Perhaps you’ve driven by this little Colorado mountain town on the side of I-70 that smells of sulfur and wondered, “what is there to do in Glenwood Springs?” There is SO MUCH to do that planning a trip can be overwhelming. In this complete travel guide I will share the scoop on what to do, where to hike, what to eat, and where to stay when traveling to Glenwood Springs with kids.
While you can see the obvious beauty and geological marvel of the surrounding Glenwood Canyon, it’s not obvious just how much adventure there is to be had in Glenwood Springs. I had driven by this historic town what feels like 100 times, yet I assumed that the only thing to do was go to the hot springs (that’s the sulfur smell I referenced above, if you were wondering). But after spending some family time in Glenwood Springs I learned this town is so much more than the hot springs it’s named after! It has amazing hikes nearby, thrilling adventures, deep rooted history, and even an amusement park. Oh…and I couldn’t resist sending you on a little day trip to Rifle in this itinerary too so I hope you have a few days so you can see and do it all!
Thank you to Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, Iron Mountain Hot Springs, Glenwood Caverns, Antlers Best Western Hotel, and Visit Glenwood for hosting our stay. All opinions are my own. Be sure to pin in this post to save for future planning!
WHAT TO DO IN GLENWOOD SPRINGS WITH KIDS
1) Soak in a Geo-Thermal Hot Spring
Glenwood Springs is known for the healing waters of Glenwood Hot Springs, Iron Mountain Hot Springs, and the Yampah Vapor Caves. The first two are both kid-friendly, while Yampah should be saved for a kid-free trip. The minerals found in these springs are known to have many health benefits such as relieving aches and pains, naturally eliminating toxins, increasing circulation and reducing blood pressure. An afternoon soak is the best way to relax after an outdoor adventure.
Glenwood Hot Springs Pool
Glenwood Hot Springs Pool is the largest mineral pool in the world. That’s right, in the WORLD! It’s also the most fun hot spring in the world, according to my kids. The large pool is heated to a comfortable 93 degrees F temperature so you can play all day. There is an old school diving board, a splash pad, and a waterslide. We were there on a weekday in the fall so we didn’t get to experience the slide but we still managed to stay occupied for more than 8 hours! There is also a hotter therapy pool that is 104 degrees F for shorter soaks!
Iron Mountain Hot Springs
Iron Mountain Hot Springs sits in a beautiful setting along the Colorado River and has more than 15 geothermal therapy pools ranging in temperatures. I didn’t expect this hot spring to be as family friendly, but was pleasantly surprised by their warm “family pool” (though it’s freshwater) and the welcoming nature of the smaller pools. We made a fun game out of visiting as many pools as we could in our afternoon time slot. You get 3 hours to enjoy the pools and the gorgeous view.
2) Visit the thrilling mountaintop amusement park
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park was the kids’ favorite part of our trip (can you tell how excited my daughter is in the gondola picture below?). The amusement park exceeded my expectations for thrill and variety. The Alpine Coaster is a blast, the new Defiance Coaster made my heart jump out of my chest, and the swing that hangs over the edge of the 7,100 feet mountain was just too much for me to stomach. This park is America’s only theme park on top of a mountain, so just being up there is exhilarating. They have some rides for young kiddos too, and some fun trolls to find! Overall, it was a super fun day and we stayed from open to close.
3) Explore underground caves
If you aren’t interested in the thrilling rides at the amusement park, you can still purchase a gondola + cave ticket package to ride the gondola up to Glenwood Caverns and explore the caves. We had the FUNDAY tickets that include the gondola, park, and caves so we could join in on any of the cave tours throughout the day. The cave tours are 40 minutes long and run on a schedule. They can only bring 25ish people per group so depending on how busy the park is, get in line early. The caves stay at 52 degrees so they are warm in the winter and cool you off in the summer. There are two cave tours: Kings Row (the most decorated cave in Colorado, complete with a light show!) and Fairy Caves, which covered more ground as you walk through the tunnels and learn about the history. We enjoyed both equally, but if you had to choose one I would lean slightly towards the Kings Row Tour. Keep in mind that for the adventure park and the caverns, the gondola is the only mode of transportation up and down. Weather changes in the Rocky Mountains quickly so if there is lightning or high winds the gondolas have to wait until weather passes.
