Looking for a Wild West R&R Getaway? This Colorado Hot Springs Is Your Answer. from Outside tzemke

Ever come across an incredible hotel that stops you mid-scroll and makes you think, Wow, wouldn’t it be something to stay there? We do, too—all the time. Welcome to Friday Fantasy, where we highlight amazing hotels, lodges, cabins, tents, campsites, and other places perched in perfect outdoor settings. Read on for the intel you need to book an upcoming adventure here. Or at least dream about it.

I never imagined that staying in a ghost town frequented by outlaw Butch Cassidy would amount to the most fabulous wellness retreat I’ve ever experienced, but then again, Dunton Hot Springs is full of surprises.

Strung out and exhausted after two straight months of work trips, deadlines, and family emergencies, I needed a break, and one that wouldn’t be interrupted by errant phone calls or the incessant whooshing of Colorado traffic. I’d seen photos of Dunton’s five steamy hot springs and knew that the 1,100-acre property’s location—tucked away in a beautiful valley of southwest Colorado, roughly 32 miles from Telluride—was just the respite I was after. I booked a two-night stay.

The settlement of Dunton was abandoned by miners by 1905 and became a ghost town. But today it’s a year-round outdoor playground. (Photo: Courtesy Dunton Hot Springs)

Dunton is comprised of 15 log cabins built at the turn of the century and encircling a wooden communal bathhouse and saloon. At first glance, the property looks more like a well-preserved mining village than a luxurious resort with a world-class spa and locally sourced meals. Snow was positively dumping as my friend Lexi and I pulled up its dirt driveway in March in her Subaru. We were greeted warmly by Lee Pillaro, Dunton’s activities manager. A quick tour totally bowled me over; the entire property has been thoughtfully designed so guests can drop their worries at the door and truly unwind. Eureka.

The recently remodeled historic saloon and dance hall are complete with a massive communal table, rust-red wagon-wheel chandeliers, and the original settlement’s’s wooden bar, which boasts two spots where Cassidy scratched his name.

Next was the moment we’d been waiting for: a visit to the bathhouse. It was so dreamy it nearly made me cry. Upon entering, to my right hung a lacy ivory-colored hammock; fragrant ponderosa and aspen smoke drifted toward the rafters from a small fireplace; and just beyond floor-to-ceiling windows stood an outdoor Scandinavian-style barrel sauna. But the pièce de résistance was its hot-spring soaking pool, five feet wide and three inches deep and taking up more than half the room. It’s been in use for more than 100 years and is haloed by verdant hanging vines and framed with monstera.

Restorative waters: the bathhouse pool’s calcium-bicarbonate hot springs are rich in iron, manganese, and a touch of lithium. (Photo: Courtesy Dunton Hot Springs)

It almost didn’t matter which of the property’s bohemian cabins we’d been assigned or what sweat-inducing activities we’d enjoy over the next three days. I knew where I’d be spending all my free time.

Adventure Intel

Unlike a lot of luxe retreats centered around a spa or hot-springs experience, Dunton is remarkably well-rounded, with a bevy of outdoor activities throughout the year for both hardcore adventurers and those who prefer leisurely walks in the woods.

During the resort’s busy season, summer, alpine wildflowers pop and fly-fishing is the highlight for many guests. “This is one of the best places in the country to catch a grand slam,” Pillaro told me, referring to anglers on a mission to hook all four species of trout–cutthroat, rainbow, brook and brown–found in the West Dolores River.

Bring your rod and reel and ask the guides at Dunton what’s biting along their nine-mile stretch of the Dolores River.

Other popular summertime options include hiking to Navajo Lake and Kilpacker Basin, both of which can be done solo or with a hired Duntonguide. The resort also maintains a three-mile hiking trail with spectacular views into aspen- and conifer-lined river valleys. Horseback riding, mountain biking, and tastings at Sutcliffe Vineyards, 60 miles south in Cortez, are available, too.

If you’re game for a longer drive, Dunton Hot Springs is within day-trip distance to Canyon of the Ancients National Monument (61 miles) and Mesa Verde National Park (74 miles), both home to outstanding examples of Ancestral Puebloan ruins and petroglyphs. The adorable mountain town of Telluride is also worth visiting, known for its world-class skiing in winter and its waterfall-strewn hiking trails in summer. You can stay in downtown Telluride at Dunton Town House (from $608) if you elect to spend the night.

A snowcat will ride you up to 10,000 feet elevation, where you can set off snowshoeing or cross-country skiing with amazing views of the San Juan Mountains. (Photo: Courtesy Emily Pennington)

When I visited Dunton in March, winter was still in full swing, and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of things to do, even when a mere six guests were staying at the resort and flurries were a common occurrence. A 45-minute snowcat ride (free to guests looking to nordic-ski on Wednesdays and Fridays) brought Lexi and I to the sprawling, powder-filled expanse of Dunton Meadows, with views of the surrounding sky-high peaks, including 14,252-foot Mount Wilson. We popped out and were temporarily blinded by the reflection of sunlight against the freshly fallen layer of white, but soon donned a set of snowshoes borrowed from the resort (cross-country ski gear is also available) and traipsed across the groomed three-mile nordic ski track. We gleefully returned to our cabin, shed our snow gear for swimsuits, and hit the hot springs. I also signed up for a free yoga class the following morning, to stretch out before hitting the road.

