Glenwood Springs is one of Colorado's best cities for a mountain getaway. Nestled in the Rockies on the state's magnificent Western Slope, Glenwood Springs presents an eclectic mix of history, culture, outdoor activities, entertainment, and food. The town is located on Interstate 70, about 160 miles west of Denver and less than 90 miles from Grand Junction and the Utah border. Glenwood Springs is also less than 60 miles from the world-class ski resorts of Aspen and Vail.
Travelers love Glenwood Springs for its convenience, beauty, affordability, family-friendly activities, and mountain charm. With a population of around 10,000 residents, Glenwood Springs is an excellent destination for a mountain vacation without Aspen or Vail's massive crowds (and price tag). When you get to Glenwood Springs, it doesn't take long to figure out that there is much to do and see. Here are a few of the best things to do in Glenwood Springs across the seasons:
The top summer activity in Glenwood Springs is whitewater rafting. The town is one of the best spots in the state for commercial rafting on the iconic Colorado River. Commercial rafting is when you hire a company to guide you on a rafting adventure. They provide all the gear and rafts and have an experienced guide to escort you down the river and oversee your safety. Many rafting companies in Glenwood Springs have been providing tours in the area for many years.
Glenwood Canyon, located just outside of town, is one of the most beautiful day-trips for rafting you can take in North America. Half-day and full-day excursions happen daily on the river, so it's easy to schedule a time for your group. Rafts typically hold up to eight passengers with a guide. The canyon has breathtaking rock formations and much natural wildlife, including bald eagles, deer, and osprey.
You can plan a leisurely float down the river to enjoy the scenery or step things up a notch and get a little wet. The Colorado River has sections of Class III and Class IV rapids through the canyon, and your guide can help you determine how wild and wooly your trip is. The guides know the river well and can provide as many (or as few) thrills as you desire.
If you're looking to float more independently, rafting companies in Glenwood Springs also have one- and two-person inflatable kayaks (duckies) available to rent for a half day or full day. They are inflatable kayaks that you sit on and paddle.
The world-famous Glenwood Hot Springs Resort is a can't-miss on your trip. When it was constructed in 1888, it was heralded as the world's largest hot springs pool. The naturally heated pool holds over a million gallons of water, consistently kept at approximately 90 degrees. The steamy pool is known for its healing properties and is terrific for an apres-ski soak or tossing a football across its massive breadth. There's a diving board for the adventurous and a splash zone for kids. There's even a restaurant on site that's tasty. The entire resort is open all year.
The Yampa Spa and Vapor Caves are the perfect complements to the hot springs. The facility is an underground steam cave made of salt. It occurs from steam from the Yampah spring that seeps into underground chambers and fills with the famous steam vapors. It is one of the few known vapor caves in North America. There are different rooms to explore and tours every hour. Each of the three rooms has marble benches where you can relax and take in the vapors. Kids enjoy the therapeutic, dimly lit, vapor-filled caverns, initially used by Native Americans for rituals and healing. The spa and massage destination also serves up a slew of body treatments, foot massages, facials, and other services.
Sunlight Mountain Resort is just 10 miles south of Glenwood Springs and is open during the ski season. The resort has three chairlifts and a good selection of runs for all types of skiers across more than 700 acres of terrain. Sunlight has more than 2,000 feet of vertical and a few steep chutes that even expert skiers adore. About three-fourths of the landscape is dedicated to beginners and intermediates. Lift tickets and season passes at Sunlight Mountain are a fraction of the price of larger resorts like Aspen and Vail, so it's perfect for a stress-free day of skiing or snowboarding under bluebird skies with incredible views of local peaks like Mount Sopris. Sunlight is one of the last small independently owned ski area still operating in Colorado.
The hike to Hanging Lake is one of the best in the country. The crystal blue lake is a national natural landmark, and reservations are required to take the hike, so some planning is necessary. The walk is about a mile long and has spectacular views at the end. It starts as more of an innocuous route before opening to one of the best views you'll ever see. It's the only place in the region where you can see waterfalls flowing into a lake without a lengthy drive or boat ride. It's a steep, rocky climb, so pack good trail shoes and water. The top of the trail has a few spots to sit and take in the view or have a picnic lunch. You can explore other trails around the lake before heading back.
Glenwood Canyon and the Roaring Fork Valley have extensive biking trails that make for an excellent family-friendly outing. Various bike rental companies can set you up with a mountain bike or road bike for all ages and shuttle you and your ride to your favorite trailhead. There are many choices: The Rio Grande Trail extends from Aspen to Glenwood Springs – more than 45 miles! Glenwood Canyon is a beautiful ride along a paved trail with steep canyon walls on each side as you traverse the river floor. If you don't feel like doing all that pedaling, consider an off-road e-bike that does some of the work for you!
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is a mountain-top theme park with rides and attractions ranging from easy kids' rides to thrilling amusements flying you all over the mountain. There are two caves to explore, Fairy Caves and Kings Row), where you can learn about the site's rich history that dates to the mining days. The Rocking Tugboat Ride is a water attraction with powerful water cannons like an actual tugboat. The High Roller Coaster has a pair of loops and more than 2,000 feet of thrills, twists, and drops as one of Colorado's longest roller coasters. Or hop in an enclosed tube for a simulated slide down the mountain in the one-of-a-kind Alpine Coaster. From wild to mild, the park offers more than enough to fill a day of fun.
Your vacation to Glenwood is an excellent time to check out the rumor that your golf ball flies further in higher elevations. Glenwood Springs has championship-caliber golf with undulating greens and staggering mountain views. From traditional golf to disc golf, there's something for everyone. Choose from the Glenwood Springs Golf Club, Ironbridge, and River Valley Ranch for public course play, and schedule your tee time. Private courses like Aspen Glen and the Roaring Fork Club are also nearby.