Ghost Town Extraordinaire: Magical Dunton Hot Springs

Several years back, I read an article that featured Dunton as one of its destinations. The photo associated showcased one of their hot springs. Something about the backdrop of steam rising off the hot spring in the wood bathhouse remained embedded in the back of my mind. At the time, I immediately added it to my mental list of must see places. Years later, when I was looking for destinations in the US for a relaxing reprieve from my stresses, something about these cabins in the middle of nowhere were exuding such chic vibes. Many may think this ghost town that unfolds after traveling on what seems like the worlds longest gravel road sound far from glamorous. I dare say not only is it glamorous but presents a luxury retreat fit for the richest of taste.

Before we get into all of the details, let’s talk for a minute about booking your stay. To start, their website is actually quite thorough with its discussion of each of the different cabins and how many people they house. You can look through pictures and decide if there is a particular cabin that really catches your eye and how many people it sleeps. Each one is unique. Some even have their own private hot spring, but it will elevate the cost per night. Typically, the rates are all inclusive for two adults. That all inclusive means food, drinks (yes including alcohol), gym, bathhouse, games, library, and even a yoga class on Saturday morning is covered in your rate (if you sign up before the class fills). For cabins that house more than two, each additional adult is a set price added to the total per night. If you call their reservations line, they are able to tell you when a specific cabin is available or you can book online. You can find them on American Express fine hotels & resorts as well. Surprisingly, they did offer 10% off for military service members, which they did not mention on their website.

We arrived for our stay around happy hour on a Thursday evening. You will drive on a two lane winding road that turns into a gravel road about 8 miles before you reach your destination. My excitement was mounting on this seemingly never ending road, which struck me as possibly difficult to navigate in winter. Along the way, there is no cellular service, so keep this in mind. Once you arrive, Dunton has Wi-Fi available. As you approach, there is a fantastic view of the town right before you pull into the entry gate. After you alert the team of your arrival, they will come out to meet you and gather your bags escorting you into the saloon for a cocktail or drink of your choice. Following this, you will have your tour of the property and be escorted to your cabin. We spent our three nights in Forge. This cabin was so quaint and just the right size. As a warning, our bathroom was rather small in size, but not bothersome for us on the trip.

There are a number of activities to enjoy on your stay. You have the option to do everything fully guided versus wandering on your own. They have a list online of their activities by season. In the summer this includes things such as fly fishing, guided hikes, day trips to Mesa Verde and Sutcliffe Vineyards, and equine experiences. For those interested, they do have a spa menu. If you are ready to get married, they even offer wedding packages! We did not participate in any of the paid recreation listed on the website. Instead, we walked to the waterfall on the property, spent time in the bathhouse, played games on the lawn, read a book in the library, and went for hikes in and around the property. Also, one day we made a trip to Sutcliffe Vineyards. This is a guided activity they offer with a hike in McElmo on the Sand Canyon trail. Since we had our own vehicle, we chose to drive ourselves. Dunton packed a wonderful lunch for us to take to Sutcliffe Vineyards. The winery was beautiful with a really lovely outdoor patio that had vibrant colors against the growing grapes.

In the evenings, we enjoyed going to the bathhouse after finishing dinner. Most nights, we had the place to ourselves or with one other couple. Aside from the indoor spring, there are two additional outdoor communal hot springs on the property great for star gazing at night. At the end of dinner, we oftentimes asked them to pour us a drink in a plastic glass to bring to the bathhouse. The staff always happily obliged. Something to keep in mind for the hot springs is white bathing suits may be stained by the elements in the water. I did have a white bikini top and there were no issues, but they will warn you it is possible.

The library and waterfall are also must see items. The library is two stories with a fireplace and cozy chairs. The balcony on the second floor looks down over the lower level. It was a great place to unwind and cozy up with your own book or one of theirs. The waterfall is also a short walk from the library hidden amongst the trees. It was every bit as beautiful (on a smaller scale) than the waterfall we hiked to at Bear Creek in Telluride except completely private! We walked to the waterfall on at least three occasions and were the only guests there.

Now, I have to discuss one of the many highlights for me. The food and drink. It was absolutely incredible. I hate to say it but, I actually did expect great food. This exceeded my expectations in every possible manner. During our stay, our chefs were Zach Ladwig and Aaron Kirschner. Turns out, Zach Ladwig is actually full time at The Inn at Dos Brisas. They were closed at the time due to COVID 19 and he actually arrived to start at Dunton the same day we did. Between the two, the meals were outstanding. For breakfast, I loved the ancient grains bowl with a side of sourdough toast or bacon. At lunch, we were presented with some sandwiches that I still think about. For dinner, it is hard to pinpoint favorites because it was all quite impressive. Each dinner included an appetizer, main, and desert. They already had the wine pairings presented to you on the menu. Our dinners included the following dishes: malaise tonnato, sweet corn ravioli, heiloom tomato salad, pan roasted grass fed beef, beet and salmon tartine, and roasted colorado lamb. If only I could have stayed longer to see what was on the menu the next days! The chefs do come and go, so the types of food may vary for everyone. For seating, there is the patio, indoors, and finally the tepee. We reserved the tepee one day at lunch. I recommend the tepee at lunch time. Not that it wouldn’t be a fun experience at night, but I kind of enjoyed it during the day. Only one party can be in the tepee at a time, so it may be something to book in advance.

All in all, I was extremely pleased with my stay at Dunton. I would be ready to return with friends and family. To anyone questioning a visit here, I would absolutely recommend based upon my stay.

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