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The Yampah Vapor Caves offer a unique way to sweat out the day's toils underground. Photo by Courtesy of Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce

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Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves

When you think of Colorado’s legendary hot springs, you don’t think of them as rock chambers. Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves doesn’t fit the traditional picture, yet the Glenwood Springs operation sells itself on the geothermal waters flowing at 125 degrees beneath the hard floors, creating the steamy enclosures. While other such therapeutic caves are man-made, these claim to be the only all-natural ones in North America.

The Utes settled the area long before Capt. Richard Sopris came to the now-famous mountain retreat town and claimed the land to be “Grand Springs” for the mineral spouts all around. “Yampah” is the native term meaning “Big Medicine.” They held the vapor caves sacred for how they emerged out of them feeling better, their aches and illnesses sweated out. They were pushed out of their home in the late 1890s, following the Meeker Massacre.

In 1993, three years after the caves were sold to the current corporate ownership, representatives of the three Ute tribes returned to Glenwood Springs. The spa celebrated with them in its centennial year.

A lot changed in the caves after the Utes, with marble benches being installed along with electricity. The three chambers are still an escape from the modern age, still dark and with the dominant sound of slow trickling water. The caves average temperatures between 110 and 112 degrees. Patrons step down a rock passageway to reach them, “soaking” for a max of 12 minutes before cooling in another room.

Address: 709 E. Sixth St., Glenwood Springs, 81601

Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. every day

Contact: 970-945-0667, yampahspa.com

Getting there: Go west on Interstate 70 and take exit 116 for Colorado 82 east for Glenwood Springs. Turn right onto North River Street, continuing straight at traffic circle. In less than a half-mile, turn right onto E. Sixth Street and follow to spa.

Seth is a features writer at The Gazette, covering the outdoors and the people and places that make Colorado colorful.

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