Take the Train to a Holiday Getaway in Glenwood Springs

Amtrak’s California Zephyr runs from Chicago to San Francisco with a stop in Salt Lake City, the eastbound train boards at “Oh-Dark-Thirty” (3:30 a.m.) which makes for a bleary, early morning at Salt Lake’s Central Station. Once on board, though, you can grab a nap as the train moves through Provo, Green River and Grand Junction, waking up in time to view the scenic stretch through Glenwood Canyon along the Colorado River before arriving at your destination: Glenwood Springs, Colo. Glenwood Springs is famous for its hot springs. Once a railroad and mining town, it became a destination for travelers to “take the waters.” Fittingly, the town’s center is the world’s largest hot springs pool, making Glenwood an ideal destination for a wintertime getaway. Enjoy this historic, walkable western town all decked out for the holiday season, with your choice of basecamp.

The Amtrak train station across the street from the Hotel Denver. Photo courtesy of Visit Glenwood.

1. The Hotel Denver

During the early 1900s, the train was the heartbeat of Glenwood Springs. The train brought supplies, workers and tourists into town, who needed a place to stay. The Hotel Denver has been hosting visitors since 1915 and the classic three-story retains its classic charm but has evolved into a chic, modern boutique hotel. Its location, steps away from the train station, makes it an ideal base for exploring the town.

2. The Hotel Colorado

The Hotel was built in 1893 by Walter Devereux, a silver baron and one of the early settlers who saw the potential of the town’s main attraction, the hot springs. Devereux sought to attract the wealthy and elite to this grande dame of a hotel, which is a real name-dropper of a hotel. Its registries have logged many famous guests, notably President Theodore Roosevelt who visited the area on his many hunting excursions and would decamp to the Hotel, which would become a temporary White House during his stays. During the holidays, the Colorado is all decked out, with twinkling lights and a lobby stuffed with a menagerie of Christmas displays. Also, there are ghosts.

Exterior of the Hotel Colorado’s Holiday decor. Photo courtesy of Visit Glenwood
Spa of the Rockies at Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, Glenwood Springs, Colo.

3. Glenwood Hot Springs Pool

Glenwood’s therapeutic spring waters—called Yampah, or literally “Big Medicine,” by Ute Native Americans—have been bubbling up from the earth’s core for millions of years. The Utes were the first known visitors to the mineral-rich hot springs that flowed along the banks of the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon. Devereux bought the land around the natural springs and harnessed the 3.5 million gallons of naturally hot mineral water that rises from the source of the spring each day. The pool dominates the town’s center and is filled with soakers, basking in the warm water. You should be one.

4. Iron Mountain Hot Springs

The newest iteration of a hot springs destination that dates back to 1896, Iron Mountain is located on the banks of the Colorado River. Designed in the Scandinavian way, Iron Mountain has 16 pools dotting the site which range in temperatures from 98 to 108 degrees. Guests brave the winter chill between pools and hop around to find the perfect temperature. Iron Mountain also has an adults-only area and serves beer, wine and (in the winter) mulled wine.

Father and daughter tour Glenwood Caverns

5. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Although coasters and more adventurous attractions at the park are closed in winter, the park’s main attraction, the Glenwood Caverns, remains open for tours. Descend into a subterranean world guided by a young enthusiastic collection of tour guides who point out geology, unique formations and share the cave’s history.  

Getting There

Glenwood Springs is about eight hours from Salt Lake City’s Central Station by train. And while it would certainly be faster to drive, what’s your hurry? The train ride is half the fun of a trip to Glenwood Springs, you can play games in the club car, relax in the observation deck and just enjoy the ride. amtrak.com

One Cool Thing: Doc Holliday’s Last Stand

John Henry Holliday (1851-1887), better known as Doc Holliday, was an American gambler, gunfighter and, oddly, a dentist. A close friend and associate of lawman Wyatt Earp, Holliday is best known for his role in the events leading up to and following the gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Ariz. Holliday was afflicted with tuberculosis and spent the few remaining years of his life in Glenwood Springs, where he hoped the healing waters would cure his ailment. He died of tuberculosis in his bed at the Hotel Glenwood, now the Hotel Denver, at age 36. One of the Hotel Denver’s eventual owners, Art Kendrick, got his start as a bellhop, where he recalls Doc Holliday as a “pretty good” tipper. His name is all over the town, including the Doc Holliday Saloon, filled with memorabilia dedicated to the famous gunslinger (and serving Rocky Mountain Oysters for the brave). You can also explore the Doc Holliday Collection, a small museum in the lower level of Bullock’s Western Store. 

Teddy Roosevelt’s Failed Bear Hunt

Long before Barbie, there was the beloved childhood toy, the Teddy Bear, named after President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. The Hotel Colorado claims to be the “real” origin of the iconic stuffed bear. Although other accounts attribute its creation to a penny candy store owner in New York, there’s a large display in the hotel lobby dedicated to an apocryphal story. The president, despondent after an unsuccessful bear hunt, was cheered when the hotel staff presented him with a stuffed bear. True or not, it’s one of the many historical artifacts and displays located throughout the hotel, including limited bookings for the Roosevelt Suite, where the president would conduct business during his stays.

Jeremy Pugh
Jeremy Pughhttps://www.saltlakemagazine.com/
Jeremy Pugh is Salt Lake magazine's Editor. He covers culture, history, the outdoors and whatever needs a look. Jeremy is also the author of the book "100 Things to Do in Salt Lake City Before You Die" and the co-author of the history, culture and urban legend guidebook "Secret Salt Lake."

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