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Radium Hot Springs hides under a steep cliff beside the Colorado River. Photo credit: Deborah Frazier

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In the corners of the internet, a small collection of Colorado’s primitive hot springs are discussed, their secret locations becoming less so. Take, for example, the rock enclave built at the bottom of a sheer cliff, on the banks of the Colorado River, its discovery and construction a mystery, but unsurprising for the state’s wildest places hardly hidden anymore. The narrative surrounding Radium Hot Springs is all too familiar across the outdoor scene: People threaten.

“I tell you about it in hopes caring soakers will treasure the springs by the river and leave it better than they found it,” writes Deborah Frazier, author of the popular guide to Colorado’s mineral waters. During one soak, she found broken glass by her feet. Dog poop was left by the rocks, and cigarette butts were scattered all around.

Au natural visitors frequent here where rules are not enforced, where space is also shared by kayakers and anglers. Here is yet another test for outdoor enthusiasts: How respectful can we be?

The location is known among local river runners, but the pool is otherwise “nearly impossible to find,” Frazier notes. Understandably, you won’t find any signs directing you to it from the O.C. Mugrage Campground at the Radium State Wildlife Area, the most well-known starting point for hikers. From here, the trek is said to be a mile long, following foot- and off-road-vehicle-made paths over canyon rims with stunning views.

The bath is considered to be sizable enough for 20 people or so, its temperatures in the 80s and 90s. With the cold rush of the river, the water has been described as room temperature in the spring. As runoff breaches the rock barriers, that’s not the best season to go. Crowds are notorious in the summer, with the first come, first served campground in high demand and dispersed sites hard to come by. Another camping option is the Bureau of Land Management’s Radium Recreation Site. The roads leading to the campgrounds are plowed in the winter, making access possible, but the steep hike is more slick and dangerous in the snowy months.

The name of the springs is for the former mining town of Radium, the unincorporated community of houses downstream. Kremmling is to the north, Eagle to the south. Denver is about a two-hour drive, making Radium one of the closest primitive hot springs to the metro area.

Getting to Mugrage Campground: Going west on Interstate 70, exit for Colorado 9 north toward Silverthorne and travel about 35 miles. Turn left onto County Road 1/Trough Road and continue straight for about 14 miles, turning right for County Highway 11.

Seth Boster, The Gazette

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

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