We initially planned to spend two nights in Glenwood Springs but ended up spending about twenty four hours there, realized that we’d experienced the best of Glenwood Springs, and decided to move on to the next spot.
Hungry when we rolled into town in the early afternoon, we headed straight to The Pullman downtown. I am always drawn to farm-to-table restaurants. I believe that eating locally not only keeps dollars in our communities but also is an environmentally responsible way to go. Plus, it makes for better eats! There is nothing so yummy as fresh produce that was grown down the road. Our lunch was tasty! We shared a baked burrata with naan and chutney which was sublime. I followed it up with an artichoke salad that was as delicious as it was inventive. If you go, expect something new as the menu changes with the availability of local goods.
After our lunch, we went to our hotel, The Hotel Colorado. We had enough points on hotels.com for a free night’s stay! Woo hoo! We couldn’t have splurged on the pricey hotel otherwise. It was priced at $233 for a night otherwise! We were looking forward to our stay in the historic 1893 hotel and were impressed by the photos on Booking.com. Our take, at the end, was that we sure were glad we had a free nights stay as $233 was an outrageous price for the hotel. The lobby looks lovely, for sure, but the rooms are terribly dated. The bed was comfortable and the sheets clean, but the rest of the room was so dated it came across as being dirty. They have window air conditioning units which isn’t a problem in and of itself, but they did not have curtains that accommodate the AC. Meaning that our shades were open and potentially other guests from across the courtyard could peep into our room. We were getting up early the next day, so weren’t worried about the early morning sunshine, but if you want to sleep in, in might not be the place for you. The biggest bummer was that on their website and on the booking.com site, they have pictures of hot springs that are from another location. We thought that the high price of the hotel could be justified by the on-site spa-like hot springs and felt cheated when we found out that they are elsewhere. They also list a full spa as a part of their amenities, but, alas, there is no spa onsite. We slept well and had a free stay, so no real complaints from us, I suppose!
Iron Mountain Hot Springs
We spent a few hours soaking at the nearby Iron Mountain Hot Springs (the one from the hotel pictures, oy vey). The hot springs are right along the Colorado River and in sight of the mountain range (and I-70, so you are not in the middle of nowhere). It was fairly crowded on the day we went but with 16 different pools, we never shared a pool with more than two or three people. The springs are divided a bit, too, with a big family friendly pool on one side and the 15 other small pools on the other. I appreciated the divide as the smaller pools had a more relaxing feel to them as the families were steered towards the bigger, cooler pool. They also have a snack bar and a bar which kept us there a bit longer! The big pool clocked in at 95* and the small pools ranged from 101-106*. We were there in the summer, so couldn’t spend too much time in the 106* pools, but commented on how lovely they’d be on a winter day! We stayed until the sun majestically set behind the mountains and my fingers were prunes.
After that, we went back to our hotel to clean up and walked over to the Colorado Ranch for dinner. There is a pedestrian bridge that crosses over I-70 which cuts through the middle of town and right by the main Glenwood Springs Hot Springs. In any case, the bridge allows for each walking and connection between the two sides of the river. The historic downtown area is cute with tons of local shops, adventure outfitters, and restaurants. We picked the Colorado Ranch for its emphasis on local foods and Colorado cuisine–when in Rome, right? We sat in their lovely courtyard that had cafe lights strung overhead and romantic lighting. The tables were, largely, set up to allow for some privacy even with a full courtyard. The food was perfectly done with nice roasted vegetables to accompany both of our main dishes. We noted that, maybe, just maybe, they hired servers who look like they could wrangle a cow. Not sure, but looks that way. We left completely satisfied and even with leftovers in hand (that we were bummed to not be able to put in a fridge as our $233/night hotel doesn’t have fridges in the rooms).
With a good dinner and a goodnight’s sleep, we woke up with the birds in the morning to attempt to hike to Hanging Lake. I say “attempt” because you have to make reservations to go. We only heard that reservations were needed when we were at the Breckenridge Brewery and, in chatting to the bartender, he remarked, “you know you have to make reservations, right?” No, we did not. We logged on to the website and were dismayed to find that there was no availability for two people for either of the two days we were planning to be in town. I gave a call to the visitor’s center to seek some advice. She suggested that we show up early, put our name on the standby list, and hope for the best. We did just that and arrived at the visitor’s center at 6:30 and put our name on the list. We stood at the door to the bus and at 6:44, one minute before the scheduled departure, they let us on the bus! Do we suggest doing it this way? No. We very well could have been waiting for hours and very well could have not made it on the bus. So, we thanked our lucky stars and enjoyed the narrated bus ride to the trailhead parking lot (you must take the bus or bike to the trailhead, you can only get a permit at the discretion of the ranger at the trailhead).
You may be thinking…”Seriously, sold out reservations for a HIKE?” Well, there are some hikes out there that are so popular that hikers are threatening the ecosystem and with all the hikers, it can become unsafe (talking to you, Himalayas) or unpleasant (talking to you, Zion Park!). Hanging Lake was suffering from both plights–the fragile ecosystem was threatened and hikers were being irresponsible. So, with the 44 of us in our group, we all hiked up, up, up to the lake at our own pace. We generally had, say, five or six people around us at a given time. By the time that we were ready to hike back down, down, down, the next three groups had arrived and started their venture. At the very end of our hike, at about 10:30, it was starting to feel crowded. If you go, I recommend trying for the first or last hike of the day to have some more solace on the trail than you would otherwise. One more logistics note, you have a guaranteed spot on a return bus that is about three hours after your starting reservation. If you are a quick hiker, you can try your luck on an earlier bus and if you are a slow hiker, you may have to wait (another argument for getting the first time slot!). As I’ve mentioned, this hike climbs 1000 feet in about a mile, the trail is really rocky, and there are some significant drop offs down the cliff face. Plus, you are already at a high elevation. So, as always, know yourself and your limits.
After the 1000 foot uphill hike and breathtaking views along the White river, traversing seven bridges, and hands-and-knees scrambling up some rocks, we made it. To Hanging Lake. Crystal Clear Hanging Lake. Hanging Lake is a geological rarity and wonder. At some point, the lake bottom fell due to a fissure in the rock. By falling into the valley, the waterfalls were formed. Over time, the edge of the lake has been reformed with dissolved carbonates giving the lake a mythical-looking emerald hue. It was breathtaking, serene, and even more beautiful than the pictures made it seem.
Once we were done with our hike, we had ravenous appetites that The Daily Bread was able to satisfy. We had to wait a bit for a table; it was a busy weekend at 11am or so. Once we sat down, the service was speedy and the food delicious. I had a completely satisfying veggie skillet with over-easy eggs on top and completely cleaned my plate. That hike worked up an appetite!
We Came, We Saw, We Conquered
While at breakfast, we made the decision to cut our stay a night short. For one, we didn’t want to stay at Hotel Colorado another night. We also felt like we came, we saw, and we conquered the things we wanted to see and do in Glenwood Springs (the hot springs and Hanging Lake). We couldn’t imagine living in Glenwood Springs, as much as I would love to live somewhere with hot springs. We couldn’t quite put our finger on the WHY of it, though. We weren’t so keen on the fact that I-70 runs right through town and traffic backs up like crazy (poor city planning it seems?) or that 90% of this very small town is white. We loved hearing about the rise in local agriculture in recent years and found the surrounding areas breathtaking. Maybe it had to do with the small town feel coupled with a lot of tourists? Maybe. In any case, we are going to keep on dating and hope to find that perfect match.