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Strawberry Park Hot Springs
[Getting There]

Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Sybaris in the Rockies: Strawberry Park Hot Springs

Hot stream at Strawberry Park
147-degree water cools off on its way down the mountainside

Massage cottage
Massage with a view: the cottage at Strawberry Park


I have driven on 4 wheel-drive off-highway trails that have made my neck hair stand on end but that carried nary a warning sign at the trailhead. That's why the official signs on County Road 36 just outside Steamboat Springs, Colorado, riveted my attention. I regret that I didn't stop to take a photo. There were a couple of them just after the road left the pavement and began the uphill grade to our destination -- the famous Strawberry Park Hot Springs. The first set of signs declared that "Studded Snow Tires or 4-WD and Chains are Required." A mile or so later the signs raised the ante: "Vehicles Without the Required Equipment Prohibited Beyond This Sign." Ye gads, I thought, since the vehicle I was driving was certainly missing at least two of the required traction elements, and the road was wet and muddy since it had been raining for a couple of days. It turns out, however, that all the official hyperbole applies to winter driving conditions found between November 1 and May 1. The road does have some steep and curiously banked sections that have probably led to extensive winching operations to remove vehicles that slid off the road when their drivers should have walked or hitched a ride with the shuttle service provided from town.

Strawberry Park Hot Springs is about seven miles from downtown Steamboat Springs on County Road 36. Most of the road is paved, but the last three miles are gravel. If your driving skills don't quite match the weather and road conditions when you visit, there are a number of shuttle services, or you can hike in from the parking area about two miles from the resort. But whatever it takes to get there, this is a place you have to visit. It has been called the nicest developed hot springs in Colorado, and I seriously doubt there could another one as appealing.

The owners have built stone walls to enclose warm and hot pools with sandy bottoms alongside a rushing, frigid mountain stream. Hot water (147 degrees Fahrenheit) cascades down the hillside and joins a series of streams that are strategically mixed with the cooler stream water to yield ideal soaking temperatures ranging from 101 to 106 degrees. The hot water moves from the upper pools to lower pools before returning to the snow-melt of the natural stream. The hot water running under the floor in the stone-walled changing room warms the rocks and makes a pleasant to place to disrobe even on coolish days and at night. In addition, there is teepee if one wants a little more privacy.

The resort also offers a variety of massage services, the opportunity to stay overnight in private huts, two covered wagons, and even a train caboose. The massage cottage is situated on the edge of the rushing stream, is heated by a wood-burning stove, and is built in a way to create privacy while still being only a few footsteps away from the main pools. Rebecca Lommel, a long-time roadtripper and massage connoisseur said that her massage was the best she has ever experienced anywhere in the world. There is also a private soaking pool and rock cabin located across the stream.

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