Taking the Waters
There may be no better or more luxurious way to rejuvenate the dusty, tired traveler than by soaking in a natural hot spring. In Glenwood Springs, there are two places to experience this ancient therapy.
Exploring Glenwood Spring's Frontier Past
Although most Colorado visitors tend to think of Telluride or Cripple Creek when the subject of the Wild West comes up, Glenwood Springs had its share of desperados and frontier justice. The Ute tribe first inhabited the area, using it as a base for hunting and fishing, and also making use of its mineral hot springs. By the mid- to late 1800s, Defiance -- as it was then called -- had grown into a prospector community, though it was still little more than a muddy street lined with saloons, brothels, and boardinghouses, where miners from nearby Aspen and Leadville could be relieved of their newfound wealth. The hot springs began to attract mine owners and other prominent businessmen to Defiance, and in 1885 the town's name was changed to the more refined Glenwood Springs. However, it wasn't until 1886 that civilization finally arrived, along with the railroad. The following year, notorious gunfighter Doc Holliday came to town, and although he is said to have practiced his card-playing skills (and even a bit of dentistry), there is no record that he was involved in any gunplay in the town. By 1888, the lavish Hot Springs Pool opened, followed in 1893 by the majestic Hotel Colorado, and Glenwood Springs -- now dubbed the "Spa in the Rockies" -- began to attract the rich and famous.
Much of the grandeur of Glenwood Springs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries remains and can be seen on a walk through the downtown area. The self-guided Historic Walking Tour guide and map is available at the Chamber Resort Association's visitor center and the Frontier Historical Museum. The guide describes more than 40 historic buildings and sites, including the 1884 Mirror Saloon, the oldest existing building in downtown Glenwood Springs; the site of the 1884 Hotel Glenwood (only a small portion remains), where Doc Holliday died; the 1893 Hotel Colorado, which was used by President Theodore Roosevelt as his "Western White House" in the early 1900s; and the 1885 Kamm Building, where gangster Al Capone is said to have been a jewelry customer in the 1920s.
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