Summer Day Trips: Hooper Pool

SD Pool 5“Hooper Pool,” officially known as the Sand Dunes Swimming Pool, feels like it sits back in time. If you weren’t looking for it, you’d never see it, but it is not to be missed. In the sand and the sagebrush, two miles off the highway, 20 miles north of Alamosa, sit the sparkling warm waters, complete with high dive and hot water slide. The artesian hot-spring-fed pool is a fun day trip in the sun.

In the 1930s in southern Colorado, they were drilling for oil near what is now the Sand Dunes National Park. But instead of oil, they struck water. Hot water. They found a naturally hot artesian well, one of the deepest in Colorado. And they built a pool around it. During that time, Hooper and the surrounding towns were bustling with wheat production. The railroad was in full use and the area was booming. The pool became the public swimming spot for years after. Those early visitors swam in the dirt-covered board pool. And today Hooper Pool is still there, known widely as the Sand Dunes Swimming Pool. For a bit in the eighties, the pool was home to catfish, but was renovated in the early 90s and re-opened to humans. Photos of the original pool and its renovation are posted in the gift shop.

My family and I immediately loved the place. There are views of the Sand Dunes, and the Sangre de Cristo and the San Juan Mountains. The hot artesian well water fills the 150,000 gallon pool at 118 degrees and the pool’s temperature is maintained between 98 and 102 degrees.  There’s a kids pool and a soaking pool. Fellow swimmers take breaks to play sand volleyball, tetherball, horseshoes and enjoy a picnic. Daring divers practice their flips on the high dive. Kids zip down the hot water slide. Lunch is delicious at the Mile Deep Grille, or just enjoy an ice cream treat if you bring your own lunch.

Hooper is about 20 miles north of Alamosa, and the road is marked by a sparkling watery billboard. The Sand Dunes Swimming Pool makes a great day trip from Taos with the family, and on the way home you can detour to the Sand Dunes National Park for an extra treat.