Strawberry Park Hot Springs was our favorite hot springs on our recent tour of Colorado hot springs. Here is what you need to know to make the most of your visit to Strawberry Park Hot Springs.
Originally discovered by the Ute Indians, they believed that the steam rising from the Strawberry Park Hot Springs contained their creator’s essence, and soaked to rejuvenate their soul. The area around Strawberry Park Hot Springs was settled in 1870 and the first owner, weary from chasing off trespassers, sold the springs to the city of Steamboat Springs for $1 in 1936. In the 1970s, neighbors continuously complained about raucous parties at Strawberry Park Hot Springs and it was eventually sold to a private owner who made it into the beautiful, peaceful natural setting it is today.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs: Location and Directions
Strawberry Park Hot Springs is located about 7 miles north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado (about a 20 minute drive). Although there are several routes through Steamboat Springs to get to County Road 36, the easiest directions are to turn north on Third Street off of Lincoln Avenue (the main drag). Then turn right on Fish Creek Falls Road and look for the “hot springs” sign indicating a left turn on Amethyst Lane. Take Amethyst Lane through the residential streets and past the Steamboat Springs elementary school where it merges with County Road 36. Follow County Road 36 until it turns into a dirt road. Continue the last three miles on the dirt road. Strawberry Park Hot Springs is at the end of the dirt road.
Note that in winter (November 1 to May 1), four-wheel drive vehicles with appropriate snow tires or chains are mandatory to get to Strawberry Park Hot Springs. If you get stuck without the proper equipment, you will face hefty fines. We had no problem driving up the road in June in a Toyota Camry, although it is a somewhat steep, winding, and bumpy with some potholes (take this from the perspective of someone used to Colorado mountain driving).
If you are uncomfortable driving the road in either summer or winter, there are shuttles available. Hot Springs Adventures and Sweet Pea Tours offer daily trips to Strawberry Park Hot Springs. It is approximately $35/adult and $15 (12 and under) to use the shuttle services. Hot Springs Adventures has a central departure point to meet them for your tour, while Sweet Pea Tours will pick you up at your hotel in Steamboat Springs. Sweet Pea Tours gets more favorable recommendations from most people.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs is open from 10 AM to 10:30 PM S-TH (with last time of entrance at 9:30 PM), and 10 AM to Midnight F-SA (with last time of entrance at 10:30 PM). Note that after dark, swimsuits are optional, and children under age 18 are not allowed after sunset. Admission is $10 adults, $5 age 13-17, and $3 age 3-12. Cash only.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs: What to Bring
If you are going to Strawberry Park Hot Springs during the day, bring a swimsuit, your own towel, plenty of water, and shoes that can get wet (crocs, water shoes, etc.). No alcoholic beverages or glass containers are allowed. You can buy water there too, but it is cheaper just to bring your own. Keep valuables locked in your car. There are no lockers, but there is a Teepee and a stone shelter to keep your belongings in.
I suggest wearing your swimsuit, but if you want to change there, you can change in either the bathrooms/changing room above the hot springs pools or the teepee next to the hot springs. The teepee is not exactly private and is for both genders, so if you are shy, you may wish to use the bathrooms/changing room before you take the trail and steps down to the pools.
Be aware that there are stones and rocks in the pools that are easy to stub your toes on, so I recommend having some type of water shoes that you can wear in to the pools. I learned this the hard way, stubbing my toe walking into one of the pools on my first barefoot entry.
If you are going after sunset, you can skip the swimsuit, if you wish, but be sure to bring a flashlight as there is very little lighting to keep the setting as “natural” as possible. Before you go at night, you might want to visit in the day first so you are familiar with the trails and pools, as it can be difficult to navigate at night. Unfortunately, Strawberry Park Hot Springs does not allow you to go in and out without paying the admission fee. So if you go in the morning and want to come back the same night, you need to pay again. Remember to keep your flashlight aimed at the paths, not at the people in the pools when you are navigating at night, as many people bathing au natural don’t appreciate having a flashlight shined on them!
Strawberry Park Hot Springs: The Pools
Once you pay your entry fee at the entrance booth, there is a short walk down a hill to the hot springs. The bathrooms are at the top before you go down the path and stairs to the hot springs, so make a stop here before going down if you need to use the restroom or want to change there.
The first place you come to walking down the hills is a small massage hut and then on your left are two smaller pools. These two pools are generally cooler (about body temperature), but are pure mineral water and clearer than the larger pools below.
As you walk a few steps further down the trail, you get to the main area. Two larger hot springs pools are here. These are not pure mineral water, as they are mixed with stream water, but they are hotter than the smaller upper pools. The upper pool of the larger pools is the hottest (around 104 degrees). To find the warmest spots, look for the waterfalls coming into the pools. The second large pool just below the first, is generally slightly cooler. Below both of these pools is the river pool which is refreshingly chilly if you want to cool off.
With the variety of temperatures available, you are sure to find a hot spring perfect for you. We switched between the different pools, starting out at the hottest, and then going to the cooler pure mineral pools, which I think we found the most relaxing, probably due to the high mineral content including lithium. There is no noticeable odor at any of the pools at Strawberry Park Hot Springs, unlike some that have that “rotten egg” sulphur smell.
Around the hot spring pools are reclining deck chairs and benches, a teepee for storing your clothes or changing, and a stone covered shelter with stone benches, where many people put their backpacks. The floor in the stone shelter is heated, so it is a good place to disrobe in winter. Remember not to take valuables; there are no lockers.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs: Massages
In addition to “taking the waters”, you can get a massage as a perfect complement to a warm soak. “Watsu” water massages are performed in a private pure mineral body-temperature outdoor water pool. As you float, the massage therapist gently stretches, massages and moves you through the water to relax and soothe your muscles. Or you can get a reiku, deep tissue, raindrop or sports massage. Prices start at $50 for a ½ hour massage. Massages can book fast, so call ahead if you want to ensure you can get in for a massage while you are visiting.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs: Camping and Cabins
Tent sites, covered wagons, and rustic cabins are available on-site if you want to spend the night at Strawberry Park Hot springs. The tent sites and covered wagons are “walk-in”, a couple hundred yards beyond the hot springs, so you will need to carry any gear in. There is also a “caboose” which is an old renovated train caboose that offers slightly more amenities than the rustic cabins. The caboose has a bathroom, shower, and kitchenette, and bed linens and cooking pots are provided. If you stay at one of the rustic cabins, you need to bring your own linens, but they do have gas grills. No matter where you stay, be sure to bring in your own food, as there is no restaurant on site. You could of
course go down into Steamboat Springs to eat, but once you are there, you may not want to leave!
Accommodations at Strawberry Park Hot Springs range in price from $50 for tent sites (two people) to $110 for the caboose (two people). Tent sites and the “covered wagons” are only available in summer, while the caboose and rustic cabins have gas heat and are available in the winter. Cash or check only for payment. No credit cards accepted.
If you stay on site, you can access the hot springs anytime during your stay and pool admission is included in your rates. Besides soaking, there are also several trails you can take in the area for a day hike.
Whether you stay on site or just visit for a few hours, you are sure to enjoy a relaxing time at Strawberry Park Hot Springs. For more information on other Hot Springs in and around Steamboat Springs see Tour of Hot Springs in Northwest Colorado.
Sources: Strawberry Park Hot Springs official website.