4) Ride your bike along the Roaring Fork River and stop to play at the park
Two Rivers Park has a playground, skate park, ball fields, and picnic tables. At the confluence of the Colorado River and Roaring Fork River, you can take a paved bike trail under the railroad and South towards Aspen for miles. In the summer, the Roaring Fork is known for world class fishing! For this trip, we easily hitched our bikes to the back for this roadtrip with our VelociRAX bike racks (they are the bomb and one of our favorite travel hacks!).
5) Stroll the historic town and learn about the old western past
Walking the town, you can get the feel of the booming old west dating back to the 1880’s. A fun family activity is to hike the Doc Holliday Grave trail for a history lesson, great conversation, and local debate (whether he is actually still buried there and whether it’s haunted). The “hike” is a short 0.7 mile round-trip trek, but it does climb 200 feet in less than a half mile. The views looking back on the city are beautiful. Before you hike visit the Doc Holliday Collection located in the basement of Bullocks, a western shop at the corner of 8th and Grand. This will help the kids learn the story of Doc Holliday. This activity sparks rich conversation about the lifestyles and challenges of the people who settled in Glenwood Springs. More history can be found by walking the halls of the Hotel Colorado that hosted guests like Teddy Roosevelt and the Unsinkable Molly Brown.
WHERE TO HIKE NEAR GLENWOOD SPRINGS WITH KIDS
All vacations lead to hiking, so this is clearly my favorite section on the travel itinerary! These are my top 3 favorite hikes in the area. Before you head out on the trail, be sure to consider and teach your family these 5 things about hiking, including the 7 Leave No Trace Principles so that we can leave our trails better than we found them!
- Plan Ahead & Prepare
- Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Others
1) Hanging Lake Trail
Hanging Lake Trail is a bucket list hike and a must see if you are up for a challenge! While the elevation gain may not sound “kid-friendly” we saw plenty of families making the trek. It was named a National Natural Landmark in 2011 (well deserved!) and is best known for the emerald color of the water that sits above a deep canyon. The color of the water is caused by travertine deposition– which is limestone from the mineral springs. This makes sense since Glenwood Springs is known for the hot springs! Legend has it that a man was searching for gold in this area when he found a dead horse at the beginning of the gulch. (The water along the trail is called Dead Horse Creek). He followed the gulch and stumbled onto the bowl-like lake hanging on the edge of the cliff. What a find! Have you ever seen water this color?
HANGING LAKE & SPOUTING ROCK TRAIL DETAILS
🥾3 miles out & back
🏔 1200 feet elevation gain, all in a little over a mile since you start on a flat bike trail for the first 1/2 mile. This hike is challenging and is a glute workout. Some areas at the top are very steep and I recommend keeping kids close. There is a handrail available in those areas.
❤️ Water along the whole trail, the lake is a magical emerald green color, and the views of the canyon are beautiful (despite the devastating fire damage from the Grizzly Fire in 2020). Spouting Rock is a necessary side trail, just above the lake. You can walk behind the waterfalls and feel the power of the water.
❌ We got the earliest reservation time at 9:30am in October (over Colorado Fall Break) and were the first car in the parking lot at 9:15am. We had the trail to ourselves for some time, but did get passed by quite a few faster hikers so we shared the view at the top. This hike can be very crowded and competitive to get a reservation, so you must plan in advance.
⏰ Can be visited year round. The best (greenest) time to visit is the summer, but that is also the hardest to get a reservation. We went in the fall and it was beautiful but the falls weren’t as lush and flowing as in the summer.
🚽Restroom at trailhead / parking lot
🐾Doggos are NOT allowed on this trail so please leave your pups at home.
💰$12 per person, timed entry must be reserved in advance. You can find all of the up to date reservation details here.
📍The trailhead is here, located 10 miles east of downtown Glenwood Springs on the Ancestral lands of the Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) People
2) Rifle Falls State Park
While Rifle is a 45 minute drive from downtown Glenwood Springs, it’s “close enough” to make this day trip. Plus, this easy hike will be welcomed after the previous butt burner! Seeing Rifle Falls doesn’t even require a hike, but rather an accessible walk from the parking lot. However, if you want more of an adventure, you can take the Coyote and Squirrel Loop Trail as described below.
