Things To Do in Glenwood Springs, Colorado

21 Fun Things To Do in Glenwood Springs, Colorado: Complete Visitor Guide

If you’re looking for an adventurous and relaxing getaway in Colorado, Glenwood Springs is the perfect destination for you. With its breathtaking natural beauty, world-famous hot springs, and a wide range of outdoor activities, there’s no shortage of fun things to do here. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, history buff, or food lover, this guide will provide you with 21 exciting activities to make the most of your time in Glenwood Springs. Let’s dive in and discover the best this charming town has to offer!

Table of Contents

Why Visit Glenwood Springs?

Glenwood Springs offers an unparalleled blend of natural beauty and outdoor recreation, making it a must-visit destination in Colorado. The town is most famous for its namesake hot springs, the largest mineral hot springs pool in the world. Soaking in these therapeutic waters provides a rejuvenating experience that you’ll find hard to match, making it an ideal spot for relaxation and wellness.

Adventure seekers will find no shortage of activities to keep their adrenaline pumping. The Glenwood Canyon provides a dramatic backdrop for a variety of outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and whitewater rafting. The Hanging Lake, one of Colorado’s most iconic hikes, is also located here, offering a challenging trail that rewards hikers with breathtaking views and a serene lake at the summit.

History of Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs circa 1880-1900. Credit: History Colorado

Glenwood Springs, originally known as “Defiance,” was founded in 1883 during the Colorado Silver Boom. The town served as a camp for silver prospectors coming from Leadville, but it quickly evolved into a popular destination for its natural hot springs. Walter Devereux, an engineer and financier, saw the potential for a resort community and played a significant role in its development. He established the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, the vapor caves, and the Hotel Colorado, which attracted visitors like Teddy Roosevelt and Molly Brown.

The arrival of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad in 1887 further fueled the town’s growth, making it more accessible for tourists and solidifying its reputation as a health resort. The town underwent a name change from “Defiance” to “Glenwood Springs” in honor of Glenwood, Iowa, the hometown of Isaac Cooper, a founder and prominent citizen.

Getting There

Reaching Glenwood Springs is a fairly straightforward endeavor, whether you’re coming by air, rail, or road. The town’s accessibility adds to its charm, making it a convenient getaway no matter your starting point.

By Air

The closest major airport is Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE), located about 30 miles east of Glenwood Springs. From here, you can opt for shuttle services, car rentals, or even taxi services to reach the town. Another option is to fly into Denver International Airport (DIA) and enjoy a scenic 3-hour drive through the Colorado mountains. Many visitors find this drive to be a beautiful introduction to the state’s diverse landscapes.

By Train

If you’re seeking a more relaxed journey, consider taking the Amtrak train. Glenwood Springs is a stop on the California Zephyr route, which runs between Chicago and San Francisco. The train station is centrally located, offering easy access to lodging and main attractions. The train journey provides stunning views of the Colorado River and the Rockies, making it a scenic choice for travelers.

By Car

Driving remains the most flexible way to reach Glenwood Springs. If you’re coming from Denver, take the I-70 W, which offers incredible vistas of the Rockies. The drive usually takes around 3 hours under good weather conditions. From the south, such as from Aspen or Carbondale, you can take CO-82, which is approximately a 1-hour drive.

Climate and Weather in Glenwood Springs

Nestled in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, Glenwood Springs enjoys a continental climate characterized by four distinct seasons, each offering its own set of outdoor adventures. Summers are warm but not overly hot, with high temperatures averaging around the mid-80s°F, making it perfect for hiking, biking, and enjoying the town’s famous hot springs.

Winters, on the other hand, are chilly but manageable, with average lows dipping into the 20s°F. This season transforms the area into a winter wonderland ideal for skiing, snowboarding, and soaking in the thermal waters amid snowfall.

The town receives moderate precipitation throughout the year, including snowfall that adds to its winter allure. Whether you’re visiting for the summer sun or the winter snows, Glenwood Springs offers a climate that complements its outdoor-centric lifestyle.

