Travel

Nude Hot Springs and Vapor Caves Are This State's Perfect Après-Ski

Plus ghost town hot springs, the world's deepest geothermal springs, and a million-gallon pool.

Shutterstock/Teri Virbickis
Shutterstock/Teri Virbickis
Shutterstock/Teri Virbickis

Sure, you can aprés with cocktails at the resort after a day shredding powder anywhere, but Colorado is always a step ahead when it comes to improving winter. Not only are the days here sunny and not as terribly frigid as some states, with fluffy snow softening the jagged Rocky mountains into a giant winter playground, the state even offers a coveted post-jaunt activity: hot springs.

Across Colorado, piping water bubbles up into steamy pockets of land, melting nearby snow, inviting weary snowball fighters to strip down and sink in, and enveloping the landscape in a misty steam. It’s almost unfair that a state with so many world class ski resorts has equally world class hot mineral springs. Even better, many are located within just a short drive from each other. It’s almost like the two activities were meant to be together.

Like the ski resorts, hot springs across our state come in all styles. Some are built up with water slides and lodging onsite, while others have a clothing-optional, hippie vibe. Some are situated in old ghost towns, and some sit in underground caves. For this article, we focused on hot springs that are within a 45-minute drive of a ski resort, making it easy to get between the two. That way, if you want to spend multiple days skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, or just making snow angels, you can rest up in between in mineral goodness. Your muscles will definitely thank you more.

The Springs Resort
The Springs Resort
The Springs Resort

The Springs Resort & Spa + Wolf Creek Ski Area

About 30-minutes from the town of Pagosa Springs, where The Springs Resort and Spa is located, Wolf Creek Ski Area is legendary. With around 430 inches of snowfall a year, it gets more powder than any other resort in the state. And unlike most Colorado resorts, it’s not owned by some massive conglomerate like Vail Resorts. As such, it has a super chill, yesteryear vibe with cheaper lift tickets and fewer crowds.

There are a number of hot spring options in Pagosa Springs, but The Springs Resort and Spa is the most well-known. It has 23 natural pools set along the San Juan River. The water here is drawn from the Great Pagosa Spring, which-at more than 1,000 feet deep-is considered the world’s deepest geothermal spring. The pools are all different temperatures, with the hottest sitting at a steamy 114 degrees.

Rooms at the resort are comfy and modern luxe, with 24-hour access to the pools. Taking a dip under the stars when no one else is around is quite the memory.

Shutterstock/Tinapat B
Shutterstock/Tinapat B
Shutterstock/Tinapat B

Strawberry Park Hot Springs + Steamboat Springs

When it comes to pairing hot springs with ski resorts, you don’t get any closer than Steamboat Springs and Strawberry Park Hot Springs, a personal favorite for au natural soaking. One of the original hippie hot springs, Strawberry Park hasn’t changed its look for decades. Though today you can’t get away with drinking and smoking weed in the pools anymore, the springs are still clothing optional after dark, when kids are also not allowed.Located just over five unpaved miles from downtown Steamboat, you’ll need chains or a 4WD vehicle to get to the springs-or you can book the hot springs’ shuttle. The soaking pools have sandy bottom floors and are heated to 104 degrees. The ambiance is stellar, with towering mountains and deep green forests surrounding you.

If you can’t make it out to Strawberry Park, the Old Town Hot Springs downtown offers a geothermal soaking experience, albeit in a more commercial setting with two waterslides and an aquatic rock climbing wall.

Winter Park Resort
Winter Park Resort
Winter Park Resort

Hot Sulphur Springs Resort and Spa + Winter Park

Colorado’s longest continually operating ski resort pairs perfectly with its longest continually operating hot springs. Winter Park Resort, located just 70 miles from Denver, has been welcoming snow riders for 82 years. It’s located about a 40 minute drive southeast from Hot Sulphur Springs Resort and Spa, which has been open for more than 140 years.

The mineral water at Hot Sulphur Springs Resort, located in the tiny town by the same name, bubbles up from seven natural volcanic springs at about 126 degrees. The resort’s 21 pools vary in temperature from 95 to 112 degrees. There are also smaller baths here that can be rented individually. The resort has basic lodging, though many people choose to stay in Granby or Fraser, both closer to Winter Park.

Orvis Hot Springs
Orvis Hot Springs
Orvis Hot Springs

Orvis Hot Springs + Silverton Mountain

You need to be pretty badass to ride the ultra remote Silverton Mountain, which boasts Colorado’s steepest terrain and has just one lift. It offers affordable heli-skiing ($184 per drop is a serious steal), as well as guided skiing that lets you shred the backcountry gnar safely.

Regardless of what you choose, after a day playing on this mountain, you’ll definitely be deserving of a long soak. Luckily, the out-of-this world beautiful Ouray, with lots of dining and sleeping options, is just 30 miles away. In a narrow box canyon surrounded by Insta-perfect mountains, Ouray has a few different hot springs options. The Ouray Hot Springs Pool in the center of town is one choice. We prefer Orvis Hot Springs in nearby Ridgeway. The clothing-optional pools are set both indoors and out, with water temperatures between 65 and 112 degrees. There is also a drinking water fountain with natural lithium water. It is said to sooth the body and bring tranquility to the mind.

Dunton
Dunton
Dunton

Dunton Hot Springs + Telluride

If money isn’t an issue, you really must experience Dunton Hot Springs, just 25 miles southwest of Telluride, which is also home to some of Colorado’s best skiing. The springs are part of an all-inclusive resort, so in this case you’ll likely stay at the hot springs and leave to ski. If you did want to sleep elsewhere, though, Dunton does offer day visitor packages that include dinner.

The rugged luxe resort, which took over an 1800s ghost town, offers accommodations in hand-built cabins from that time period. They’ve been upgraded with modern amenities and are the epitome of mountain chic. Many of the cabins have their own indoor or outdoor hot spring fed tubs and all come with wood burning fireplaces and decks with views.There are five hot spring pools on the property. The water here is rich in dissolved iron, manganese, and some lithium and heated between 85 and 105 degrees. Improved circulation, peripheral blood vessel opening, and the conversion of blood sugar to energy are all benefits of taking a dip in this water.

If you want to ski, but don’t want to drive yourself over the mountain to Telluride, which can take up to two hours in winter, then ask about heli-skiing directly from Dunton. The resort also has an excellent spa for an extra dose of pampering.

Glenwood Hot Springs
Glenwood Hot Springs
Glenwood Hot Springs

Glenwood Hot Springs + Aspen

About 45-minutes north of Aspen, the fun mountain town of Glenwood Springs hosts three unique hot springs resorts. The oldest, dating back to 1888, is Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. Its claim to fame is having the world’s largest hot springs pool with more than a million gallons of water fed by the Yampah spring.

Iron Mountain Hot Springs Resort is the newest hot springs resort in Glenwood Springs. It features 17 soaking pools set right alongside the Colorado River, including one devoted to families.

Glenwood’s third geothermal attraction, Yampah Spa is the only place in North America (and one of only a few places on the planet) where you can take a steam bath in a completely natural vapor cave. There are three underground rock chambers where you can absorb the mineral-rich steam.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Becca Blond is a contributor for Thrillist.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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