It’s common for locals to avoid some of Colorado’s more “well-known” towns, reserving visits to these places for occasions such as family visiting from North Dakota. You know them — Estes Park, Georgetown, Morrison, maybe others.
For this almost-native, Glenwood Springs had a spot on that list. Originally established by miners, the novelty of the hot springs quickly turned Glenwood into a tourist destination. The ticky-tacky vestiges of that era have been prominent in the downtown for years. Add a major road construction project that snarled traffic and caused some businesses to close, and Glenwood became a place to simply get through, or better yet, avoid.
The Grand Avenue Bridge project was functionally complete in November 2017. After $126 million and more than two years, the project has blown new life into the downtown area and surrounding community. A new, 16-foot-wide, dedicated bike and pedestrian bridge runs adjacent to the vehicle bridge and connects the downtown shopping and dining area to booming North Glenwood, including access to restaurants, shopping, some of the newer attractions, multiple inns and motels, and, of course, the historic Hotel Colorado and Glenwood Hot Springs.
Finishing touches are ongoing, but Seventh Street and the adjacent pedestrian spaces enhanced by the bridge project were designed to be closed off to host various festivals and a farmers market. Look for events to kick off under bridge next summer.
Where to stay
If being close to nature is appealing, the Glenwood Canyon Resort is a well-kept secret worth investigating. The year-round resort sits on a spit of land created by a big bend in the Colorado River, about 2 miles east of Glenwood Springs at No Name (Exit 119). You can rent anything from a patch of ground to pitch a tent to a luxury suite and everything in between, including RV sites, individual cottages and group cabins.
The heart of the resort is the Canyon Club Event Center, where you can sign up for a raft trip, zipline across the Colorado River or tackle the 40-foot climbing wall and adventure ropes course.
Peak time at the resort is from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with a little lull in August after kids go back to school, according to manager Kevin Peterson. The vast property still typically has some availability during this time. Prices vary seasonally, but currently range from $50 a night for a tent site to about $400 a night for a luxury suite that sleeps four.
If the loose feel of a riverside retreat isn’t your thing, the Hotel Denver is still unique but more upscale. On Seventh Street between Cooper and Blake avenues, the hotel comprises several historic buildings cobbled together and renovated into rooms furnished with charming antiques and modern bathroom fixtures. If you get a room on the north side, you’ll have a view of the historic train depot (and maybe a little extra noise), framed by the modern lines and twinkling lights of the new bridges.
Where to eat
- If you want a little nostalgia, The Riviera Supper Club and Piano Bar is a fun landmark where you can get a good meal while listening to Broadway show tunes. Look for its old-fashioned neon sign peeking out from the bridge at Seventh Street and Grand Avenue.
- Around the corner is local favorite Juicy Lucy’s Steakhouse where you can dine on the roof and watch what’s happening on the street below.
- Looking to go more casual? Slope and Hatch at 208 Seventh Street is a walk-up specializing in tacos, dogs and beer. If you have to wait, it’s totally worth it.
- The Glenwood Springs Brew Garden is in North Glenwood at 115 Sixth Street and features food trucks and street food. You can bring your fur baby, sit outside and play cornhole, or visit the adjacent art gallery.
“People in Glenwood used to go to Carbondale to eat,” said Kevin Brady, owner of Cooper Wine and Spirits. “Now, they stay here. The restaurant scene here has just blown up.”
It’s easy to totally miss the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. It sits high on a mountain just north of Glenwood proper. If you happen to look up, you can see the tram and the enormous swing. It’s also a great place to view the valley, and was voted a local’s favorite for places to watch the sunset.
The mountain-top adventure park is well maintained with an old-timey feel and friendly staff. It’s a great place for kids, but some of the heart-stopping rides make it a fun place for adults too. The caverns that the park is named for are fascinating, and perfect for getting out of the heat. Prices range from $16 for the tram ride up and admission to the park, to $54 for an all-day pass that includes some rides and admission to the caves. (The park will be closed Oct. 8 through mid-March 2019 to upgrade the tram.)
A number of trailheads can be found right in town.
- If you’re looking for a short hike with a great view and a little history, try the Doc Holliday Trail. Moderately steep, but less than a mile round trip, the trail takes you to an old cemetery where Doc Holliday and others are buried. The trailhead is in a residential area at the corner of 12th Street and Bennett Avenue.
- A much more challenging option is the Boy Scout Trail. Head east on Eighth Street from Grand Avenue into the residential area until it dead-ends just past Garfield Avenue. Look for the sign on your left. The entire loop is 17 miles and is rated moderate/difficult.
- Like many of the trails that originate in town, the Red Mountain Trail, a 2.5-mile out-and-back hike, is moderately challenging and rewards hikers with beautiful valley views. To reach the trailhead, take Seventh Street west, cross the Roaring Fork River and turn left onto Midland Avenue. Take the first left onto Red Mountain Drive and then turn right on West Ninth Street to the parking lot.
- Grizzly Creek Trail is a nice alternative to the nearby and crowded Hanging Lake Trail. Take Exit 121 (after Hanging Lake heading west) to access the trailhead. The 7.2-mile out-and-back hike follows the creek and is rated moderate.
Of course, Glenwood is famous for the hot springs, but a new kid on the block is giving the old icon a run for its money. Iron Mountain Hot Springs sits right on the Colorado River and has 16 soaking pools all with different temperatures and configurations. There’s also a freshwater family pool to cool off in, restaurant, gift shop, and everything you need to relax and rejuvenate. Day passes are $25 for adults and $16 for kids 17 and younger.