21 Things To Do in Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Once you make it to town, you’ll find there are dozens of things to do in Glenwood Springs and the surrounding mountain ranges. Here are 21 of my favorite things to do during your stay there:

1. Soak in Glenwood Hot Springs Pool

There’s no better place to start than with the namesake hot springs that put Glenwood springs on the map. The Hot Springs pool is the largest in the world, with a smaller, hotter pool meant for relaxation rather than play. The Hot Springs Lodge has 107 rooms and is a great place to stay in town, if you are looking for luxury. Read More

2. Explore Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Take a ride on the Glenwood Gondola to the top of Iron Mountain where you’ll find a theme park with jaw-dropping views and thrill-seeking rides. From cave tours to the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster, there’s something for everyone at this one-of-a-kind mountain-themed amusement park. Read More

3. Whitewater rafting in Glenwood Canyon

Take a ride on the Glenwood Gondola to the top of Iron Mountain where you’ll find a theme park with jaw-dropping views and thrill-seeking rides. From cave tours to the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster, there’s something for everyone at this one-of-a-kind mountain-themed amusement park. Read More

4. Visit Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves

Submerge yourself in an underground world of natural steam baths. The Yampah Vapor Caves offer a unique spa experience that lets you relax in subterranean chambers filled with therapeutic steam. Choose from a number of packages including massages, facials, body treatments, mineral baths, and more. Read More

5. Bike along the Rio Grande Trail

Stretching from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, the 42-mile Rio Grande Trail offers a serene biking experience. The former railroad was converted into a paved trail protected from traffic and takes you through scenic landscapes, perfect for cyclists of all levels. Rent a bike in town and give it a shot. Read More

6. Skiing at Sunlight Mountain Resort

Sunlight Mountain Resort offers an affordable and family-friendly skiing experience. With over 680 acres of skiable terrain, there’s plenty of space for both beginners and experienced skiers to enjoy. They say that the resort offers the same experience as big resorts at half the price, and for the most part it’s totally accurate. Read More

7. Fly-fishing in Roaring Fork River

The Roaring Fork River is a haven for anglers, offering world-class fly-fishing opportunities. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned pro, the river is abundant with trout just waiting to be caught. There are numerous guide companies in Glenwood Springs, or you can rent gear and try learning on your own. Read More

8. Visit the Frontier Historical Museum

Learn about the rich history of Glenwood Springs at the Frontier Historical Museum. The museum offers a glimpse into the city’s past, from its founding days as a mining camp, to its decline as the mining boom faded, to the present day outdoor recreation revitalization and growth. Read more

9. Take a scenic drive along Four Mile Road

Four Mile Road provides a picturesque drive that winds through hills and open pastures. It’s an excellent way to experience the area’s natural beauty without even leaving your car. There are also good opportunities for dispersed camping, especially once you reach the upper stretch of the drive.

10. Visit Doc Holliday's grave

Pay your respects to the legendary gambler and gunfighter, Doc Holliday, who spent his final days in Glenwood Springs. He died there of tuberculosis in 1887. He is buried in a grave in Linwood Cemetary, though the exact location remains unknown and lost over the ages. The site offers an intriguing window into the Wild West era. Read More

11. Attend the Strawberry Days Festival

Celebrated since 1898, the Strawberry Days Festival is the oldest, continuously held public festival in the state. It features a parade, live music, and, of course, plenty of strawberries. It is held every June (save the date for next year: June 21-23, 2023). Read more

12. Visit the Glenwood Community Arts Center

The Glenwood Springs Community Arts Center provides a venue for artists and art lovers to come together. With rotating exhibitions and various classes, it’s a hub of creativity. Visit their site to sign up for a number of different programs, classes, and activities hosted on a revolving basis. Read More

13. Take a hot air balloon ride

Get a bird’s-eye view of the stunning Colorado landscape and rocky mountains. Several operators in the area offer hot air balloon rides, providing a unique and romantic adventure that takes you into the clouds. The closest is approximately 45 minutes to the east near Agle/Gypsum, along I-70. Read More

14. Paragliding over Glenwood Canyon

For an even more exhilarating aerial experience, try paragliding over Glenwood Canyon. With professional guides to lead the way, it’s an adventure you won’t easily forget. Soar over the Colorado River, rugged canyons, and forested mountainsides with a tandem instructor in control. Read More

15. Ride an Alpine Roller Coaster

Take a thrilling ride on an Alpine coaster where you control the speed at Glenwood Caverns. Zip through turns and descents on a mountain track for an experience unlike traditional roller coasters. The Alpine Coaster is named one of the 10 best roller coaster rides of your life by USA Today, as it races down 3,400 feet of track through the mountainside. Read More

16. Take a historical walking tour of Glenwood Springs

Discover the hidden corners and historic sites of Glenwood Springs with a walking tour of town. Put together by the Glenwood Springs Historical Society, the self-guided walking tour Is a fantastic way to learn about the area’s rich history. Follow it up with a visit to the nearby history museum. Read More

