Throughout Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, funky little hot spring resorts surrounded by National Forest lands or perched in the middle of open valleys provide retreats unlike anywhere else. These places provide the opportunity for outdoor adventures followed by hearty food and blissing out in hot water. Each year I try to visit new hot springs, and return to my favorites. Its an only in the Rockies experience that I look forward to all year long.
Take a video tour of select hot springs on the TravelingMel YouTube channel.
Angela Well (undeveloped)
Far from everything, Angela Well hot spring is one of the hottest and most isolated springs in the region. Although far from Yellowstone, Angela Well looks like a mini-Mammoth Hot Springs thanks to its white, mineral terraces. The springs sits on private property, but there are no restrictions on access.
38 miles north of Miles City, 67 miles south of Jordan
Boulder Hot Springs resort was built in the late 1800s to release tension in the muscles of gold miners. Today it is a bed and breakfast and conference center complete with an outdoor hot springs-fed pool, mens and womens indoor plunges, steam rooms and spa services.
31 Hot Springs Rd., Boulder, MT
Chico Hot Springs Resort and Day Spa
This turn-of-the-century resort snuggled into the Absaroka Mountains features an outdoor swimming pool and an attached, covered soaking pool. Chico Hot Springs resort is known for gourmet foodmuch of which is grown in the onsite garden and year round greenhousegreat local bands and luxurious spa services.
#1 Old Chico Road, Pray, MT
Elkhorn Hot Springs
It’s rustic, but lovely. Tucked into the Pioneer Mountains, Elkhorn Hot Springs has several cabin rentals available, as well as lodge rooms. Breakfast at the lodge is included, dinner is available. Two outdoor pools and one indoor sauna-pool. Most importantly, miles of cross-country ski trails leave from the cabin doors.
On the Pioneer Scenic By-Way, 13 miles north of Highway 278, MT
With a large indoor swimming pool, a gigantic outdoor pool (with a 350 foot water slide) plus two soaking tubs, Fairmont Hot Springs is one of the largest hot springs in the region. In addition to water activities, there is a golf course, tennis courts, childrens playground, wildlife zoo, lawn games and a spa.
1500 Fairmont Rd., Farimont, MT
Jackson Hot Springs Lodge
Situated near a ghost town and a battlefield, two downhill ski areas and a Nordic ski center, and several mountain ranges, Jackson Hot Springs Lodge is the perfect jumping off point for numerous recreational pursuits. The cavernous lodge hosts a restaurant, bar and dance floor, and leads to an outdoor hot spring-fed swimming pool.
Highway 278, Jackson, MT
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs (undeveloped)
This popular hot springs is actually a series of pools along the bank of Warm Springs Creek, a tributary of the Lochsa River. The one-mile trail to the springs meanders through mature cedars before arriving at six soaking pools fed by hot waterfalls.
70 miles southwest of Missoula, near mile marker 151 on US 12
Lava Hot Springs
Lava Hot Springs is a whole town built around warm water and family frivolity. The Olympic Pool has two spiral water slides and two diving platforms that compete for attention with the mineral soaking pools and massage facility.
Lava Hot Springs, ID
A half-mile trail leads to a six-foot wide stream of hot water pouring over a travertine ledge into the Gardner River. Users have piled rocks to create a soaking area where the 140-degree water mixes with the cold river.
Two miles south of Gardiner, look for parking lots on both sides of the road, near the Montana/Wyoming border in Yellowstone National Park, WY
This elegant resort features five teepee-covered individual hot soaking pools, a mineral swimming pool, gourmet restaurant and health spa. For those in the mood for more than just pampering, the resort is nestled beneath the Sierra Madre Mountains and the Medicine Bow National Forest, both ripe with recreational opportunities.
601 East Pic Pike Rd., Saratoga, WY
This story originally appeared in Spring 2007 issue of Big Sky Journal.
Here’s my favorite book for finding less-developed hot springs: