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Where to Find Colorado's 'Clothing Optional' Hot Springs

Where: 44200 County Road #36 [map], Steamboat Springs, Colorado, United States, 80487
February 4, 2014 at 12:44 PM | by | ()

Taking a soak in a hot tub after a day on the slopes is a classic apres-ski activity, and while the modern whirlpool at the hotel will do the trick, many Colorado towns offer the option of going all natural in a mountain hot spring.

Now, to be fair, this is a double-edged sword. The hot springs are "natural," meaning that the heated water is coming from the ground, but the infrastructure is man-made, added to make it more accessible, such as handrails, stairs, concrete walkways, etc. This creates a fusion that lands somewhere between mountain and modern, and sometimes it works out better than others in terms of the atmosphere it creates. Some seem really phony (cough, Glenwood Hot Springs, cough), and others, like Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat, are really well done.

The first thing we liked about Strawberry Springs on our visit yesterday was that it still has a remote feeling about it. Much of this is gained from the fact that you have to drive on a 2-mile unpaved road to access it after a 15-minute drive along county roads from downtown Steamboat. Once parked, you wind your way down a hill to the pools, which are of various temperatures and sunk in a valley with rows of pines climbing the mountainside in either direction. At the very bottom of the setup is the cold river (see map below), and you are encouraged to use its flowing waters as a plunge pool.

Despite being a public facility that's accessible by car, Strawberry's laid-back and carefree attitude helps it feel authentic. The proudly advertised "clothing optional after dark" approach to its management mimics the culture you'd find at naturally-occurring hot springs in the mountains. We would definitely recommend visiting at night, or perhaps right at dusk so you can soak as the day transitions through twilight. As a commenter pointed out below, be sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp as lighting in Strawberry Park is, like the vibe, "all natural."

There's something about the clothing optional rule that makes visiting at night feel more relaxed, and helps you overlook the fact that you're at a public pool. Strawberry is a popular spot with both locals and tourists -- you definitely won't be the only one there -- but it is so dark at night that you can barely see someone sitting a few feet away. We found this to enhance the exclusivity of the experience, as compared to the daytime, when you're looking across at several other groups of people.

Entrance to Strawberry is $10, and no kids (under 18) are allowed in after sunset.

[Photos: Panoramio.com/Photobucket/Strawberry Park]

Archived Comments:

Always a Good Bet

Strawberry Park is always a good choice to spend some time soaking the veneer of civilization off of one's skin. Take some time before skiing, after... or instead of. Just remember to bring a flashlight or headlamp if you are going afterdark.

nudist, enjoy life!

There's nothing unbeautiful about any body on the face of this planet. God made those bodies, therefore there's nothing ugly underneath your clothing.

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