RIFLE FALLS STATE PARK – COYOTE & SQUIRREL LOOP DETAILS
🥾1.8 miles out and back. You’ll see 2 ice caves on this route. There are supposedly 4 but we only saw the 2, which was a nice short hike leaving plenty of time to explore!
🏔 Approximately 200 ft elevation
❤️ The waterfalls are the main attraction and the limestone caves are also fun to explore!
❌The parking lot is small and this is a very popular attraction, especially in the summer. If the parking lot is full, they will turn away visitors so plan accordingly (arrive early!).
⏰Can be visited year round but is the most lush in the summer
🚽Restroom at trailhead / parking lot
🐾Pups allowed on leash
💰$9 day use entrance fee to Rifle Falls State Park or an Annual Colorado State Park Pass📍The trailhead is here, located 28 miles northwest of downtown Glenwood Springs on the Ancestral land of the Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) People.
3) Rifle Ice Caves at Rifle Mountain Park, Colorado
If you are visiting Glenwood Springs between December and February, it is worth the day trip to Rifle Mountain Park to explore the ice caves on the Rifle Mountain Park Trail. Plus, it’s only 2 miles from Rifle Falls, which I have already convinced you to visit!
RIFLE MOUNTAIN PARK ICE CAVES DETAILS
🥾1.3 miles out and back. You’ll see two ice caves on this route. There are supposedly four in total but we only saw two, which was a nice short hike leaving plenty of time to explore!
🏔 Approximately 300 ft elevation, depending how much exploring in and around the caves you do.
❤️ The ice caves are definitely the main attraction, but the river and canyon are beautiful too! Plus, while you’re here, you have to stop at Rifle Falls just down the road!
❌Be prepared for winter conditions. We used kid spikes and adult spikes in the caves and I highly recommend these on your feet. The parking lot is small. You can park at the first lot on the left once entering Rifle Mountain Park or hike the trail reverse from the 2nd lot.
⏰Best time to visit December-February to see the frozen icicles and winter wonderland!
🚽Portapotty at trailhead
🐾Pups allowed on leash
💰$5 day use fee — NOT in state park so park pass doesn’t work
📍The trailhead is here, located 30 miles northwest of downtown Glenwood Springs on the Ancestral land of the Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) People.
WHAT TO EAT IN GLENWOOD SPRINGS WITH KIDS
After all of the adventurous activities you’ve gotten up to, you will be sure to work up an appetite. If you stroll the historic downtown, you will find lots of dining options. Here are a few that we tried or were recommended to us.
There are plenty of lodging options in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Glenwood Springs Resort gives you access to the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. Hotel Glenwood Springs is a family-friendly option with a fun indoor pool and is located right at the base of the gondola to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Hotel Colorado boasts of the town’s history.
We chose to stay at the Antlers Best Western because of the location, delicious breakfast, and price. The location is ideal if you plan on taking advantage of a variety of activities in Glenwood Springs. It’s located between Glenwood Hot Springs Pool and Iron Mountain Hot Springs (and the gondola). It has an indoor and outdoor pool and hot tub, beautiful 5 acres of grounds with fire pits, a small park, pickleball courts, and sand volleyball court. And it has an amazing and filling breakfast with green chiles! The rooms are modest, but have been renovated and we were happy given the price comparison to the other hotels listed above.
HOW TO GET TO TO GLENWOOD SPRINGS, COLORADO
Glenwood Springs is located between Aspen and Vail along Interstate I-70 in the Roaring Fork Valley. It is about 3 ½ hours from Denver or 1 ½ hours from Grand Junction Regional Airport. While it’s a beautiful drive from Denver, you go over Loveland and Vail Passes so be aware of weather conditions, chain requirements, and winter travel advisories. I recommend looking at webcams and information on COTrip.
Let me know if you have ever been to Glenwood Springs in the comments or if you have any questions as you are planning your trip! You can also always reach me in my direct messages @raisinghikers with any specific questions!