Continuing with my series on favorite hikes around the world, this one comes from the Colorado Rockies: Conundrum Creek and Hot Springs. This hike has it all: mountains, hot springs, camp sites (for backpackers), and old cabin ruins.
When I did this hike with my friend Colina, we decided to turn it into a short backpacking trip so we could enjoy our time at the hot springs. Those springs sit about 8.5 miles in on the trail at the base of snowcapped peaks in a bowl just below the tree-line.
We left early in the morning on a weekday in late summer to make sure to snag one of the first-come, first-serve campsites in the bowl. And the hike was breathtaking, in part from the beauty and in part from the 2,500 foot elevation gain.
Purple mountains peaked through thick patches of pine trees as we wound our way ever upward along the Conundrum Creek. The hike itself is beautiful and felt less intense than I anticipated. But by far the most impressive aspect of the hike is the hot springs at the end.
There are a few different spots for the hot springs, but the largest one has been dammed up and acts kind of like an infinity pool with incredible views.
Right after setting up our camp, a sleeting rain began and we quickly joined those who were already seeking warmth in the hot springs. It was the perfect way to relax at the end of a long day.
We spent the next couple hours swapping hiking and traveling stories with our new buddies — hot springs make for quick friends — and found out about some nice day hikes that continued on passed the hot springs. The following day we spread out our things on branches to dry, while we checked out some of the trails before packing up and heading back down.
If you go:
The United Stated Department of Agriculture Forest Service has good basic information on the Conundrum Creek trail, including how to get there, usage and restrictions, alerts, and hiking tips.
The Conundrum Creek Trailhead is located in the White River National Forest and is just a few miles outside of Aspen, which is a ritzy-quaint mountain town and ski resort about a 3.5-hour drive from Denver. Also worth checking out in the area are the highly photographed Maroon Bells.
The Maroon Bells are also just outside Aspen, and it’s only a short level walk from the parking area to get to this famous shot.
— Laura Rowley