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Hot Springs, History, and Family Fun: 2-day Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Itinerary

Hot Springs, History, and Family Fun in Glenwood Springs, Colorado: A 2 Day Itinerary | CosmosMariners.com

As we made our way across Colorado from Grand Junction to Denver, we stopped for a a quick exploration of Glenwood Springs. At first glance from I-70, Glenwood Springs is a small, unassuming little town, but once you get off of the interstate and make your way into the historic district, you'll quickly fall in love.

If you've got two days, here's a complete Glenwood Springs, Colorado, itinerary. It's really family friendly with food suggestions, play options, and lots of outdoor activities, so you could easily do Glenwood Springs with kids in tow, as well.

Day 1

Start the day at Glenwood Adventure Park

You might be tempted to head straight for the hot springs in town, but we're saving that for later when you're all tuckered out.

Hot Springs, History, and Family Fun in Glenwood Springs, Colorado: A 2 Day Itinerary | CosmosMariners.com

Instead, pack a bag and get ready for some fun. Located on the top of Iron Mountain, the Glenwood Adventure park combines cave tours, dramatic rides (made all the more dramatic by the fact that you're hanging off the side of a mountain while riding them), laser tag, and live shows.

The hands down favorite ride with my family was the Alpine Coaster, a non-motorized, gravity propelled coaster that shoots you down the side of Iron Mountain in a sled not much wider than the average adult.

The first time I rode it, I thought I was going to die, so, of course, my preschooler loved it. This is Glenwood Springs with kids at its finest!

Hot Springs, History, and Family Fun in Glenwood Springs, Colorado: A 2 Day Itinerary | CosmosMariners.com


The cave tours were another highlight on our Glenwood Springs, Colorado, itinerary: up until 2003, these were the only attraction at the top of the mountain, and they're still at the heart of the theme park. The Fairy Cave was opened to the public in 1895 and was originally billed as the 8th wonder of the world. Our guide, Bill, was fantastic, and his love of caving was obvious during the tour. He even had a lantern to show us what the original cave explorers would've used during the tours of the late 1800s!

After a full morning, some lunch, and one last ride on the Alpine Coaster, it's time to take the tram back down to the foot of the mountain and venture elsewhere in Glenwood Springs.

Explore downtown Glenwood Springs

Cross over the Colorado River and head into the historic district for a little shopping. The historic district runs along Grand Avenue between 7th and 11th streets and has everything from freshly made fudge to books to shoes.

NB: there is a major construction project going on in this area of town in 2017, so allot for extra time for parking and maneuvering around construction zones.

Hot Springs, History, and Family Fun in Glenwood Springs, Colorado: A 2 Day Itinerary | CosmosMariners.com
Glenwood Springs from Iron Mountain

Take the waters at Iron Mountain Hot Springs

After such a busy day, we were ready for some relaxation and headed to the first of two different hot springs we tried out in town.


Of all of the things to do in Glenwood Springs, going to one of the hot springs in town is non-negotiable. Not only is it incredibly relaxing, but the hot springs are why there's even a town here in the first place (see below for more history)!

Here, you'll find 16 smaller pools (all named after gemstones), a jetted spa, and one large 100,000 gallon family pool. The water comes out of the natural Iron Mountain springs around 120 degrees, but that temperature is lowered for the comfort of guests. The jetted spa is heated to just over 100 degrees while the big family pool is around 90 degrees.

Watch the sunset over the Colorado River while you soak up the 14 minerals in the water. Your kids will be happy but exhausted by the end of your first day!

Day 2

Luxuriate in the natural phenomenon that put the town on the map, Glenwood Hot Springs

Hot Springs, History, and Family Fun in Glenwood Springs, Colorado: A 2 Day Itinerary | CosmosMariners.com

According to local history, the hot springs here have been utilized by the Ute people for thousands of years before this area was settled by pioneers. While the hot springs have a long tradition of serving as a place of relaxation, it wasn't until the 1800s when visitors began to flock to this area to take the waters.

