Colorado ghost towns: Dunton transformed from mining camp into luxury Dunton Hot Springs resort

Posted at 11:44 AM, Nov 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-22 13:44:10-05

In the mid-1800s, people were flocking to southwestern Colorado in search of their fortune. They built cabins, saloons and created towns.

In 1885, the town of Dunton was established near the Emma, Smuggler and American mines in a valley between what is now Telluride and Dolores.

By 1905, the town’s population was reported to have been about 260 to 300 people. But the boom didn’t last long and by 1918, Dunton was a deserted ghost town.

The town was purchased by the Roscio family, who ran it as a cattle ranch. It was even a dude ranch for tourists in the 1970’s and the 1980’s. Unfortunately, by the 1990’s, Dunton became a ghost town again.

In 1994, Christoph Henkel bought the town and renovated it. Using the town’s original saloon as the new town’s anchor, Heckel brought in historic cabins from the area and around the state to the “new" Dunton, just steps away from a hot springs.

We start our tour in the saloon. Here you’ll find the kitchen, the large communal dining table and the historic bar.

While most of the bar is from the time period, the bar's top is original to Dunton and it’s what people talk about — carved into the bar top are many names and dates, including Butch Cassidy’s name.

“The signature is said to be original,” according to Dunton Hot Springs General Manager Michael Moody. The story goes that Cassidy rode into Dunton after a bank robbery in Telluride.

It's said that bank robbery launched Cassidy's notorious career.

Let’s step outside for a “tour” around Dunton. Each cabin is unique and named.

New House is an original Dunton cabin.

If you look closely, you’ll notice the wood on most of the building is horizontal. However, there’s one section where the wood is vertical. The vertical wood is the “new” wood where a bathroom was added to the old cabin.

Well House Cabin is also original to Dunton.

However, this cabin has something very special inside — a tub fed by its own hot spring.

The Well House cabin also has a cold plunge and fireplace.

Bjoerkmans cabin is another Dunton original.

It was built by a Scandinavian miner and named for him. It's the oldest cabin at Dunton Hot Springs.

Geysir cabin came from the nearby geyser area, about two miles away.

And Tipping cabin (on the right, below) was moved here from Parachute.

The Dunton Store cabin is exactly what its name implies.

It was Dunton’s original store and it's still sitting in its original location.

The Pony Express Cabin was moved here from Colorado Springs.

It is not an overnight cabin, but rather a spa and yoga studio.

If you’re into yoga, one very 2010's addition to Dunton is the open air yoga platform. Next to the river, this yoga platform has incredible mountain views.

The library cabin features two stories of shelves filled with books.

And in one corner of the library, you may notice a bottle of George Dickel Tennessee Whisky.

Moody says when the saloon’s floor was being redone, the workers found a case of Dickel Whisky. That started a tradition of serving Dickel in the saloon and the library.

There’s an open-air chapel near the library.

Dunton Hot Springs hosts multiple weddings each year. Moody said at one point this year, Dunton hosted five weddings in six weeks. Some of those weddings involved A-list celebrities, but Moody isn’t naming names.

The Echo cabin is another original Dunton cabin. It's unforgettable because it has an outside shower.

Near the Echo Cabin is the source of Dunton Hot Springs — a natural, effervescent spring. It’s 107 degrees.

If you can handle that temp, there are steps down to the spring, and a bench just under the water, where you can sit and enjoy the hot water.

Water from the spring feeds the indoor and outdoor pools at the Dunton Hot Springs' bathhouse.

Inside the bathhouse is a 5-foot deep pool, a cold plunge pool, a hammock to relax in, a loft with a sitting area and many names carved by the visitors over the years. We spotted at least two carvings from 1917.

Learn more about the cabins and the hot springs on the Dunton Hot Springs’ website.

Note, when the property is not sold out, there are some day passes available. A lunch and soak package starts at $115, a dinner and soak package starts at $175.

Check out more Colorado ghost towns:

Find more great places to explore in our Discover Colorado section.