A soak in Conundrum Hot Springs is anything but an afternoon at the neighborhood spa. The mystique of this Colorado gem comes from a number of sources: its remote setting, its stunning alpine scenery and its clothing-optional status, to name just a few. With an elevation ranging from 8,700 to 11,200 feet, a hike to Conundrum requires strength and stamina. If you’re up for the challenge of a high-altitude trek, you could be rewarded by one of the most spectacular soaks you’ll ever experience. Located in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness near Aspen, Colorado, this designated wilderness area lies on U.S. Forest Service Trail #1981 (Conundrum Creek Trail). Our friend Maria—a passionate hiker, photographer and teacher—writes about discovering the beauty of Conundrum for herself.
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by Maria Matos
Nestled in a high valley just outside of Aspen is where the Ute Indians found the healing waters of what is now known as Conundrum Hot Springs. The pool can be reached from Aspen or Crested Butte via a 9-mile hike. The hike itself is a gentle uphill journey through a beautiful valley. The trail is well marked and some people make the hike a day trip, but others choose to camp in the many sites available. It is accessible year round, however it is more demanding in the winter months when there are snow and harsher elements to contend with.
When I first found out about Conundrum 10 years ago it became a goal of mine, a spiritual quest, to get to this healing pool. I finally found the right partner to go with on this journey and had the privilege of reaching my goal.
We went on the day of the Summer Solstice, which coincided with the largest full moon of the year. The beginning of the hike felt difficult, but as I went along I felt myself transcending. We walked through fields of wild flowers surrounded by majestic views of the Aspen wilderness.
There are three water crossings, two of which have solid logs to cross, one of which will get your feet wet. I recommend wearing hiking sandals through this part.
Once we reached the hot springs we found a campsite that was set next to a small cliff that overlooked rapids. The healing waters of the isolated pool made the trek up worth every step.
As isolated as this pool is, you will find other seekers and appreciators of nature visiting. The numbers in the pool can range from no one up to about 30 people.
I recommend getting an early start and going on a weekday to make the most of the peace and silence. It is a natural pool carved out by rocks and is shallow enough to sit in and relax, but deep enough to swim in. The temperatures around the pool range from 100-105 degrees, depending on how close you are to the source of thermal release.
As a lover of hot springs this pool was high on my list, and it lived up to the mystique I had anticipated.
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Planning a trip to Conundrum Hot Springs? Download a trail guide and maps from the USDA Forest Service.
Photographs and text copyright Maria Matos, 2013