A short drive from Steamboat Springs, Colorado lays a natural hot springs that is as austere as you will find, but with rustic modern touches that blend into the environment and create a peaceful spa-like experience among the Aspens.
In winter, you must have a 4WD vehicle to reach Strawberry Park Hot Springs. The road is narrow, winding, unpaved and packed with snow and ice. If you don’t have a 4WD, Sweet Pea Tours offers eight trips a day, seven days a week.
For $10 a person, you can stay and enjoy the pools for as long as you like. Each pool ranges from hot to lukewarm, with a few small private pools mixed in, just big enough for two people. If you plan to visit with kids, be aware that after dark, clothing becomes optional.
Unlike Old Town Hot Springs in downtown Steamboat, which is more like a public pool with its waterslides and lifeguards, Strawberry Park is very basic in its services and has no staff other than at the entrance to take your entrance fee.
After parking and paying your fees, it is a bit of a walk down a winding dirt road to a small, heated cabin for changing in. There are three changing rooms with a curtain for privacy, but no lockers.
With no lockers, you might want to arrive with your suit on under minimal clothing, even in winter, to avoid the walk back up to your car to store your stuff. We chose to leave our bags in the cabin, but brought our wallets and phones with us to the pools, and had no issues.
Beside the pool area is a teepee also for changing in, but with no privacy. The door/flap remains open at all times.
The only bathrooms are located halfway back up the dirt road, so its wise to use them before heading down to the pools.
Be sure to wear flip-flops since the stone stairway down to the pools and rocky dirt path may be painful. Water shoes would be even better since some of the pools get a little slippery from the moss, and there are also some rocky areas.
Towels are available to rent at the entrance for $1, but they are small and were hardly enough to keep warm and dry under in winter weather.
Bring something to drink, preferably water, especially if you are prone to altitude sickness. Water and other drinks are available for sale at the entrance if you should forget, but no alcohol or glass is allowed.
The grounds are well maintained, as are the pools, which are completely drained and cleaned once a week. Surrounding the pools are natural wood Adirondack chairs (some fully recline), mainly used for draping towels on in winter when everyone is in the geothermal water to stay warm. A large stone gazebo area is perfect for picnicking under in warm weather.
The private owner of the property is taking care to improve it regularly without removing it from its natural surroundings. It’s evident in the beautiful stonework of the pools and the structures on the property – those surrounding the pool area such as the tee pee and cabin, and the masseuse and physical therapy huts adjacent to them.
Even the lodging that has been added for those who wish to camp, hike and relax in the pools, fits in with the serene environment. There are tent sites, rustic cabins, covered wagons and even a train caboose available for nightly rental.
Our six-year-old, Reagan enjoyed the hot springs as much as we did. There were several families and a number of children ranging from babies to high school age kids. The atmosphere is very casual and social, but, very different from your average hotel pool. There is a little too much PDA for my liking in the daytime with children present, but Reagan never seemed to notice. She was too busy chatting it up with whoever would listen, and traipsing back and forth between pools.
After our last day on the slopes, we all appreciated the opportunity to ease our sore muscles in the healing hot springs, absent the sulphur smell. In winter, with the cool, crisp air forming clouds of steam over the hot water , it is pretty close to a religious experience.
We soaked for almost three hours and could’ve stayed longer had we not needed to make the drive back to Denver. As we were warned, our bodies and minds were so relaxed from our time there, I needed a Chai Tea to keep me alert on the drive home. As for Reagan, we gladly let her sleep all the way home. Bonus!