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Glenwood Springs is known for its natural hot springs, outdoor recreation activities, and rich western history.
Due to its location in the beautiful Colorado River valley and proximity to other Mountain resort areas, it is a perfect family vacation destination in all seasons. You can spend days hanging out in Glenwood Springs or visit Vail, Aspen or Rifle.
The town sits at the confluence of the Colorado River and the Roaring River, surrounded by the White River National Forest. With its lower elevation of 5,760 feet, tourists can enjoy sleeping at a lower elevation than the nearby mountain towns – Vail (8,150 feet) and Aspen (8,000).
Update: in August of 2020, Grizzly Creek Forest fire burned through Glenwood Canyon, closing I-70 for a week. The highway is open again and people are enjoying visiting Glenwood Springs. However, some of the sights in the canyon, such as Hanging Lake, are closed for rehabilitation. Check www.cotrip.org for road closure information.
History of Glenwood Springs
Native Americans frequented the area for the properties of the water. The heat from the hot springs created vapors in the nearby caves. These were some of the first heat caves used- saunas as we call them today.
The Ute, Comanche, Cheyenne, and Arapaho people all visited the area for the healing properties of the water (source).
According to history collected by the Yampa Spa, the Ute inhabited this region known to them as the Yampa or “Big Medicine” at the confluence of the Grand (Colorado) and Thunder (Roaring Fork) Rivers.
They were the first to develop the hot springs and vapor caves for the relaxation and healing powers. In fact, some of the modern attractions are developed from these original springs.
In the mid-1800s, explorers, prospectors, and developers became interested in the area. The area was first called Grand Springs (for the Grand River).
In 1883 Isaac Cooper founded the town and called it “Defiance”. The new town consisted of cabins, saloons, and brothels (source). The name was soon changed to a “civilized” name of Glenwood Springs just in time for the railroad to
Infamous Western legend Doc Holliday lived and died here. Doc was a gun shooting, gambling dentist. He moved to the area because of the hot springs, thinking they would help cure his tuberculosis.
You can visit the grave of Doc Holiday and learn about his life at the Doc Holiday Museum.
Today, Glenwood has expanded into a vibrant city full of tranquility, adventure, and culture. Travelers will find plenty to do here, from sporty activities to nature walks, to a dip in calming waters. They also have great spas located in the area (visitglenwood.com)!
Attractions and Things to Do in Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs is famous for its hot springs and natural resources. The town, is surrounded by the scenic White River National Forest, adjacent to the spectacular Glenwood Canyon and at the confluence of the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers.
Glamping or RV camping is an excellent way to experience all the Roaring Fork Valley has to offer. Did you know you don’t even need to own an RV? You can easily rent a camper and have it delivered. We rent out our 35-foot travel trailer on Outdoorsy – you can see it here and use our personal code TravelFever for 10% off. No matter which RV you choose, I have another coupon to apply at check out so make sure to use this $50 off Coupon
Although visitors are attracted to the outdoor recreation opportunities and to soak in the hot springs, the area offers many amenities.
In all seasons your family can find fun things to do in Glenwood Springs. The summer is full of hiking opportunities like Hanging Lake, mountain biking, rafting and kayaking, and off-road adventures. You can ride the Gondola to the western-themed Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park to take in the views, enjoy the amusement rides and take a cave tour.
In the winter you can ski at the local Sunlight Mountain, snowmobile, and snowshoe and hike a winter trail. You can choose to enjoy the nearby ski resorts in Vail and Aspen and return to Glenwood in the evening to relax.
More ideas for winter activities are included in our post,
Of course, the best part is that the hot springs and vapor caves which are perfect for any season. You can choose between the Glenwood Hot Springs or the Iron Mountain Hot Springs (or visit both). Enjoy soaking in the hot water after a day out in the snow or soaking your muscles from a long hike.
Planning Your Visit to Glenwood Springs
Glenwood has an alpine climate and low humidity year round. Summers are warm and range anywhere from 75 degrees to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The spring and fall
Due to the dry air and sunshine,
Snowfall can be heavy at times but is usually moderate. Still, even in winter, the sun stays out and skies stay clear.
It’s hard to choose the best time to visit because we enjoy so many activities in every season here. Of course, the best time for your family to visit depends on the activities you want to enjoy. You can’t ski in the summer and you can’t kayak in the winter. Many scenic nearby places, such as driving Independence Pass are inaccessible in the winter.
If I have to give an answer though, I’d say the best time to visit the area is in the spring. You can still play in the snow, especially higher altitudes, walk the downtown area the warm sunshine, and soak in the hot springs.
Choosing the time to visit is one of the first items to do when planning a family vacation. We have an extensive resource to plan your next vacation. Check out our ultimate guide to planning your next family vacation!
How to Get to Glenwood Springs:
Glenwood Springs is easily accessible by driving, taking the train, bus or flying. Many visitors enjoy arriving by train and walking around town.
The town is located only about 170 miles west of Denver, 230 miles northwest of Colorado Springs, and 40 miles north of Aspen.
The drive to Glenwood Springs is beautiful whether you arrive from the east or west via I70 or from the south via highway 82.
The distance from Denver to Glenwood Spring is 170 miles or about 3 hours driving. You arrive after driving on the elevated highway through the spectacular Glenwood Canyon. I have traveled through this canyon countless times and it never gets old.