17. Attend a live concert at the Park

During the summer, Glenwood Springs Summer of Music hosts nearly a dozen live concerts at Two Rivers Park. Located in the heart of the city along where the Roaring Fork River enters the Colorado River, it’s one of the best spots you could envision for a concert. Bring a blanket and enjoy some tunes in a laid-back, outdoor setting. Read More

18. Shopping in downtown Glenwood Springs

Downtown Glenwood Springs offers a variety of shopping options, from boutiques and art galleries to outdoor gear shops, making it a great way to spend an afternoon. Some of my favorite local spots include the Dancing Bear Trading Post, Sioux Villa Curio, and Bullocks Western Store. Read More

19. Take a scenic train ride on the California Zephyr

Hop aboard the California Zephyr for a scenic train ride that passes through the heart of the Rocky Mountains, offering spectacular views along the way. The Train also stops in Denver, making it a great way to start or end your trip to Glenwood Springs with a unique mode of travel on a historic route more than 100 years old. Read more

20. Go rock climbing in Glenwood Canyon

Glenwood Canyon offers some of the best rock climbing in the area. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced climber, you’ll find routes that are both challenging and rewarding. You can head out to climb on your own or hire a guide from one of the multiple outfitters available in Glenwood Springs. Read More.

21. Golfing at Glenwood Springs Golf Club

For those looking to hit the links, the Glenwood Springs Golf Club offers a scenic 9-hole course with views of the surrounding mountains, making for a peaceful day of golf. Voted the best 9 hole public course in Colorado by the Denver Post, it’s worth a day if you are a fan of the sport. Read More.

Day Trips Near Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs is located in the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, near hundreds of other destinations, mountain towns, peaks, and trails. If you want to take a day trip or two while staying in Glenwood Springs, here are six great options to get started with.

1. Aspen, Colorado

Aspen is the birthplace of the Colorado ski industry as the first major resort in the state. The town is now a hub for culture, art, and cuisine, as well as its wealthy residents, spas, and luxury. If you want to eat, shop, and visit the spa, a day trip to Aspen is the best place to start near Glenwood Springs. Read More

2. The Maroon Bells

These twin 14,000 foot peaks, Maroon Peak and North Maroon, are considered among the most photographed mountains in the world. Known for their vivid purple shade, especially when caught at dawn or dusk, they are climbed via dangerous class three and four routes with loose rock and plenty of peril. Read More

3. Rifle Falls State Park

Rifle Falls and their namesake state park are a 40-minute drive from Glenwood Spring to the west. The viewing area for the park’s three 80-foot waterfalls is handicap accessible, with a small trail that leads up to the top. The park also is home to a fish hatchery, hiking trails, and camping areas to check out during your visit. Read More

4. Independence Pass

One of the tallest paved mountain passes in Colorado, Independence Pass opens each summer from late May through early November, linking Aspen with Buena Vista. The tight curves and sheer drop-offs, historic mining towns, abundant wildlife, and alpine access all make this historic landmark a worthy day trip near Glenwood Springs. Read More

5. Carbondale, Colorado

The small mountain town of Carbondale got its start as a coal mining town. Directly north of Mount Sopris, the region’s most prominent peak, the area is home to world class outdoor recreation opportunities. Go hiking or biking, explore the local art scene, attend a rodeo, or go on a yoga or wellness retreat. Carbondale has a little bit of everything. Read More

Where To Eat: My Suggestions

Glenwood Springs has a surprisingly diverse and high-quality culinary scene, with dozens of places to eat while visiting. Here are five options that represent a range of the restaurants and cuisines you can find in Glenwood Springs.

1. The Pullman

Situated in the heart of downtown Glenwood Springs, The Pullman offers modern American cuisine with a focus on seasonal and local ingredients. It’s a great spot for travelers looking for a contemporary dining experience and doesn’t shy away from inventive culinary techniques.

2. Juicy Lucy's Steakhouse

For those craving a classic Colorado steak, Juicy Lucy’s is a must-visit. The restaurant is known for its high-quality meats and hearty portions, making it ideal for those who want a taste of American fare. The ambiance is rustic yet upscale.

3. Riviera Supper Club & Piano Bar

If you’re in the mood for some Italian-inspired dishes with a side of live music, the Riviera Supper Club & Piano Bar has you covered. It offers an elegant setting along with an extensive wine list, making it suitable for romantic evenings or special occasions.

4. Glenwood's Downtown Market

For budget-conscious travelers or those looking for a quick bite, this seasonal farmers’ market offers an array of food stalls serving everything from tacos to artisanal pastries. It’s a great way to sample local flavors without breaking the bank.

