Imagine a place where steam rises from the earth, a river runs through the center of things, and people roam around in water shoes, blissed out, bodies wrapped in plush bathrobes. The only decisions they have to make on their vacation, whether to soak in 95-degree waters or 110-degree waters. Whether to book a facial or a body scrub. This is Pagosa Springs, Colorado, a hidden gem sparkling on the western slope of the Continental Divide, at the base of the San Juan Mountains. And those robes come from the most luxurious lodging in town, The Springs Resort.
The deepest geothermal hot springs in the world, heated by volcanic activity 6,000 feet below the surface, Pagosa Springs water teems with minerals—sulfate, manganese, and potassium, to name just a few. Since the Native peoples, including the Southern Ute tribe, inhabited the land and discovered the springs, bathers have sworn by the water’s healing power. Whether the springs really do “heal” or just offer a nice placebo effect, I can’t say, but The Springs Resort is such a unique and decadent retreat, it’s worth finding out for yourself. Fall and winter, when the crisp air makes soaking even more alluring, are the perfect seasons for a visit.
The hot springs are open to the public, but those who stay at The Springs Resort are granted access to private pools, as well as the public ones. The vibe throughout the resort is just what you’d expect the vibe to be among people who have been relaxing in hot tubs for hours on end, gazing out at the San Juan River, maybe climbing out now and then to eat lunch or drink a beer or get a deep-tissue massage in the on-site spa.
The activities the resort offers—restorative yoga in the Wellness Studio, guided meditation, forest bathing hikes—complement the soaking experience; some even incorporate it. My favorite was Aqua Yoga, led by yoga goddess Amy Wolfe of the lifestyle blog Love, Amy. First thing in the morning, eight of us slipped into one of the private hot pools and followed her through a gentle Vinyasa series. As I stretched my arms against the lip of the pool, gazing at the river below us and the ever-present steam in the air, I fantasized about starting every day like this. I would be so calm! So, limber! So, healed!
Casual eateries fleck the resort, perfect for hopping out of the water and grabbing a bite or a cocktail, but after a day of soaking, it’s fun to shower and venture into town. Pagosa Springs is sleepy, but it has some great food. Across the street from the resort, The Lost Cajun serves up addictive gumbo and ice-cold beers from the most famous New Orleans brewery, Abita. Thai Pagosa offers a killer Pad See Eew. If you’re in the mood for fine dining, Alley House Grill is everyone’s favorite place to go for a romantic ambiance, a char-grilled fillet mignon, and a bottle of Cabernet. And at some point, you’ll want to check out the brewpub Riff Raff Brewing Company for innovative local craft beers.
Be sure to tack some extra days on to the end of your trip because you won’t want to leave this magical region. Drive a few hours northwest to Telluride to see the most stunning mountains in Colorado. Or drive a few hours south and you’ll be in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where you can hit world-class restaurants and art galleries and watch those famous sunsets. Once you discover this part of the country, and Pagosa Springs in particular, you’ll fall in love with the town that exemplifies the expression “there must be something in the water.”