One word of caution, you will be traveling through the mountains which can be challenging in the winter. Even driving in Colorado my whole life, I have been caught in unexpected snowstorms in the spring and fall. So, before you leave home read our driving tips for your winter road trip.
The Amtrak runs through the Glenwood Canyon and stops at the historic station in Glenwood Springs. Many visitors arrive by train, which connects to Denver Central Station.
The ride is beautiful, and you don’t have to worry about driving off the road as you gaze at the scenery.
Once you arrive in town, you can walk, rent a car or use public transit. The local bus system is easy and regional buses will take you to the neighboring towns of Aspen, Vail or Rifle.
By Bus or Shuttle
Shuttles and buses run from Denver and between local communities in the mountains. Although we have looked into these services we, have not used this option.
The Colorado Mountain Express runs vans between Denver and Glenwood Springs for about $90 per person one-way. You might want to choose this option to avoid driving in the Mountains.
— Roaring Fork Transportation Agency offers service between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, with stops in the communities along the way. A faster direct bus is also offered.
Although Glenwood does not have a public airport, there are a few nearby if your vacation includes other activities on the Western Slope. Eagle County Airport is located just west of Vail and about an hour from Glenwood. Aspen airport is about an hour south in the town of Aspen. Grand Junction airport is an hour and a half east and the winters are much milder there.
You can connect from Denver to any of the regional airports. Flying is a good option if you plan to visit sites of the westerns slope or don’t want to drive through the mountains (especially in winter). You can rent car from any of these airports and drive.
Get the secrets to finding the cheapest flights for your family to anywhere – from a mom of 6
Where to Stay
You are not short on options for accommodations in Glenwood Springs. Hotels, cabins, private rentals, and camping are available. We have an article to help if you need ideas about finding affordable accommodations for your family.
Note: We have stayed in many different places over the years, so I am recommending these based on personal experience. We have not had any sponsored stays but s
Camping in the White River National Forest or RV Resorts. You can easily rent a camper and have it delivered. We rent out our 35-foot travel trailer on Outdoorsy – you can see it here and use our personal code TravelFever for 10% off. No matter which RV you choose, I have another coupon to apply at check out so make sure to use this $50 off Coupon
The Glenwood Hot Springs Resort is a favorite place to stay for families wanting to soak in the hot springs. The hotel is located adjacent to the Glenwood Hot Springs pool and unlimited pool access. (141 W 6th St, Glenwood Springs)
The Best Western Antlers features 99 rooms on 5 landscaped acres. Staying here you get a real mountain feel and it is walkable to most of the central activities. (171 W 6th St, Glenwood Springs, CO 81601)
An option in West Glenwood is the Residence Inn by Marriot. These are spacious suites with kitchens perfect for spreading out as a family and next to the Rec Center and restaurants. We have stayed here and they have a very nice pool for the kids to swim in. (125 Wulfsohn Rd)
One unique place with an indoor water park is Hotel Glenwood Springs. This hotel sits right at the base of the gondolas to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. The kids love the indoor water park and we have even been there for a birthday. The hotel offers packages to other attractions such as the hot springs. (52000 Two Rivers Plaza Road)
The Historic Hotel Colorado is the most well-known hotel and historical landmark.
Camping is an option in the summer with private RV camping, State and National Forest campgrounds, and dispersed camping on public lands.
Where to Eat with a Family
Glenwood Springs is full or restaurants with delicious food. We have a couple of favorite places to eat with kids in Glenwood Springs.
The Glenwood Canyon Brewpub is a special treat for the kids. They offer good food and home-brewed root beer for the kids and real beer for the adults. Children’s meals are served on a frisbee that they can take home. (402 7th Street)
Who could resist the Sweet Coloradough’s doughnuts for breakfast… or anytime really. This is a small local bakery specializing in sweet treats. This is a special treat for our kids when we are in Glenwood. (51283 Highway 6)
The newest and best place in the fast-food options is Culvers. They are a basic burger and fries place that serves frozen custard. The kid’s meals come with a coupon for a small frozen custard which can even be used for the flavor of the day. Although, I label this as “fast food” the service is good but slow since they are making everything fresh. (51283 Hwy 6)
Our favorite sandwich place is Chomps Deli. They have recently moved right across the street from the Hotel Colorado. The kids and adults love the sandwiches, which we have grabbed for a day at the pool or hiking Hanging Lake. (216 6th St)
Rocky Mountain Pizza Company is a yummy place for dine-in or take-out pizza. We also learned that dipping your crust in honey is a Colorado thing. The kids asked for honey and the waiter said “you must be from Colorado” Yes, we are third generation Coloradoans and yes, they have honey if you ask. (205 8th St)
You can’t be on vacation without getting ice cream. KaleidoScoops is a local favorite for as long as I can remember. With over 80 different yummy flavors, this stop takes the 6 of us a while to decide. (1105 Grand Ave)
More Resources for Planning a Family trip to Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs is a perfect destination for a family vacation whether you are traveling with toddlers, preschoolers or big kids. There is something for everyone.
Take advantage of our multiple resources for planning your next vacation:
- Ultimate Guide to Planning a Family Vacation
- Family Packing Checklist for Traveling with Kids
- Find Affordable Kid-Friendly Accommodations
- Secrets to Find Cheap Flights for Your Next Vacation
- Free Things to do in Colorado
Plan an Unforgettable Family Vacation! Download this planning template now!
Are you interested in visiting Glenwood Springs or want more information about the area? Please ask questions in the comments to help plan your next trip.