Pagosa Springs, CO, is home to the world’s deepest hot spring aquifer and has three bathhouses. Discover which one is the right one for you.
As far as hot springs go, the Pagosa Springs hot springs in southern Colorado stand out for two reasons. First, the Mother Spring aquifer is the deepest hot spring aquifer in the world, reaching a depth of more than 1,002 feet. Second, according to legend, the springs have healing powers. In fact, “pagosa” means “water that heals” in the Ute language.
Legend has it that long ago, a mysterious illness that the medicine men couldn’t heal plagued the Ute tribe. After building a fire along the San Juan River and praying for healing, the tribe woke to hot, bubbling water where their fire had died. When the Ute people bathed in it, they were healed.
Today, Pagosa Springs has three bathhouses, each drawing water from the Mother Spring aquifer. I visited all three on my recent visit to Pagosa Springs and learned each offers a unique experience.
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Healing Waters Resort & Spa
I stopped first at Healing Water Resort & Spa. Located roughly across the street from the Mother Springs aquifer, it has an outdoor swimming pool filled with hot springs water and an outdoor hot tub. There are also separate men’s and women’s indoor hot baths. In addition to the hot pools and baths, the property rents rooms, suites, and cabins.
Healing Waters has a casual, no-frills feel. Once I presented my day pass ($20) and rented a towel ($4), I headed outside, past the pool, to the women’s lockers. The changing area was basic and small, but I think many people in the spring waters were resort guests who had changed in their rooms.
I spent time soaking in the pool, which Healing Waters boasts is 100 percent natural mineral water. The property uses no chemicals, including chlorine, in its pools. Although I liked that I could swim in the water if I wanted, it felt a little cooler than I expected. Healing Waters says it maintains the temperature at about 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Note: The hot tub is 105 degrees while the indoor baths run between 108 and 112 degrees.
Based on my experience, the hot springs here are an excellent choice for families on a budget or for people who want the convenience of popping in the waters directly from their hotel room whenever they want. Healing Springs is open daily from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm.
Overlook Hot Springs Spa
My second stop was Overlook Hot Springs Spa, which takes its name from its rooftop view of the San Juan River. Like Healing Waters, it has smallish locker rooms. But instead of going outside to get to them, you walk from the reception desk and past several indoor tubs. Although Overlook does have a few lockers, it doesn’t provide locks.
I changed and backtracked to the indoor tubs. On one side, two hot tubs flank a cold plunge pool. On the other, a tub in a nook offered some privacy. I chose the tub in the nook since it had two beds molded into the concrete for reclining in the water. By far, this is my favorite tub, thanks to the beds. However, the tubs here felt like they needed to be resurfaced.
After relaxing, I went upstairs to the roof’s three tubs. Only one tub had views of the river, but the one next to it was just as crowded. The third tub was scalding hot. Downstairs, Overlook has additional tubs in its gardens, but since I visited in winter, I returned to the indoor pools.
Soaking in the hot tubs at Overlook costs $24. You can rent towels for $4, robes for $8, and a bathing suit for $7. Beer and wine are available for purchase. (No outside alcohol is allowed.) Overlook is open daily from 9 am. to 7 pm.
The Springs Resort & Spa
I made The Springs Resort & Spa my third bath house visit. The largest and most popular of the bathhouses, The Springs is also the most crowded and expensive. A general admission day pass costs $65. In addition, you can rent a locker for $13, a towel for $10, a robe for $20, and a cabana for $125 to $225.
If you’re looking for a top-notch experience, it’s worth the money. The changing rooms are large and clean, with plenty of lockers. After changing, I headed outside to the property’s 20 general admission pools. I also had access to the five exclusive pools with the Relaxation Terrace Package ($130). Because so many families were in the general area, I relaxed in the adults-only section.
Besides its clean and well-maintained pools, I loved that this property labels each pool with its temperature. Staff regularly checks to ensure that each pool maintains the stated temperature and is chemically balanced. Additionally, the staff takes food and drink orders at the pools, so you don’t have to leave your tub.
Best of all, though, was the view of the river. Unlike the Overlook Hot Springs Spa, this property sits on the edge of the San Juan River and offers views of downtown and the river. It’s relaxing and worth the money if you plan to spend the day soaking in the hot springs. The Springs is open daily from 9 am. to 9:30 pm.
What to Know When You Visit the Pagosa Springs Hot Springs
Before you go to any of Pagosa Springs’ baths, it helps to know what to expect. These tips will prepare you to maximize your time in the healing waters.
- Go in the morning to avoid the crowds. The later in the day you go, the more crowded the hot springs become.
- Bring your own towel. Each property charges for towels and robes.
- Leave your valuables at home: the Springs Resort & Spa and Healing Waters Resort & Spa charge for locker rentals. Overlook Hot Springs Spa requires you to bring your own lock.
- Be prepared for your towel and robe to freeze between soaks in the winter.
- Test the water before going in. Even if the temperature is labeled, it may not be accurate.
- Stay hydrated. The combination of high temperature and salt in the water can dehydrate you.
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Where to Stay Near the Pagosa Springs Hot Springs
Although both The Springs Resort & Spa and Healing Waters Resort & Spa have rooms onsite, you have other options in Pagosa Springs. I stayed at The Nightingale Motel and loved its location. I could easily walk to any of the hot springs properties and several great downtown restaurants.
Note: I recommend Pagosa Springs Baking Company for breakfast, Kip’s Grill for lunch, and Riff Raff Brewing Company for dinner.
The Nightingale Motel has several room options ranging from suites with a separate bedroom that sleeps up to four adults and two kids to a room with a queen bed. Some rooms have kitchenettes, too. All feature keyless entries. Before you arrive, you’ll receive a code to access the room.
While I’m skeptical of the healing nature of the hot springs’ waters—I had pain that the soaking didn’t cure—I found soaking at all three properties incredibly relaxing. The next time I’m in Pagosa Springs, I’ll set aside time for a soak or maybe three. Let Wander With Wonder be your guide when planning your next trip to Colorado or some other spa destination.