Family road trip: In hot water at Glenwood Springs, Colorado

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After a beautiful week of being with Jodie’s family and exploring Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, our family road trip resumed. We made our way from Estes Park, Colorado, toward Steamboat Springs. And then our phones started blowing up.

Not literally. Thank goodness. No explosions. No literal smoke—but smoke was, indeed, a problem. And it was a problem that was about to change our trip, in the middle of the drive.

New destination while driving? No problem.

Learned

…Flexibility and adaptability are key to successful family travel…
…Hauling a trailer over Colorado’s mountain passes is all about engine braking…
…An all-day mineral pool soak is good for the soul—and the skin…

Made

…The most out of dropping a destination we were looking forward to…
…Completely different plans, in the middle of a drive…
…Big squeals on a mineral spring waterslide…

New family road trip video

Changing plans in the middle of a mountain pass

As we made our way west from Denver on I-70, our phones started dinging with air quality alerts for Steamboats Springs—our next planned destination. Turns out a wildfire had started in the area—right around where we were planning to camp.

Wildfires are scary enough, but smoke is no joke. Especially when you’re camping in what’s pretty much a hard-bottomed, flappy-sided tent. There’s no good way to filter the air.

“So much for northern Colorado,” said Anthony.

“Good thing we came this way instead of that road up north,” said Jodie.

No kidding. We’d originally planned a different route across the Rockies, but the night before decided to head south toward the interstate. Turns out, that route change helped us figure out a new destination.

While Anthony focused on safely getting the camper over Colorado’s steep, notorious mountain passes, Jodie fired up her phone.

A while later, as the road leveled out after another steep pass, Jodie said, “Do you feel anxious about us not knowing where we’re going?”

“No,” replied Anthony. “I know you’ve got it. And that helps me focus on getting us there safely… wherever that turns out to be.”

A little more time passed. Jodie looked up from her phone.

“How about Glenwood Springs?” she said.

Motels. A cute town. Still easy to head toward our next big destination, Dinosaur National Park in Utah. And, above all, awesome mineral pools, hot springs, and, as a finale, one of the nation’s most beautiful stretches of highway: Following the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon. (Crazy to think that just a few weeks later, that stretch of I-70 was hit with a massive, road-closing, river-harming mudslide.)

But could we stay there?

Blue sky, red hills in Glenwood Springs.

Our family road trip had a new destination, but a destination isn’t the same thing as having a place to stay. We’d be rolling into Glenwood Springs late on a hundred-degree Saturday afternoon. In the middle of summer’s high tourism season.

Exiting the interstate, we made our way around roundabouts, and Jodie directed us to a stretch of local road that had a few motels. Soon we pulled up in the first space we could find, and Jodie headed inside.

A few minutes later, she came back. The motel was full.

Across the street, we swung into the parking lot of another motel, taking up most of the waiting area with the Outback and its “tail,” as the kids like to call the camper.

Again, Jodie went inside. But it was nearly 5:30 pm. Drinking up the rest of our water, we waited.

Jodie came back. Smiled—and held up a key.

Our entire family is in hot water

The Connor cannonball.

The waffles tasted like watered-down biscuit dough. They were not worth driving 2,000 miles.

However, the hot springs were.

We made our way to nearby Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, located inside the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. The warm waters of the main pool—“the world’s largest hot springs pool,” said a sign at one end—immediately soothed us. Past one end of the main pool, a large hot pool could keep you at a gentle simmer. Water this hot is like the promise of a hug. You feel both free and limitless, yet held close, at the same time, and warm inside and out.

Past the other end of the pool, a splash pad and wading area kept the smaller kids busy. Aster took a few romps there, but she spent much of her time in the main pool. With the waters of Bear Lake and the pool in Fort Collins behind her, she now jumped into the pool with confidence. Today alone she did so much more with getting her face in the water, going under, and working on moving her arms.

Fun fact: It is tricky to move a pair of crutches when going to a waterslide

Glenwood Hot Springs was refreshing and restorative, perfect for a day of relaxation after hazy skies and changing plans.

Up a set of stairs, we followed a well-paced line to slide down the Shoshone Chute. Even Anthony liked it. Jodie ran the chute too. While she doesn’t use her prosthesis when we go to a pool, she would crutch up the stairs. Once near the start of the slide, Jodie would hand off her crutches to Anthony, and he would run them down to the end so they’d be waiting for her.

While we waited in line for the slide, Connor would ask nearby kids if they knew their height, and would reassure them about how fun the slide was. “And if you feel like it’s too intense,” he would say, “there’s a spot halfway down where you can get out early if you want.”

Once while waiting in line, Anthony noticed a girl who kept looking at Connor. She’d look away. Then look back. Repeat.

Connor didn’t notice. And Anthony just managed to keep his chuckling on the inside.

Flexibility and adaptability are key to a successful family road trip… and family travel in general

Our trusty Eagle Creek go-anywhere day bag likes being at the pool too.

Anytime you travel, you may have to change plans—sometimes when you’re en route. It isn’t always easy, and it can be pretty stressful. But for us, we find that when we keep our communication going, and trust that we will figure out a good alternative, we typically do.

Glenwood Springs wound up being a lovely serendipitous highlight of our trip. We soaked. Romped. And splashed. Ringed by the hills of western Colorado, we spent an entire day at a beautiful pool (the reasonably priced food, drinks, and ice cream at Glenwood Hot Springs certainly helped with that too).

Then next day, we woke ready to cross the hills back into northern Colorado, then drive a barren highway toward the northwestern corner of the state. From there we would cross into our next state. But we were grateful for our respite in Glenwood Springs. It gave us a chance to soak in some relaxation before digging in to some serious history: the fossil beds of Utah’s Dinosaur National Monument…

Directions to Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Directions to Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, Colorado

About the author
Learners and Makers
We are the St. Clair Family: Anthony, Jodie, Connor, and Aster. As Learners and Makers, our family of four slows down, connects, and enjoys the world and each other's company. We have been traveling full time since 2022.