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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

5 Places Where You Can Go Skinny Dipping in Colorado

Conundrum Hot Springs is one of the most remote in Colorado, at 11,200 feet and deep in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness near Aspen. It’s a grueling 8.5-mile hike to reach, but well worth every step. (R Scott Rappold, exclusive to The Denver Post)

“Freedom” means a lot.

For Coloradans who love the outdoors, this might mean standing alone on top of the 14,000-foot peak you climbed. Or being the first to engrave the signature of your skis through Virgin Powder. Or backpacking to a mountain lake and camping with someone else for miles.

For my money, there’s nothing “freedom” like swimming or soaking in the natural waters of Colorado in your birthday suit.

Freed from the barriers of material clinging to your body like a second skin, you will experience a new level of oneness with nature.

Bathing suits weren’t even invented until the Victorian era—and then by the stuffed British who considered thin dipping to be immoral. In most societies for much of the world’s history, swimming was practiced in the nude.

Of course, conscience’s roots are still strong in America, and as a society we lag behind Europe, where nudity is not such a scam.

Colorado, however, is more progressive than most places in the US.

In fact it’s one of six states where women are allowed to go topless, and there are plenty of places you can swim or soak in the nude—at resorts and out in the woods, where morality police aren’t around.

As the weather warms up, here’s your guide to the best places in Colorado for a skinny dip. Since Colorado’s waters are fed by snowmelt and cooling on the hottest July afternoons, it’s no surprise that most of the places on this list are hot springs.

What could be more natural than relaxing in the soothing waters at Valley View Hot Springs? (Photo by R. Scott Rappold, exclusive to The Denver Post)

Valley View Hot Springs

This rustic resort in the San Luis Valley has been home to skinny-dipping since the opening of the nearby Orient Mine in the 1880s (reportedly to the shock of Victorian women in mining camps). The resort has 10 pools scattered along the hillside, from man-made swimming pools to remote natural pools, so if you’re new to this sort of thing you can relax in privacy at one of the upscale pools. Getting wet here can feel like a jungle experience, with solitude and great mountain views. In the summer you can hike to Colorado to see the largest colony of Mexican free-tailed bats as they take off at dusk from an abandoned mine. Be warned, clothing is optional on the entire property, including the hike.

  • Accommodation: There are campsites, restored cabins, and some motel-style rooms.
  • What you need to know: Advance reservation is required.
  • While you’re there: Great Sand Dunes National Park is a short drive away, as is the mountain-biking and rock-climbing of Penitente Canyon.
A permit is required to camp at Conundrum Hot Springs, which most visitors do because of the long hike. The hike requires a creek crossing which can be dangerous in high water. (Photo by R. Scott Rappold, exclusive to The Denver Post)

Puzzle Hot Springs

This magical hot spring is one of the most remote in Colorado, at 11,200 feet and deep in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness near Aspen.
It’s a grueling, 8.5-mile walk to reach, but every step is worth it. Geothermally heated water flows through cracks in the Earth’s crust, forming one large pool and some smaller ones. The views from the Elk Mountains are unparalleled and easily make it the most gorgeous spot for hot springs in the state. Of course, such beauty comes with a price, and in recent years the US Forest Service began requiring permits to visit due to overuse. So plan ahead, prepare to spend at least one night camping, and get ready for the soaking experience of a lifetime.

  • Accommodation: Camping in designated backcountry campsites.
  • What you need to know: Camping requires a permit, which the vast majority do because of the long hike. The reservation period for 1st April to 31st July has passed, but from 15th June you can start making reservations for August to November. The pools are on the timberline, so be prepared for extreme weather, and the hike requires a creek crossing that can be dangerous in high water. Since the area is forested, only foot and horse traffic is allowed, and campfires and dogs are not allowed.
  • While you’re there: If the weather is nice, a one-day hike to Triangle Pass will give your legs even more work and make getting wet afterward feel like a sweet reward.
a pool is called "pundo" is ...
A pool called “The Pund” is Orvis’ largest soaking area. (Photo provided by Orvis Hot Springs)

Orvis Hot Springs

The San Juan Mountains around Ore, Telluride and Silverton are among the most dramatic in Colorado, jagged, forbidding and known as the “American Alps”. Enjoy a relaxing view of the geothermally heated, lithium-rich waters at this small resort in the town of Ridgeway. With lovingly crafted grounds and several man-made pools of varying sizes and temperatures, it is a perfect end to a day of exploring this amazing landscape. Clothing is optional outside but required at the visitor center and indoor pool. Be warned: Natural lithium water can make you fall asleep quickly, so plan accordingly.

  • Accommodation: Tent camping, RV parking and some hotel style rooms.
  • What you need to know: It’s a 5-hour drive from Denver, so be sure to make reservations in advance for a stay at Hot Springs. Lots of campsites can be found in the surrounding national forests.
  • While you’re there: If you can tear yourself away from the lithium waters, visit Ore, a charming village set in a dramatic Box Canyon, or take a hike in the Blue Lakes, which are an easy day trip nearby.

Dakota Hot Springs

Don’t feel like driving down the western slope for your nude excursion? Don’t be afraid at all. This hot springs pool is near Penrose, southwest of Colorado Springs. There is a large man-made pool, fed by a well that delivers 108-degree water throughout the year. The hot springs were known as The Well until 2003, although many still refer to it as that.

  • Accommodation: Vehicle and tent camping.
  • What you need to know: Due to COVID, reservations are necessary and good for soak sessions from 10 am to 3:30 pm or 4-9:30 pm. Children are not allowed. It is closed on Mondays. Bathing suits are required on Tuesdays but are optional in the rest of the week.
  • While you’re there: Take a tour of the famous Royal Gorge Bridge or take a raft trip over the Arkansas River.

Desert Reef Hot Springs

These springs near the city of Florence have a large pool fed by a deep well. Water is kept just below normal body temperature in summer and over 100 degrees in winter.

  • Accommodation: No one
  • What you need to know: Closed Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Optional swimsuits are required until 6 p.m. on Fridays and on other days.
  • While you’re there: see previous entry
Water in Colorado that does not have a hot spring is very cold. Still, catch it on a hot day in the summer and splashing around in a mountain lake or river can be invigorating – swimsuit optional, depending on the solitude. (R Scott Rappold, exclusive to The Denver Post)

take a cold dip

As I mentioned, the natural water in Colorado that doesn’t have a hot spring is very cold. Still, on a sunny afternoon in July, August, or September, splashing in a mountain lake or river can be refreshing. Use your best judgment about whether to wear a swimsuit. If there is a drive-up campground on the lake or there is heavy boat traffic on the river, skinny-dipping is probably not a good idea. But if you’re on a backpack trip to a wilderness area and want to freshen up in a remote mountain lake, other hikers aren’t likely to complain if you’re the wiser. Remember, the Wilderness Act of 1964 was designed to preserve lands “in their natural state.” Why should we not enjoy such places in their natural state?

social nudity etiquette

  • become an adult. Don’t stare
  • Clothing optional just means, “optional,” so don’t choose people if they choose to wear suits, or vice versa, don’t give people a hard time.
  • Don’t take pictures, especially of people not in your group. Taking pictures is not allowed at some hot springs resorts.
  • If you are not wearing clothes, sit on a towel outside the water. Don’t explain to us why this is a good hygienic practice.
  • Clothing-optional doesn’t have to mean Swingers Club. If being in love with your significant other leads to sexist behavior, go to your room or campsite.

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