5. Masala & Curry

This Indian restaurant is perfect for those looking to spice up their palate. Offering a range of curries, tandoori dishes, and vegetarian options, Masala & Curry brings authentic flavors in a casual and friendly atmosphere.

Campgrounds Near Glenwood Springs

If you enjoy camping but prefer a developed campground with amenities like drinking water, bathrooms, showers, and picnic tables, Glenwood Springs has you covered. Here are five campgrounds near Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

1. Elk Creek Campground

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leoThis private campground is 15 miles from Glenwood Springs and offers tent camping, RV sites, and cabins for rent. The property is located along East Elk Creek and includes amenities like a fenced dog park along the river, hot showers, wifi, and hiking trails that leave directly from camp. It’s a great option for families and those new to camping. Read More

2. Colorado River KOA Holiday Campground

This KOA campground is 19.5 miles west of Glenwood Springs along the Colorado river and Interstate 70. With RV sites, cabins, teepees, and tent sites, there is something for everyone. Built in 2015, the campground includes many amenities, including a convenience store and lounce with games, TV, and a library. There is also a large, heated pool, hot tub, and playground, dog park, riverfront area, and laundry. It’s perfect your next family vacation. Read More

3. Redstone Campground

This US Forest Service campground is located 28 miles south of Glenwood Springs. Nestled in White River National Forest at 7,800 feet, it’s set amidst a scattering of aspen grovers on a ridge above the Crystal River. Amenities are simple: drinking water, bathrooms, fire pits and tables, with campsites available by reservation-only from May 10 through September 28. Read More

4. Cedar Campground

This campground in Rifle Gap State Park is managed by Colorado Parks & Wildlife, 33 miles west of Glenwood Springs. It sits up on a hill along the water’s edge, with sites for tents, trailers, RVS and other campers. There are electrical hook-ups, flush toilets, and showers, along with fire rings and tables in sites. Camping here is available by reservation-only. Read More

5. Ami's Acres Campgrounds

The closest campground to Glenwood Springs is Ami’s Acres, a family-owned local spost operating for more than 50 years. They have sites for RVs, tents and large groups, just 3 miles from the heart of Glenwood Springs. This no-frills campground is great for young travelers and outdoor adventurers who don’t need many amenities but want to be close to town. Read More

Dispersed Camping Near Glenwood Springs

Dispersed camping in Colorado

Another option for camping near town are the numerous dispersed camping areas nearby. These areas allow camping in any pre-established site without reservations or fees for up to 14-days at a time. Here are four spots I recommend checking out. Remember to practice Leave No Trace ethics while dispersed camping near Glenwood Springs.

1. Transfer Trail Road (Forest Road 602)

This rough 4WD road north of Glenwood Springs is only open to high-clearance vehicles, but has tons of dispersed campsites along its length. It heads into the Flat Tops Wilderness Area, and has many off-shoots that lead to secluded spots with lakes ideal to spend the night or two. Read More

2. Coffee Pot Road (Forest Road 600)

This improved gravel road works its way up into the Flat Tops Wilderness Area too, but leaves I-70 to the east of Glenwood Canyon. The road starts out windy and narrow but gradually climbs higher until it opens up with expansive views where there are large open meadows and multiple places to camp. If you aren’t comfortable with narrow mountain roads, I don’t recommend it. Read More

3. Four Mile Road (Highway 117)

This Forest Road follows Four Mile Creek with campsites dotting the meadows along its upper length. As one of the closest dispersed camping areas near Glenwood Springs, it can get busy, but you can usually find a site unless you arrive after dusk. Take the off shoot roads in the area to discover additional quiet spots to camp. The road is accessible for most vehicles but gets worse the further you go. Read More

4. Buford-New Castle Road (Forest Road 245)

This is the main road that crosses through the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. It is only for high-clearance 4WD vehicles, and won’t work for your RV or camper. There are great spots along the entire length of the road, which is extremely remote. You won’t have an issue finding a spot here, but you will need to be completely self-reliant. Read More

Where to Stay in Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs itself is home to a variety of hotels, resorts, motels, and lodges to cater to your needs. If you prefer a bed to a sleeping bag, these are some of the top rated options at a variety of difference price points.

1. Hotel Colorado

As one of the most historic hotels in Colorado, the Hotel Colorado offers luxurious accommodations with a vintage flair. It’s located near the hot springs and provides a range of amenities including spa services and fine dining, making it ideal for travelers seeking a lavish stay.