Choice Cabins

Well House Cabin houses one of Dunton’s five hot springs—this one you can have all to yourself. (Photo: Courtesy Dunton Hot Springs)

Every cabin at Dunton Hot Springs is drop-dead gorgeous and decorated with original artwork and trinkets that the resort’s owners, Katrin Bellinger and Christoph Henkel, have amassed on their travels abroad. Lexi and I stayed in the Vertical Log Cabin during our sojourn, spreading out to enjoy its two bedrooms, each with its own bathroom and one featuring a clawfoot tub from a local brothel. (Vertical also has a loft with additional beds, and the entire cabin can sleep up to six, making it ideal for families or groups of friends. Like many accommodations at Dunton, it’s also dog-friendly.)

The author and a friend stayed in the 1,400-square-foot Vertical Log cabin, which has two king beds and two full beds. (Photo: Courtesy Emily Pennington)

Chuck’s Cabin is the newest addition to the property, boasting a king bedroom, a queen bedroom, and two bedrooms with bunk beds for kids. Couples on a romantic retreat might prefer the Well House cabin, with its own private hot spring and cold plunge. Echo is the most affordable option at Dunton, with just 230 square feet of space and an outdoor-only shower.

Small-but-charming Echo (Photo: Courtesy Dunton Hot Springs)

Two miles downriver is Dunton River Camp, a sister property managed as a separate resort from June through mid-October (from $2,192 for two people). With eight palatial canvas tents, all-inclusive food and beverages, and views of the West Fork of the Dolores, it goes way beyond most glamping. Pro tip: arrange a specific time with the resort if you’re interested in soaking in the hot springs.

Eat and Drink

A winter soup starts the three-course meal one evening at Dunton. All meals are included in the price of stay. (Photo: Courtesy Emily Pennington)

All food and beverages (including alcoholic ones, save anything from its reserve list) are included at Dunton Hot Springs, so most guests elect to dine at the saloon and dance hall during their stay. I opted for that, as Dunton does a phenomenal job of sourcing sustainable ingredients, butchering its meat in-house, and catering to guests’ dietary restrictions.

Breakfast at Dunton

Served between 8 and 10 A.M., breakfast might include house-cured bacon, egg-white frittatas, blue corn johnnycakes, and smoked Rocky Mountain trout on locally baked bagels. A grab-and-go snack box atop the bar is stocked with items for those who want a few extra calories to help power their morning activities.

Lunch at Dunton

Depending on your exploration plans, lunch might be a wrap and a bag of chips or, alternatively, a fixed menu in the communal dining hall. One afternoon Lexi and I sat down to a hearty Mexican pozole with freshly prepared tostadas topped with smashed avocado and lime.

Dinner at Dunton

Supper, a fixed menu, was a special treat both nights. My favorite menu was a mouthwatering endive salad with Roquefort cheese, a cut of Native Plains bison with a smoked sweet potato puree, and house-made apple tartlets. As a fervent tea snob, I’m happy to report that the property’s tea menu is very on point.

Further, not only does the kitchen purchase a whole hog every week, staff also make a concerted effort to maximize that meat for everything from ham for lunch sandwiches to dinnertime pork roasts to happy-hour charcuterie.

When to Go

Snow covers the landscape many months of the year, but Dunton in winter has its appeals and recreational vehicles—fat-tire biking. (Photo: Courtesy Dunton Hot Springs)

There’s no bad time to visit Dunton Hot Springs, but you should consider the types of activities you’re interested in before swan-diving into the booking process. Keep in mind that its location at a lofty 8,850 feet elevation means snow can linger into June. During the warmer months (July through September), hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and fly-fishing are going to be impressive. Late September through early October, fiery fall colors enhance the stands of aspen dotting the surrounds. And in winter, the hot springs are a great juxtaposition to snowy outings; these months also tend to be quieter, with fewer children and guests in general.

How to Get There

Dunton is convenient to four different airports, all of them the tiny regional sort. The closest is Cortez, which is an hour’s drive from the property and sees direct flights from Denver and Phoenix. The airports in Durango, Telluride, and Montrose are farther afield. Road-tripping in from Denver or out of state? Make sure you map to the hot springs before you lose cell reception.

Don’t Miss

The ancient cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park are an ideal way to get an understanding of Southwest history. (Photo: Getty/YinYang)

Mesa Verde National Park, a 90-minute drive away, has some of the best-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings in the world. If you’re more interested in a townie adventure, check out Telluride. In addition to all manner of sports on its eponymous mountain, I like the cheekily named Between the Covers Bookstore, which has been independently owned and operated since 1974. It’s hard to beat the Detroit-style pie at Brown Dog Pizza, or if you’re looking for a more refined good time, the Timber Room, located within the Madeline Hotel, has fabulous cocktails and outrageously good charcuterie (think Humbolt Fog goat cheese, fresh honeycomb, and jamón from Iberian acorn-fed pigs).


The 19th-century bathhouse, with a hot spring inside and one outside, means you can soak however it pleases you, at whatever hour, in whatever weather. (Photo: Courtesy Dunton Hot Springs)

To Book: DuntonDestinations.com

Price: From $1,165, all-inclusive for two people; two-night minimum required

Address: 8532 Road 38
Dolores, CO 81323

The author at Mystic Hot Springs in Monroe, Utah (Photo: Courtesy Emily Pennington)

Emily Pennington is a frequent Outside contributor based in Boulder, Colorado. Her work has appeared in  The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast Traveler, and Lonely Planet, and others. When she’s not backpacking through the Rockies, she’s hell-bent on soaking in as many steamy hot springs as possible.

The post Looking for a Wild West R&R Getaway? This Colorado Hot Springs Is Your Answer. appeared first on Outside Online.

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