On June 21, 2019, we experienced the unthinkable. As we drove past the city of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, the weather turned. We could hardly believe our eyes as snow fell. Both our windshield and our souls frosted a little, knowing that the first day of summer would feel much more like winter.
Such is life in Colorado, I guess.
There was only one thing that made the situation better: the promise of hot springs at the end of the road. And, very fortunately, Strawberry Park Hot Springs delivered. Snow or no snow, our evening in the geothermal waters was heavenly.
Soaking at Strawberry
Steamboat Springs was named long ago for the sound that gushing hot springs water made as it left the earth; it sounded like the whistle of a boat’s steam engine. Many years later, hundreds of years after the local Native American Ute tribes used the waters for their medicinal properties, two commercial facilities call the small mountain town home: Old Town Hot Springs and Strawberry Park Hot Springs.
Last fall we visited Old Town and enjoyed the family-friendly community center, right smack in downtown. Strawberry Park is an entirely different experience: it’s rustic, natural, scenic, and primitive.
There aren’t water slides or showers or any kind of concessions. Rather, you come, park, pay, and hop in. The hot springs is open until midnight, but kids aren’t allowed after dark, when there also happens to be a clothing-option policy. They do have a few lodging options available, including tent sites and the kind where you bring your own sheets and linens and only have the basics—like a roof over your head—provided.
A river runs through, and you’re surrounded by forest and rocky architecture that blends right into the scenery. In fact, it’s recommended that your car has 4 wheel drive capabilities if you plan on driving yourself. Otherwise, paid shuttles are available.
During our soak, Chad and I were able to enjoy a private pool overlooking the river and the other guests, next to a Hobbit-hole looking massage hut. We were unbelievably lucky, and loved every single moment in our pool. The temperature was 101 degrees, an ideal pairing with the balmy water.
It was an oasis. Our first day of summer was spent in a paradise we didn’t know we wanted, but it was clear we needed.
It Gets Busy
If you go to Strawberry Park Hot Springs, you probably won’t have private pool access unless you schedule a massage. The experience is still gorgeous and unlike any other hot springs facility I’ve been to so far.
Be aware, however, that the summer season is extremely busy, and weekends are the worst. You’ll still be in paradise, but you’ll probably have to share it with 50 other people. To avoid this—and the parking lot filling up, which means turning around and not getting to soak—try to schedule a trip during the shoulder seasons, or mid-week. Tranquility is easier to achieve without a large crowd, even if the setting is Eden-esque.
Didn’t Want to Leave
I wanted to stay at Strawberry Park all night. Heck, I wanted to move into that pool and live the rest of my days as a resident wanna-be mermaid. It’s bliss, and the kind you don’t get to experience very often.
If you get the chance, visit Strawberry Park Hot Springs. You won’t regret it. Unless you jump into the frigid cold river, maybe. Either way, you’ll soak in the tranquility of the healing waters and feel a warmth in your soul that can only be described as sunshine.
Day Visitor Rates:
Adults (18+): $15
Youth (3-17): $8
Children under 3: free
Holidays & Holiday weekends:
****Cash or check only; no credit cards.
Website: www.strawberryhotsprings.com Lodging Rates: starting at $65.
Hours: 10 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. Sunday – Thursday; 10 – 12 a.m. Friday – Saturday; no children under 18 allowed after dark
Shuttle: Available year-round, more information here.
Bring: Slip-on shoes, a towel, and water. Remember: It’s cash only! The road can get muddy in the spring and icy in the winter, so heed the 4 wheel drive warnings. Also, dogs are not allowed on the property.