The Colorado Scenic & Historic Byway connections between five premier locations along the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop transform the 720-mile drive into a motorcyclist’s dream—as much about the journey as the destinations.
The Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop, spanning over 720 miles and connecting five premier locations, is a trek to some of the state’s most healing waters. In addition to sizzling hot springs experiences, this journey gives riders a chance to behold the state’s diverse beauty via Colorado Scenic & Historic Byways. These connections not only make the drive enjoyable but are also perfect for motorcyclists, with breathtaking views and numerous opportunities to stop along the way.
Scenic Byway to Chaffee County (Buena Vista, Salida)
Start With: Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway (Copper to Granite, 42 miles/68 kilometers)
The Top of the Rockies scenic byway is a fantastic starting point and introduction to Colorado’s diverse landscape. Riders will cross the Continental Divide and pass two of the state’s highest peaks—Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive, at 14,440 and 14,421 feet (4,401 and 4,395.5 meters), respectively.
In addition to a majestic backdrop, there are opportunities to make historic stops in Leadville—a once-booming mining town. Check out the lavish Victorian houses, the long-since abandoned silver mines, and the Tabor Opera House to get a unique peek into the area’s past.
Up Next: Collegiate Peaks (Granite to Salida, 57 miles/92 kilometers)
Welcome to Chaffee County, home to the highest concentration of 14,000-foot (427-meter) mountains in North America: the Collegiate Peaks. These glorious 14ers, with names reminiscent of the Ivy League—Mt. Yale, Mt. Harvard, Mt. Princeton—rise 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) above the Arkansas River Valley. Riders cruise through an impressive and ever-unfolding landscape, filled with lush riversides, national forests and public lands.
Once you’ve made it through the mountainous byway, pull over for a pit stop at one of Chaffee County’s hot springs to soothe, relax and recover.
- Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center. This community center facility is the largest indoor hot springs in North America, with its lap, soaking, and private pools.
- Mount Princeton Hot Springs. Known as a scenic overnight or day retreat, Mount Princeton Hot Springs is packed with amenities, like a historic bathhouse, creekside hot springs, a waterslide, and a spa and health club.
- Historic Cottonwood Hot Springs. With a relaxed and back-to-nature vibe, Cottonwood Hot Springs is a peaceful stop with a quiet-zone and alcohol-free pools, as well as various lodging options.
San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway to Pagosa Springs
Back on the Road: San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway (Durango to Ridgway, 81 miles/130 kilometers)
The next stop is Pagosa Springs, about a 150-minute drive from Salida. Be sure to enjoy the beautiful Wolf Creek Pass on the way—stopping at the scenic overlook, Continental Divide, and the gushing Treasure Falls. Once you’ve arrived in town, the “Pah gosah” Mother Spring aquifer, which translates to “healing waters,” awaits, filling three different hot springs facilities.
- The Springs Resort & Spa. Located right on the San Juan River, The Springs has 23 pools open to the public and offers 24-hour soaking access to overnight guests.
- Overlook Hot Springs. With rooftop soaking tubs and expansive views of the valley located in downtown Pagosa, Overlook is a one-of-a-kind experience.
- Healing Waters Resort & Spa. This family-friendly facility has overnight options, as well as a large pool and private baths.
After a rejuvenating soak, riders can keep the fun going by continuing to Durango, a gateway to the San Juan Skyway. This winding road will take you through the San Juan Mountains, including two jaw-dropping passes and Weminuche Wilderness sights, leading up to a jaunt thrugh the silver-boom town of Silverton.
Million Dollar Highway to Ouray
The byway then follows the Million Dollar Highway, a road known for steep cliffs and tight turns—the beautiful-yet-staggering Red Mountain Pass included. Pull off to admire expansive views and canyon waterfalls before arriving in Ouray.
Known as the “Switzerland of America,” Ouray is surrounded by powdered-sugar peaks in the distance. Four public hot springs facilities are available in the Ouray-Ridgway area as well as several private soaking experiences, which allow riders to take a well-deserved break in geothermal waters, taking in the enchanting views.
- Ouray Hot Springs Pool. This recently renovated oval-shaped pool has incredible mountain backdrop views, in addition to a mix of fun and relaxing features, such as an activity pool, an overlook infinity-style waterfall, and a hotter soaking pool.
- Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa and Lodgings. Wiesbaden is home to hot springs and rare vapor caves tucked deep inside the mountain, as well as an outdoor swimming pool and private outdoor spa—all heated with geothermal water.
- Twin Peaks Lodge and Hot Springs. There are both indoor and outdoor soaking opportunities at this Ouray hot springs lodge.
- Orvis Hot Springs. Located in Ridgway, Orvis Hot Springs is a beautifully landscaped facility with both indoor and outdoor soaking options, famous for their au naturel, clothing-optional policy.
Scenic West Elk Loop to Glenwood Springs & the Roaring Fork Valley
Keep Going: West Elk Loop Scenic Byway
(Hotchkiss to Carbondale, 118 miles/190 kilometers)
While known as a must-see fall leaf peeping opportunity because of its aspen foliage, the West Elk Loop is picturesque year round. The trail winds through orchards and local farm-fresh produce—apples and cherries—before crossing through the North Fork Valley’s jaw-dropping McClure Pass.
The West Elk Loop meanders along the Crystal River, suggesting a stop at the historic Redstone settlement. Here, there are opportunities to enjoy the Redstone Castle—where you can tour the grounds and marvel at its impressive past.
Continue through the Roaring Fork Valley to Glenwood Springs, where two rivers converge, and several outstanding hot springs experiences await.
- Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. This resort is home to the world’s largest hot springs pool, as well as a lodge, spa and an aquatic adventure zone opening in June 2019.
- Iron Mountain Hot Springs. Boasting 16 soaking pools and a freshwater family pool, Iron Mountain is located on the bank of the Colorado River, with stunning mountain views.
- Yampah Vapor Caves. These vapor caves are a rare setting for a natural, geothermal steam bath with detoxifying benefits. An on-site spa provides further wellness opportunities.
Flat Tops Scenic Byway from Glenwood Springs to Steamboat Springs
Finally: Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway (Meeker to Steamboat Springs, 113 miles/182 kilometers)
Rounding out the Loop is the Flat Tops Scenic Byway, which includes six historic stops and miles of unpaved road ready for exploration. This leg of the trip begins in Meeker and passes through Buford, Trappers Lake, Ripple Pass and Yampa from there.
There are several impressive scenery changes along the way; stop at overlooks to see geologic lava flow formations, rugged plateaus, sweeping alpine meadows and a shimmering Trappers Lake. A 10,343-foot (3,153-meter) pass puts riders high above the timberline, before introducing the outskirts of Yampa, which includes views of agricultural herds and expansive ranches on the way to Steamboat Springs.
Once in the historic town named for the whistling, train-like sound the hot springs made when it came out of the ground, be sure to visit those famed pools.
- Old Town Hot Springs. Old Town is a recreational, multi-use complex with family-friendly fun packed into its geothermal waters.
- Strawberry Park Hot Springs. Strawberry Park is located outside of town, in a rustic and smaller venue, nestled against the banks of Strawberry Creek. There are lodging and camping options available.