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]