Ever since I moved to Denver and learned that Amtrak comes right through the middle of downtown at Union Station, I made it my mission to go on my first ever train trip. I was pretty ambitious at first once I found out where the California Zephyr, the Amtrak route that runs through Denver, had stopped. The California Zephyr is known as one of the most scenic and beautiful train trips one could take in the US. The route goes from Chicago to San Fransico, making many stops between cities like Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Reno.
At first, I had my eyes set on San Fransico since I’ve always wanted to visit there too, but the 33hr trip caused a bit of hesitation. Then I set my eyes on traveling to one of the smaller towns in Colorado, sort of like my starter train ride, you know to get my feet wet and all that. I decided to head west and get a different view of the Rockies as I traveled along to Glenwood Springs.
I’ve traveled through Glenwood Springs multiple times on the road trips back to Las Vegas without even knowing it. You have three channels of transportation that go right through the downtown area: the train, the Colorado River, and I-70. Taking Amtrak turns a 2-hour drive from Denver into a 6-hour train trip. The trains are equipped with wifi, but for the majority of the trip, my phone could not get service, so there wasn’t really anything else to do for 6 hours except eat, sleep or observe.
…Looking out the window, was like watching a tv show. Considering the landscape changed pretty often during the duration of the trip, you would think you were watching scene changes.
It was actually nice being disconnected from my phone. I might not be saying that if the scenery wasn’t as exciting, but it was a sight to see. You get to travel beside the Fraser and Colorado Rivers and see flatland and grass one second, and tall mountains and green trees the next. Pack some snacks, they do have a little convenience store on the train too, and you are good to go. There was still snow on the mountains from a storm that came through Colorado in early May. Fun fact, Fraser, a town Amtrak stops at in the Rockies is the coldest town in the lower 48 states. I did not get out to test that even though it was almost summer.
Things to Do in Glenwood Springs
You may be wondering what exactly is there to do in Glenwood Springs? Well, let me tell you. Glenwood Springs is actually home to the largest mineral hot springs pool also known as the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. There is also the Iron Mountain Hot Springs which is made of multiple smaller pools. There is also a downtown area featuring a variety of local restaurants and stores. Glenwood Springs is very walkable, so you wouldn’t have trouble getting around the main part of town. Everything from restaurants and hotels to spas and hot springs is within walking distance of each other. I will say if you take the train, make sure your day is free because there can be delays. There aren’t many rental car companies, mainly just an Enterprise, and ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber aren’t very present.
Adventure is also only a call away considering the Colorado River runs right through town which means floating and white-water rafting. There’s also the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and multiple trails to either hike or bike. If adventure is not your thing, you can relax at a place like the Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves
Breaking a Sweat
The Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves were the main attraction of this trip. I brought my mom along for her birthday and we both got the monthly special. They have a different special each month featuring a bundle of different spa services. The June special included spending 30 minutes in the vapor caves, a mineral bath, and a strawberry wrap for $126 per person. This trip was filled with a lot of firsts like my first visit to Glenwood Springs, my first time traveling with Amtrak, and my first time visiting a spa.
Let’s start with the Vapor Caves. They are natural underground hot mineral water baths that reach 115 degrees Fahrenheit and 100% humidity. Let me tell you something, IT…WAS…HOT!! They recommend that you stay down there in 10-minute intervals. They also have water taps in the caves for cold water in case you need that too. My mom kind of handled it better than I did, to be honest. I don’t like heat and I don’t like humidity but I would visit the Vapor Caves again.
Wrapped Up in the Moment
I’ve come to realize the spa is a little too quiet for me. If I went by myself. I need to always be doing something and that’s the opposite of what you do at the spa. I still enjoyed myself though. The strawberry wrap was interesting since they wrap you up in like 5 layers. Once the lights were dimmed, I was freaking out a little bit. Things got a little claustrophobic for me since I couldn’t move all that much. There was little wiggle room that allowed me to free my elbows so I can touch my hands together. I felt way better after that. My wrap was a little messed up, but I still like to think I received the benefits. Don’t let that discourage you if you were thinking about trying out a body wrap though. It’s not bad once you make yourself comfortable.
I enjoyed the trip to Glenwood Springs a lot to the point where I would go back. I would drive next time though. It was a great town to experience and a great choice for one of the shorter train rides. I’m now interested in train travel even more than before. It may take a bit longer to get to where you’re going, but it is also an inexpensive mode of transportation that gives you the opportunity to see the US in a way you never have before.