Ghost towns don’t sound like relaxing destinations to escape from it all, but in the mountains of southwest Colorado, a luxury resort has been created out of a forgotten corner.
Back in the 1880s, Dunton was a thriving homestead settled by miners digging for gold and silver, but by 1919, it was largely deserted.
Now, it’s been reborn as Dunton Hot Springs, an upscale cabin resort in a remote location that offers an escape from the pressures of modern life.
Resort with a history
Dunton was chosen by miners because of its special geology.
“They settled in this particular location because of the natural hot springs — it was a good indication of minerals in the ground,” Christina Rossi, director of marketing at Dunton Hot Springs, tells CNN Travel.
Fast forward a century and the hot springs are still an essential part of the experience at Dunton, which now prides itself on luxury spa treatments.
But 100 years ago, Dunton was simply a mining town. Initially prosperous, it soon floundered because its remote location made it tough to transport the ore.
“The town struggled with isolation,” explains Rossi.
As transportation become more reliant on railways, remote Dunton faced an uphill battle.
“At its peak, there were about 500 people living in the valley, but when the train came in, the people left and moved closer to the train,” says Rossi.
By 1919, the log houses they’d built alongside the West Dolores River were abandoned.
In subsequent years, Dunton operated as a cattle ranch for a while. By the 1970s and 80s, the settlement had become a popular spot for travelers road tripping the United States and it was operated as a dude ranch.
When Dunton was eventually bought by the current owner, Christoph Henkel, in the 1990s, he decided to preserve the cabins as vacation rentals — creating a resort that exuded luxury but also aimed to preserve Dunton’s history.
“The cabins are all named after the miners who built them, characters who lived in them, or the purpose for which they were used,” says Rossi.
Renovating the past
This renovation project was a complicated process — the century-old buildings were ramshackle and most of them were falling apart.
“Many of the buildings had to be taken apart — logs numbered — and then put back together like a jigsaw puzzle,” explains Rossi.
Quirky features of Dunton remind guests they’ve stepped back in time.
“When entering the Bath House where the large hot springs pool is located, you’ll find charcoal graffiti from long ago visitors dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s,” says Rossi.
There are also some famous figures who’ve had cameos in Dunton’s history.
“Guests have the opportunity to sit and have a drink at a bar where Butch Cassidy once did as well — he hid out in Dunton on his way to his hide-out after robbing his first bank over the mountain in Telluride,” says Rossi.
The majority of the buildings were moved from their original locations to create a compact community.
“Since most needed floors and new roofs, they were moved to make them more conducive to a resort setting — everything is in walking distance to one another,” says Rossi.
The cabins exteriors might be perfect recreations of the past, but they’re outfitted with up-to-date amenities. There are no outdoor bathrooms to contend with.
“Everything is modernized,” assures Rossi.
Dunton today consists of 12 log cabins on 200 acres of land, but the resort owns 1,600 acres of land which guests can enjoy. Activities on offer include guided hikes, fly fishing and horseback riding.
Prices depend on individual cabins with some more luxurious than others.
Rates range from $630 per night for Echo Cabin in the off-season to $2,100 for some of the more grandiose cabins — Potter House, Well House Cabin and Vertical Log in summer/fall.
Rossi says Dunton’s aim is to create a community spirit — while still allowing guests to unwind and escape from society.
“We hope they feel like they visited great, incredibly interesting friends in an unimaginably beautiful location,” Rossi says.