Hot Springs is one of city's top attractions

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— For centuries, people have come to the Yampa Valley to enjoy its hot springs. The Ute Indians believed the area springs had healing powers and would visit them after battles.

Today many visitors from around the world travel to the Strawberry Park Hot Springs in efforts to recuperate after a hard day of skiing or just to relax in its peaceful and scenic atmosphere.

Tucked seven miles from downtown Steamboat, the Strawberry Park Hot Springs is a mixture of mineral springs and gardens.

The main attraction is the hot springs. Three pools are divided by stone walls with five waterfalls flowing from one pool to the next. The temperature is controlled through rustic gates that regulate how much cool creek water comes into the hot springs.

The largest hot pool is kept at around 104 degrees. The next pool is slightly smaller and cooler. The cool or creek cell is larger than both of the other cells and is a comfortable contrast to the hot pools and visitors can find coveted warm spots.

The hot springs also houses a stone steam house, warm changing area and picnic areas.

Another private pool is used for watsu -- warm water massages. The facility also offers Swedish massages and side-by-side massages for two.

In the winter, the hot springs offers overnight cabin rentals. The most popular accommodation is the train caboose, which can sleep four.

The steep dirt road makes getting to the hot springs tricky in the winter, and from Nov. 1 to May 1 it is illegal to drive the last two miles without four-wheel drive and chains. A lower parking lot, at the two-mile marker from the hot springs, is rarely closed to traffic. Those without chains or four-wheel drive can usually park there and hike the rest of the way into the hot springs, said Brent Olson, who works at Strawberry Park Hot Springs.

Shuttle services, Windwalker Tours and Sweet Pea Tours, also take visitors to the hot springs.

Olson recommends that visitors bring water to prevent dehydration and for those who come at night, flashlights for the walk down to the hot springs.

County regulations this year have changed a few of the Hot Springs regulation. Visitors used to be allowed to bring 3.2-percent beer, which is no longer allowed. Hours also have changed.

The hot springs are open from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. until midnight Saturday and Sunday.

The cost is $10 for adults, $5 for teenagers and $3 for children. No one under 18 is allowed in the hot springs after dark when clothing is optional.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229 or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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