions of native peoples, settlers, miners and soldiers for ritual, cure and rest,today their natural assets are boosted by the comforts of spas, where snacks, cafes, showers, massage and overnight lodging are available. Hiking, skiing, wildflower and bird watching, mountain biking, fishing and river rafting are pass times generally convenient to the springs.
Old Meets New
My current personal favorite, for the clarity of the water, the peacefulness and the delightful mineral composition, is the 125 year-old Cottonwood Hot Springs in Buena Vista, with five pristine river rock-edged pools of varying temperatures.
The atmosphere is a comfortable cross between an old Western set and California hippie/New Age. The pools are open all night to those staying in the guest rooms, and clothing is optional after dark between May 15-September 15. Twenty miles down the road toward Salida, Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, with an historic lodge and restaurant on the premises, offers another hot springs experience, with a comfortable pool. Its possible to tiptoe down through the rocks and sit in one of several small, comfortably and naturally-heated rock enclosures beside roaring, icy Chalk Creek. And the kids will love Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center, Colorados largest indoor hot springs pool.
While each watery hot spot makes claims for the particular health benefits of its waters, none does so more than the luxurious Springs Resort in Pagosa Springs. Pagosas highly sulfurous waters are beautifully arrayed in a series of free-form terraced pools of varying sizes and temperatures overlooking the San Juan River. The strong aroma of hard-boiled eggs almost convinces you the waters must surely have equally strong medicinal properties.
An alternative, The Spa at Pagosa Springs, with its swimming pool kept at between 88 and 95 degrees, degrees is simple, child-friendly and reminiscent of the old days when locals came to take the cure for whatever ailed them.
Original owner Nancy Giordano, now age 90, has been taking a mineral bath every night for the past 55 years and drinking a glass of the water each day. Im perfectly healthy and under no medications, she says. I do aerobics and line-dance.
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