Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Glenwood Springs is a resort city in Garfield County, Colorado. It has a population of nearly 10,000 people. It is also a popular tourist destination known for its mountains, rivers, forests and hot springs. The city itself sits where the Roaring Fork River and the Colorado River meet in the Roaring Fork Valley. 

History Of Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs aerial view.

The first people living in Glenwood Springs were indigenous people of Subuagan and Parianuche bands. Yampa and White River people also lived in the area, and the region is now considered to be Ute land. The Ute people used the area seasonally, especially the hot springs, which naturally occur within the region. In 1868, Tabeguache Ute Chief Ouray signed a treaty to preserve the hunting grounds in the area. 

A settlement was first established in 1883 and called Defiance. This settlement was essentially a camp with brothels, saloons, and tents, though tents became more permanent cabins over time. The area was mainly used by gamblers, sex workers, and gunslingers at that time. Later, Isaac Cooper came to the area and established a more structured town. To accommodate his wife, he had the area renamed Glenwood Springs, after Glenwood, Iowa, where she was born.

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A historic street in Glenwood Springs. Editorial credit: Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

Glenwood Springs soon became the county seat, and a railroad stop was established. This brought increased business to the area, and in fact, Glenwood Springs was one of the first places in the United States to receive electrical lighting installed in 1897. 

The area continued to grow, and a dam was created in the Glenwood Canyon to establish a water source for a new power plant. The Shoshone power plant started running in 1909 and holds the oldest water rights on the now well-used Colorado River. 

The town continued to grow over the years, changing its primary focus to becoming a resort town. In 2015, the Southern Methodist University named it the "Most Vibrant Small Town Arts Environment in the United States." Similarly, Outside Magazine placed it as the 5th Best Place to Live in America. 

Famed Visitors And Residents In Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs has had many well-known visitors and residents, some famous, some infamous. Doc Holliday lived his last months in the town and is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery. Kid Curry, one of Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch members, is also buried there. President Teddy Roosevelt was known to have spent a summer at the Hotel Colorado in the region. Serial killer Ted Bundy was jailed in the Glenwood Springs prison, and it is from here, he escaped in 1977. 

Other notable people from the area include Jim Irwin, the U.S. Air Force Colonel and eighth man to walk on the moon; Jack P. Juhan, a U.S. Marine Corp general who fought in WWII and the Korean War; and Scott McInnis, former U.S. Colorado congressman. Athletes include biker and Athens 2004 silver medalist Bobby Julich, and Alpine Skier Sarah Schleper. 

Geography Of Glenwood Springs

The city of Glenwood Springs is tucked alongside the Rocky Mountains, in the narrow valley where the Colorado River meets the Roaring Forks River. It is surrounded by steep terrain, including rocky valley walls and caverns. Geothermal activity is high in the region, and there are several local hot springs and the Dotsero maar. Surrounding the valleys are the mountains themselves and the White River National Forest, Hanging Lake, and abundant wildlife.

The climate in the region is considered mild and semi-arid, but its continental location does come with increased extreme weather. Glenwood Springs specifically also has microclimates due to its drastically changing terrain. This means that the river regions tend to be damper and cooler than the areas on the hillsides. 

Hotspings In Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs
People bath at public hot springs pool in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, USA. Editorial credit: Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

The hot springs are probably the most popular aspect of the Glenwood Springs area. The Hot Springs were thought to be the original draw to the area for several different indigenous groups before settling. One of the most well-known springs is the Yampah Hot Springs in a vapor cave. Inside, three connecting rock chambers offer waters averaging 43 degrees Celsius. Similarly, the Iron Mountian Hot Springs contains several hot springs around 40 degrees Celsius, which feed into seventeen different soaking pools which tend to be a few degrees cooler.

Hanging Lake

The Hanging Lake sits within the Glenwood Canyon and is about 10 km outside Glenwood Springs. It can be accessed by a trailhead and is a major draw for visitors to the area. A shuttle service operated by the U.S. Forest Service runs from downtown Glenwood Springs between May and December to reach the trail. 

Hanging Lake glenwood springs
The Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs.

The lake itself sits on a fault line and is described as hanging since a large section of the valley floor fell away at one point in history. The lake is also a distinct turquoise color due to dissolved minerals such as travertine, which occurs when limestone is dissolved. The lake is a very popular hiking spot in the area and a distinct part of the Colorado landscape.

Caves In Glenwood Springs

Caves in the area are known as the Glenwood Caverns and contain the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. This park is an amusement park that includes tours of the caves themselves, several coasters, the Giant Canyon Swing, and other thrill rides. 

Other Attractions And Recreational Activities In Glenwood Springs

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People hiking the mountains near Glenwood Springs.

Aside from the hot springs, one of the large pulls to the area is the skiing resorts and runs in the region. Sitting so close to the Rocky Mountains, the ski conditions are excellent in Glenwood Springs and Colorado more generally. The closest ski resort is the nearby Sunlight Mountain Resort, which operates a supply and ticket shop in downtown Glenwood Springs. Cross-country ski paths are also common around the city. 

Similarly, mountain biking and cycling are common, and there are many trails for the adventurous or the casual city biker to enjoy. Other activities include rafting, kayaking, and fishing along both the Colorado River and the Raging Forks River, including the Glenwood Whitewater Park, a designated rapids area. 

From the mountains to the valleys, hot springs to forests, there is a rich assortment of scenery and activities to enjoy in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

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