One of those rare towns that boast not just one but two rivers, Glenwood Springs’ dual waterways are central to summertime leisure in the hot springs town.
Glenwood Springs is most famous for its abundant hot springs amenities, but the geothermal destination possesses additional water-based resources that don’t always get the attention they deserve – its two majestic rivers. The Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers are vastly different, have the longest recreation season in the state, and offer visitors diverse opportunities for fun either in the water or close by.
Roaring Fork River
The “Fork” streams down from the western side of the Continental Divide on Independence Pass. The entire valley from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, including surrounding areas, drain into what is referred to as the Roaring Fork Watershed. Most notably, Frying Pan River joins at Basalt and Crystal River flows into it at Carbondale. The Roaring Fork is known for clear, icy cold water that is ideal habitat for trout. In Glenwood Springs, it meets up with the Colorado River at Two Rivers Park.
The mighty Colorado is one of the United States’ major rivers. Its headwaters are in Rocky Mountain National Park near Granby. In addition to flowing through Glenwood Canyon, the Colorado River also runs through the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The water generates power at Glen Canyon Dam, Hoover Dam and other hydroelectric plants along the way. In Glenwood Springs, however, the Colorado is tops for rafting, fishing and kayaking.
Going with the Flow in Glenwood Springs
- Whitewater Rafting. For summertime thrills, take a guided rafting trip down the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon. The river has it all from roiling rapids that get your heart pumping and stretches of flat-water ideal for watching the scenery float by to in-river hot springs for a quick warm up. Milder rides are available on the Roaring Fork River and are offered by several of the local rafting outfitters.
- Gold Medal Fishing. Cast away in prime fishing waters along either river. The Roaring Fork is home to rainbows, brookies, browns and cutthroats. The same fish live in the Colorado River but tend to be bigger in size. Check with outfitters for guided fly-fishing trips, lessons and gear.
- Kayaking & SUP. Head over to the Whitewater Recreation Area in West Glenwood Springs where the manmade wave that spans the full width of the river is the main attraction. For kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders, it’s a place to practice skills and show off tricks for onlookers.
- Shoshone Chutes and Sopris Splash Zone. Not exactly on the river, the Shoshone Chutes adventure river at Glenwood Hot Springs Pool was inspired by rafting trips through Glenwood Canyon. Load up on inflatable tubes and ride the fast-moving river through a series of “whitewater rapids” before plunging into a calm, freshwater pool. The Sopris Splash Zone is a children’s play area with three mini-water slides, waterfalls modeled after the popular Hanging Lake hike in Glenwood Canyon, interactive water features, shallow play areas, and shade structures for sun protection.
Activities that Take Place Down by the River
- High Canyon Adventures at Bair Ranch. Do it all at Bair Ranch, the only private ranch in Glenwood Canyon. Saddle up for a day of horseback riding on acres of secluded trails, rev up summer fun with an ATV or jeep tour of the backcountry or take aim on the sporting clay arena.
- Hanging Lake. Purchase a permit to hike to Hanging Lake, one of Colorado’s most beloved trails. A short but steep trek, hard work is rewarded with stunning views of the clear water lake and a triple waterfall.
- Iron Mountain Hot Springs. Terraced on a hillside bordering the Colorado River, visitors to Iron Mountain Hot Springs can soak in the hot springs water and watch all the action taking place on the river including rafters and fishing boats floating past, as well as magnificent birds of prey trolling the river from overhead seeking a tasty trout to scoop up.
- Bikes & E-bikes. Cycle riverside trails at your leisure on a traditional bike or get a boost with a pedal assist e-bike. Rental shops conveniently offer both options. To explore, ride the Rio Grande Trail which follows the Roaring Fork River or the Glenwood Canyon Bike Path which meanders alongside the Colorado River. Both trails are paved, have rest facilities along the way, as well as numerous spots for picnicking.
If you only know Glenwood Springs as a hot springs town, it might be time to dip your toes in a little further for more fun and adventure on Glenwood’s two rivers. Learn more and make plans to visit today!
Download the official Glenwood Springs Travel Guide