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2. Glenwood Hot Springs Resort

This resort-style lodge offers direct access to the world-famous Glenwood Hot Springs. Guests can enjoy unlimited access to the thermal pools as well as modern, comfortable rooms. It’s a perfect choice for those seeking relaxation and wellness-focused amenities.

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3. Starlight Lodge

For travelers looking for value without sacrificing comfort, the Glenwood Springs Inn offers clean, cozy rooms in a convenient location near the city center. Rooms come with air-conditioning and cable TV, with free wifi and a a charming style reminiscent of a small alpine village.

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4. The Hideout Cabins & Campground

For a more rustic experience, The Hideout offers cabin rentals and camping spots. It’s situated along the Colorado River and offers easy access to outdoor activities like fishing and hiking. This option is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts and those traveling on a budget.

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5. Residence Inn by Marriott Glenwood Springs

This is an excellent option for longer stays or those traveling with families. The hotel offers spacious suites with fully-equipped kitchens, a fitness center, and even an indoor pool. It’s located a short drive from the city’s main attractions, offering a balance of convenience and comfort.

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Map: Find a Room in Glenwood Springs

 

Things To Do in Glenwood Springs: Now You Know!

As you can see, there are an endless number of things to do in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. From hiking and climbing to culture and cuisine, there’s something here for everyone. When it comes to finding a spot to stay, Glenwood Springs offers dispersed camping areas, developed campgrounds, resorts, motels, and lodges, to meet the needs of every type of traveller.

With the amenities of Vail or Aspen, combined with the charm of smaller towns like Nederland or Georgetown, there are few better places to spend a weekend or more than Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Safe travels on the trails during your next visit to town!

FAQs

If you don’t see the answer to your question, leave a comment at the bottom of the article and we will get you an answer and more information as soon as possible.

Q: Is it worth going to Glenwood Springs?

A: Absolutely. Glenwood Springs offers a mix of natural beauty, relaxation, and adventure that appeals to visitors of all ages. From the world-famous hot springs to thrilling outdoor activities such as white-water rafting and hiking, the area offers a diverse range of experiences. For those looking to unwind, the therapeutic mineral waters provide an excellent backdrop. Overall, it’s a destination that offers something for everyone.

A: Glenwood Springs is perhaps most famous for its natural hot springs, including the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, one of the largest hot springs pools in the world. It’s also known for its stunning mountainous surroundings and outdoor activities ranging from fishing and hiking to white-water rafting and skiing. The area’s rich history, including its connection to the Old West and figures like Doc Holliday, also adds to its appeal.

A: While the most famous hot springs, such as the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool and Iron Mountain Hot Springs, require admission fees, there are some lesser-known hot springs in the surrounding areas that can be accessed for free. However, they are generally less developed and might require a hike to reach. Always respect private property and environmental rules when seeking these out.

A: The Glenwood Springs gondola, which takes visitors up to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, is not free. The cost of the gondola ride is typically included in the price of admission to the Adventure Park. It offers a stunning view of the surrounding mountains and valleys, making it well worth the price for most visitors.

A: Glenwood Springs is a year-round destination, but the best time to visit depends on your interests. The summer months are perfect for outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, and white-water rafting. Fall offers beautiful foliage and fewer crowds. Winter attracts those interested in snow sports, as well as those looking to relax in the hot springs amidst the snowy landscape. Spring is a quieter time to enjoy the warming weather and blooming flowers.

A: Glenwood Springs is relatively walkable, especially the downtown area where you’ll find a variety of shops, restaurants, and other amenities. Some attractions, like the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, are easily accessible on foot from downtown. However, some other attractions like Sunlight Mountain Resort or certain hiking trails may require a car or shuttle to reach.

A: Yes, Glenwood Springs is approximately 41 miles from Aspen, making it a convenient location for those looking to explore more of Colorado’s famed mountain towns. The drive can take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half depending on road conditions and traffic.

A: The largest hot spring in Glenwood Springs is the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. The pool measures over 400 feet in length and contains more than a million gallons of natural mineral water, making it one of the largest of its kind in the world. It’s a must-visit attraction for anyone coming to Glenwood Springs.

A: Yes, Glenwood Springs is a mountain town located in the Colorado Rockies. It’s situated at the confluence of the Colorado River and the Roaring Fork River, and it’s surrounded by steep terrain and scenic mountain vistas, making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

A: Glenwood Springs was originally known as “Defiance,” a name given by the early settlers in the late 19th century. However, the town was later renamed to Glenwood Springs in honor of Glenwood, Iowa, the hometown of Isaac Cooper, a prominent landowner and founder. The “Springs” part of the name, of course, refers to the numerous natural hot springs in the area.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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