Fatigued muscles from too many turns at Bridger Bowl? Have the doldrums from short cold days? How about relaxing, rejuvenating, and warming in up in one of Montana’s hot springs?
Stripping to your shorts or suit can be daunting during Montana winters. However, if you can handle the initial chill, a soak in a hot spring will warm you to your core, rationalizing the dumb decision to be nearly naked in zero-degree temps. Much of southwest Montana resides on earthquake and volcanic grounds, providing a plethora of geothermal features for our soaking pleasure. As the water seeps through cracks in the earth, it collects minerals and chemicals, and the hot springs we enjoy are said to sooth aches and restore health. Back in the day, hot springs were considered cures for ailments including gastrointestinal infections and even venereal disease—these days, we recommend you stick to a dose of penicillin.
There are a handful of commercial hot springs in the region that have unique offerings and histories to match your style and location. Options vary from pool sizes, temperatures, indoor versus outdoor, lodging, dining, and other amenities. Day rates vary from $5-$15. If you’re looking for more a low-key, funky scene, check out the springs at Lost Trail, Elkhorn, Jackson, Norris, or White Sulphur. Soakers looking for larger facilities and resorts should head to Fairmont or Chico. From west to east, here are options and tips to help with your own hot spring adventure.
Located in the Big Hole Valley, Jackson Hot Springs is an inviting retreat with mountain views, warm hospitality, and an outdoor pool open year-round. The restaurant and bar provides delicious western fare. This place has a cozy mountain-lodge feel where you’ll want to sip a drink by the fireplace after your relaxing soak in the springs. jacksonhotsprings.com.
Fairmont Hot Springs Resort in Anaconda is one of the larger and more modern resorts. The facility offers indoor and outdoor pools, complete with waterslides, steam rooms, a fine-dining restaurant, and a more casual café. The resort has hundreds of rooms and hosts banquets and meetings. Fairmont is spacious and family friendly—it even includes a small zoo. This is a popular overnight spot for those skiing Discovery Ski Area. fairmontmontana.com.
Northwest of Whitehall, there’s Boulder Hot Springs Inn, a historic landmark that started in 1863 as a bathhouse and saloon for local miners. It’s since undergone multiple renovations; today the inn offers a variety of accommodation styles, a conference space, and a spa. The mineral-rich pools are open to non-guests for a daily fee. Boulder markets to the clean-living lifestyle and is thus alcohol-free. boulderhotsprings.com.
Norris Hot Springs is a funky, inviting hot spring about 40 miles from Bozeman. It is one of few springs that has a wood-lined pool, which lends it an old-school authenticity. Weekends feature live music under the poolside geodesic dome. Most ingredients in their food offerings are locally sourced, including produce grown in a greenhouse on the property. The pool is medium-sized and intended for a quieter soak with less splashing or swimming. norrishotsprings.com.
Bozeman Hot Springs is the nearest facility to town, and has nine pools with varying temperatures, including a cold plunge and a year-round outdoor pool. There are also two large spas, both wet and dry. Founded in 1879, this springs has experienced transformations from one owner to the next, with the current iteration boasting an ultra-modern health club equipped with a fitness center, spa, and daycare services. bozemanhotsprings.co.
Chico Hot Springs has been a landmark destination in Paradise Valley for over a hundred years. The larger pool has an average temperature of 96 degrees, while the second, smaller pool has an average temperature of 103 degrees. When visiting the pools, it’s common to see children swimming in the larger pool while the adults soak up the heat in the smaller section. Chico has a variety of accommodation options, a fine-dining restaurant, poolside café, bar, and day spa. chicohotsprings.com.
Spa Hot Springs in White Sulphur has two medium-size pools, with one boasting new jets, a waterfall, and a steel lining. These springs are not as lavish as some of the bigger locations, but it is soothing and inviting. In addition, there’s a chiropractor onsite in case an adjustment is in order. spahotsprings.com.
If soaking in the natural environs is more to your liking or budget, there are a few primitive/undeveloped options that are fairly accessible in the winter—barring a government shutdown for the springs located in Yellowstone National Park. Definitely wear river sandals when soaking in a natural spring and remember that any natural pool has its risks, including unpredictable temperatures and bacteria.
The Boiling River is primitive, but also popular as it’s easily accessed through the Park’s north entrance. The trail to the swimming area is an easy 10-minute walk. Be sure to go to the swimming area, since the very hot water needs to be mixed with cooler waters from the Gardner River.
Renova Hot Springs is a small pool—about three feet deep for soaking—on the Jefferson River. River levels can dictate the soaking temperature, and the pool is lined with stone, so it isn’t totally primitive. Renova is ten miles south of Whitehall on Point of Rocks Road, and is a quarter-mile walk from the parking area.
Upper Potosi Hot Springs is another well-leveraged spring, just south of Pony. The pool is shallow, the water can be kind of murky, and water temps aren’t always super hot—but it’s a remote setting deep in the incredible Tobacco Root Mountains. The springs are about a mile walk on the trail from the Potosi campground.
Practice Safe Soaking
Bathing vs. Birthday Suit:
Nude soaking is not an option in most commercial facilities. Even in the primitive pools, consider the company and use discretion before exposing your privates.
Pools are lively and adult beverages may be offered. Keep in mind that the hot, soothing water is dehydrating. Watch your pace and be respectful of others around you.
Don’t be a Glass-hole:
Broken glass in or around the pool requires draining, cleaning, and lost business.
Hot springs are not public bathtubs. Do not bring soaps or shampoos; they damage the waters and filtration systems
Most facilities with joined hotels offer pet-welcome rooms. However, they are not allowed to join you in or around the pools. Pet fur and pool filters make a bad mix.
The larger facilities with water slides and pool toys are expected to be more of a playground, so it’s acceptable to let the kids loose. Small soaking areas should be treated as a retreat, not the place for splashing and yelling.
Keep it G-rated. No getting sprung in the springs.