Colorado’s Golden Hideaway
Discover the past, while soaking up the present, at Southwestern Colorado’s Gold Rush-era hot springs resort.
The bath house and outdoor hot spring glow beneath the moonlight // All photos courtesy of Dunton Hot Springs.
“If you can’t relax here, you can’t relax anywhere,”declares
Edoardo Rossi as he leads me up to the old lodge. The worn wooden walls and rusty tin roof made me think twice, but I soon discovered lavish interiors, first-rate cuisine—and a world of relaxation—beneath the rugged façade.
The site was Dunton Hot Springs, a luxury cabin retreat hidden within an old ghost town 30 miles southwest of Telluride, Colorado. Besides the namesake hot springs, a rushing waterfall on the premises and a scenic alpine valley, flanked by aspen trees and snow-capped peaks, invite visitors to slow down, reflect, and connect with the past while taking in the stunning present.
Rossi, the resort’s general manager, introduced the historic cabins one by one, which date back to the late 1800s when Dunton was first settled by gold and silver prospectors, attracted to the majestic hot springs as well as a nearby mine. Today, guests can stay in the old forgery, the general store, or a major’s old digs, which have been modernized without losing their original Western charm. Cabin rentals include three meals served family-style around a communal table and drinks at what may be the most photographed bar in the world. And the best part? The resort lies off a dirt road, tucked in the San Juan National Forest, meaning that you might be lucky enough to score the whole place to yourself.
A cabin of every style
While all Dunton’s cabins have historic significance, each has distinct character. Newlyweds may be attracted to the Honeymoon cabin, complete with a Rajasthani wedding bed and a deck overlooking the river. Families may prefer the two-story Vertical Log cabin that features a spiral staircase and an antique copper tub. Other cabins emphasize Western films, a waterfall view, or a private spring-fed hot spring inside. I enjoyed the intimate Echo cabin, with an outdoor shower and access to the hot springs' source out back.
Butch Cassidy was here
After enjoying a satisfying meal with fellow travelers near the open kitchen and cozy fireplace, take advantage of a drink at the bar, included in the price of your stay. Among the hundreds of names carved into the bar, you’ll notice “Butch Cassidy,” the infamous outlaw who’s rumored to have hid out at Dunton after robbing a bank in Telluride.
The Old West meets Bali?
Like miners of bygone days, visitors can enjoy the therapeutic benefits of manganese- and iron-rich hot springs that range from 85 to 106 degrees. In addition to several tubs under the stars, the resort boasts a restored 19th-century bathhouse, featuring a large indoor pool with a rope swing, along with a sauna and spa treatment room. While black-and-white photos serve as testaments to the bathhouse’s history, a swinging hammock, tree-like support beams, and an iPod dock call to mind a modern, island-style retreat.
Every season marks a new experience at Dunton Hot Springs. Fall showcases the golden glow of aspen trees before snow dresses the resort for winter, when people flock to the area to cross-country ski or warm up in the thermal pools. Spring means wildflowers and forceful water flows, while summer may be time to conquer one of the looming “fourteeners.”
Dunton Hot Springs is located off a well-maintained dirt road a short drive from the Telluride, Durango, Cortez, and Montrose airports. Cabins start at $500 in low season and $850 in high season (mid May through the end of October), and include three meals a day as well as alcohol. 52068 West Fork Road #38, Dolores, (877) 228-4674, duntonhotsprings.com.