When we are hankering for mountain scenery and full outdoor immersion, ranch vacations never fail to please. So last fall, when I was searching for the ultimate Colorado getaway, Dunton Hot Springs floated to the top of the short list. An old mining town transformed into an exclusive guest resort, Dunton is as distinctive as it gets. Handcrafted log cabins sit on a private 1,600-acre estate with its own mineral-rich hot springs and a saloon-turned-bar and dining room set in a spectacular alpine valley. Rejuvenation is practically unavoidable here.
Located outside Telluride in the San Juan Mountains, Dunton Hot Springs is an amazing all-season venue for families with kids of any age. Here’s a look at the highlights:
Telluride may require a change of planes to access, but the sweet reward for the extra step in the journey is truly pristine wilderness, despite its landmark status as one of Colorado’s most coveted destinations. We flew into Durango, a 2-hour drive from Dunton on a stunningly scenic highway. Additional airport options include Cortez, Telluride and Montrose. It’s important to note, however, that Dunton isn’t in Telluride; it’s 1 to 1.5 hours away, depending on the season and route taken, in a remote valley all on its own. And this is the crux of the joy. Dunton is an unbelievable private playground for all-age outdoor enthusiasts.
The biggest challenge is deciding whether to do nothing and soak in the scenery from one of the resort’s spectacular nooks and crannies, or to venture farther afield and explore the outrageous setting.
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Dunton’s 13 one- to five-bedroom cabins, original to the mining camp, have been restored with their vintage features intact. The cabins’ rustic bones are paired with luxurious creature comforts: Cozy beds, modern bathrooms, and beautiful views are accommodation highlights. Every cabin is different, so take time to peruse the options! We stayed in Tipping Cabin, which is ideal for families with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room and a private porch overlooking the mountains and river. It’s a 2-second walk to access games and the main saloon.
Dunton River Camp is another option for families who want to try glamping. The eight tents are perched on the edge of the Dolores River with their own staff and dining room.
The namesake hot springs are an absolute joy. Guests can choose from indoor springs in a restored cabin or an outdoor version overlooking towering peaks in the distance. Dunton’s water is filled with minerals (so much so that it’s opaque) and just hot enough to melt tension and stress away. Regardless, it feels really good on cold mountain mornings and evenings.
Dunton is a ranch, but not a dude ranch. Although there’s horseback riding, it’s one of many activities, not the activity. Every season has its own list of favorites. Winter includes snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, dogsledding and heli-skiing. Of course, families can get to Telluride for downhill skiing, but given the distance it’s best as a single-day excursion — the resort is not a good base for daily skiing. However, Dunton does have a new in-town residence, Dunton Townhouse, that families can pair with a stay in the valley.
Summer activities include fly fishing (guided options available), hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, river rafting and trail rides right outside the door. It’s truly a summer paradise here.
Dunton is also a 1-hour drive from Mesa Verde National Park, a fascinating park known for its 5,000-plus archaeological sites from the Pueblo people, dating back more than 700 years.
Rates include all meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and beverages (excluding fine liquors and wines on the reserve list). Use of the hot springs, library, mountain bikes, WIFI, telephone calls and laundry are also included. Dining at Dunton is a social experience — every evening begins with a happy hour where guests gather to share adventures from the day over cocktails. Meals are family-style with other guests unless otherwise requested.
The food at Dunton Hot Springs isn’t standard ranch fare; the executive chef uses local and regional ingredients in a daily menu. It’s gourmet, but not so gourmet that you leave hungry. There is an extensive reserve wine list as well.
Dunton is the perfect venue for multigenerational or independent family trips. Connection opportunities are plentiful, as the property is filled with games inside and out. Summer highlights include horseback riding, family hikes, fly fishing and scavenger hunts, while winter highlights include sleigh rides, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
All-inclusive rates at Dunton Hot Springs start at $2,215 for a family of four.
Editor’s Note: Amie received a media package to review Dunton Hot Springs for families. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy except where noted.
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