Hot Springs, History, and Family Fun in Glenwood Springs, Colorado: A 2 Day Itinerary | CosmosMariners.com
Our sweet 6 month old and I enjoying our time at Glenwood Hot Springs

The springs here are heated very similarly to those at Iron Mountain: the huge main pool (at over 1 million gallons!) is kept around 95 degrees, while the smaller therapy pool (91,000 gallons) is kept at 104 degrees. My preschooler had a great time hopping between the two pools but liked the slightly cooler large pool: I preferred the warmer one since it was still chilly (at least to my South Carolina blood) and had sleeted just before we showed up at the springs.

The popularity of Glenwood Springs launched the town into what it is today, and it was refreshing to see so many people still enjoying the springs that have been in continuous use since 1888.

Explore the Hotel Colorado. 

As you can imagine in a destination town such as this one, there are a lot of hotels in Glenwood Springs. One of them, however, stands out among the rest, thanks to its incredible history (and you know I can't resist a good historic hotel!).

Even if you don't stay in this incredible hotel, you need to plan a walkthrough while you're in town. Once considered the fanciest hotel between Denver and the West Coast, the Hotel Colorado has served as a Naval hospital and a high school before being restored to its hospitality roots.

Hot Springs, History, and Family Fun in Glenwood Springs, Colorado: A 2 Day Itinerary | CosmosMariners.com

It's also hosted a variety of high profile people over its history. Theodore Roosevelt stayed there for a month while on a bear hunt, and it was here, after a particularly lackluster day out in the woods, that the maids decided to sew together a quick bear from scraps as a way to cheer up the president. The result? The now famous Teddy Bear.

Later on in the hotel's history, hitman Diamond Jack Alterie and gangster Al Capone frequented the place. The hotel management put in a second, more demure entrance for them to enter through.

One of the desk clerks shared with me that the movers and shakers of the world still show up at the hotel, as Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn often come in to eat at the hotel's restaurant when they're at their home in Aspen.

Hot Springs, History, and Family Fun in Glenwood Springs, Colorado: A 2 Day Itinerary | CosmosMariners.com


There's not an organized tour of the Hotel Colorado, but you can ask at the front desk for a print out of the hotel's history and do a self-guided walking tour.

Explore the town's past at the Doc Holliday gravesite. 

Like many others, Doc Holliday believed that the town's hot springs could provide a cure for his tuberculosis. The gambler and gunfighter wasn't able to find the cure in time, and died in Glenwood Springs in 1887 at the age of 36.

The hike to Linwood Cemetery is pretty mild, even for those with kids in tow. After hiking the 1/3 of a mile or so to the Cemetery, it's easy to pick out his grave thanks to the coins and cards people leave as mementoes. There's a rumor that the grave marked as Doc's isn't actually his, but that he might be buried in an unmarked grave elsewhere on the property. Others believe that he might not even be in Glenwood Springs at all, but was returned to his hometown of Griffin, Georgia.

Whatever the truth, the cemetery is filled with reminders of the deeply layered history of this charming Colorado town. Plus, if you're visiting Glenwood Springs with kids, they likely will find the (possible) grave of a real gunslinger fascinating.

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Even with 48 hours in Glenwood Springs, we weren't able to see everything that the town offered. We could have added a full day for the Adventure Park on easily, and, during the summer months, we could've done an entire day at Glenwood Hot Springs since they have slides and a mini water park area open then.

Still, I'm glad we had the chance to delve into the history of this fantastic town, even if it was just for a little bit. We'll be back!

Have you visited this part of the U.S. before? Which part of our Glenwood Springs, Colorado, itinerary would you be the most excited to experience?

In order to facilitate this post, I partnered with the Glenwood Springs CVB, who kindly provided me with day passes to the Adventure Park and both Hot Springs. All opinions are my own. 

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Hot Springs, History, and Family Fun in Glenwood Springs, Colorado: A 2 Day Itinerary | CosmosMariners.com


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