Retirees Seeking Outstanding Outdoor Recreation, Dramatic Scenery and Therapeutic Mineral Waters Come to Glenwood Springs in Beautiful Western Colorado
Cost of Living: Above the National Average
Once the brief home of such diverse characters as President Teddy Roosevelt and dentist/gunfighter Doc Holiday (who may or may not be buried in the town's cemetery), Glenwood Springs (population 10,000) is a cozy mountain oasis set amid spectacular, rugged scenery in western Colorado. Outdoor recreation is the hallmark of this area, attracting active retirees who want to spend their days skiing, bicycling, trout fishing, rafting, hiking, golfing, camping or just soaking in the healing waters of the town's famous mineral hot springs.
Glenwood, as it is locally known, has an atmosphere that is part touristy, part collegiate (Colorado Mountain College is here), part Old West, part family-oriented and part laid-back mountain funkiness. It is welcoming, without the clubbiness found in some other resort destinations. Local river rats, college students and older residents mingle with families on vacation, skiers and the occasional cowboy. Everyone seems to enjoy the relaxed ambiance, beautiful scenery and strong community spirit. Of course, all of this good living comes at a price. Glenwood's cost of living is 34% above the national average.
Thirty-four percent of locals are age 45 or better, and politics are nearly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Thirty-five percent of residents have at least a four year college degree. The town has some racial diversity and has grown by 50% within the last couple of decades. The crime rate meets the national average.
There are plenty of million dollar mountain homes here, but the median single family home price is $499,000. This price will not buy anything spectacular, but it will purchase a modest two to four bedroom residence in town. Inventory opens up in the $600,000s, and homes in this price range and up are often newer, chalet-styles on the southern edge of town on the way to Aspen. Condominiums and town homes are in good supply, and it is possible to find some relatively reasonably-priced units to the west of town. Apartments are not plentiful.
Colorado is considered a mostly tax-friendly state for retirees. For people age 55 to 64, $20,000 of retirement income, including Social Security, is exempt from state income tax ($24,000 is exempt for people age 65 and better). Real estate taxes are assessed at 9.3% of a property's fair market value. People age 65 or better may qualify for a 50% homestead tax exemption on the first $200,000 value of their home and may receive a rebate of up to $600 of their property tax bill. The annual taxes on a $499,000 home are approximately $3,000 without the exemption. The state income tax is 4.63%.
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Of all the great reasons to retire in Glenwood, the world famous mineral hot springs might be the best one. These wonderful therapeutic waters are enjoyed at the historic Hot Springs Lodge, Pool and Spa (built in the 1880s), home of the world's largest outdoor hot springs pool (two blocks long). Open year round, pool waters are a delightful 92 degrees F. (104 degrees F. in the smaller therapy pool) and attract people from across the country. When Doc Holiday was suffering from Tuberculosis, he came here for the healing waters.
While the hot springs are the town's main feature, outdoor recreation is a close second. Two rivers, the Colorado River or the Roaring Fork River, converge in town, making fly fishing a favorite pastime. And rafting on the Colorado River through 12-mile-long Glenwood Canyon is truly a treat. This stretch of river roars through one of the most scenic spots in all of Colorado and runs below but parallel to Interstate 70, which has been designed to blend into the surrounding canyon walls. For skiers, Sunlight Ski Resort is a small, low-key resort 10 miles down the road and offers dozens of runs for all levels. Eight golf courses are within a 40-mile radius.
Dining is adequate but not outstanding. People seeking more sophisticated cuisine usually travel to Aspen where restaurants are chic, expensive and populated with famous people at adjacent tables.
Glenwood cultural attractions and nightlife are also somewhat limited, but the Summer of Music Festival, the Glenwood Ave Arts Fest, the Symphony in the Valley and the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts, to name a few, all bring the community together at various times throughout the year.
Major retailers include Staples, Pet Smart, Bed Bath and Beyond, Pier-1 and more. Many of these are in one of the two shopping malls. Touristy shops, boutiques, outdoor adventure gear stores and more dot the downtown.
Valley View Hospital has 50 beds and is award-winning for overall patient experience. It is accredited by the Joint Commission and is a Level III Adult Trauma Center. For military retirees, the nearest VA hospital is in Grand Junction, 75 miles to the west. The nearest VA outpatient clinic is in Craig, also about 75 miles away.
Ride Glenwood provides public bus service around town. Glenwood Airport is open to small private planes.
Just outside of town, the Glenwood campus of Colorado Mountain College (CMC) has 6,000 students and is where the Lucy Huntley Senior Center is located. Started as the High Country Retired and Senior Volunteer Program in 1973, the center today provides social interaction, educational opportunities, volunteer opportunities, health information and support, congregate meals, transportation and more. These programs are administerd by the Garfield County Department of Social Services. Non-credit CMC classes are also available for a reasonable fee.
Volunteers find their services in demand throughout Glenwood, as well as in some of the surrounding communities (Basalt and Carbondale). Literacy Outreach needs people to teach reading and writing skills. Carbondale Wild West Rodeo needs help every summer. The Colorado Animal Rescue Shelter always needs people to assist with the four-legged friends.
Glenwood sits at an elevation 5,763 feet. Summer temperatures are in the 70s, 80s, and winter temperatures are in the teens, 20s and 30s. On average, the area receives 50 inches of snow and 20 inches of rain per year. On the comfort index, a combination of temperature and humidity, Glenwood comes in at nearly twice the national average. The sun shines 240 days of the year, and when it does, the skies are a breathtaking cobalt blue.
Retirement in this mountain hamlet is, of course, not for everyone. Glenwood can feel a little isolated, particularly in winter. Denver is three to four hours to the east, but I-70 gets congested and can occasionally close down thanks to snow slides or rock slides. The train to Denver is a six hour ride. Summer tourist traffic often causes gridlock in Glenwood's downtown/mineral pools section, and with steep mountains all around, summer days are short (and winter days are even shorter).
Having said all that, though, few things are better than a January dip in the soothing hot springs pool after a strenuous day of skiing. Most retirees who live here would not live anywhere else. They point to the gorgeous scenery, clean air, healing waters, welcoming residents, and perhaps best of all, to the quiet joy that comes with living in beautiful Colorado.
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