Hot Spring Resorts
by George Everett
especially in Butte, winter includes any month with an "R"
in its name. While the winters are long, however, the bitter
bite of the season is tempered by an abundance of natural hot
to Montana if they are lucky will find themselves in hot water
and liking it, soaking in pools, both indoor and outdoor, in
water that gushes up from the ground at between 100 and 110 degrees
Fahrenheit. Several hot springs resorts throughout Montana invite
visitors to stop in after a day of outdoor activities to soothe
aching muscles. Others come to take the plunge and flaunt the
winter cold by sitting in swimsuits in heated pools with icicles
dangling on their hair.
Most Montana hot springs are usually
remote and require planning to visit. However, at least one,
Fairmont Hot Springs, thirteen miles west of Butte is easily
accessible from the interstate highway. If looking for a time-share
condo in a convention center around a hot pool with an 18-hole
golf course, a petting zoo, tennis courts, a three-story water
slide, and plenty of space for an RV hookup, consider Fairmont
Hot Springs, about 15 miles west of Butte on Interstate 90. For
more details, contact Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, Anaconda, MT 59711;
At the other end of the
spectrum is Norris
just east of Norris, a little crossroads town about halfway between
Bozeman, Yellowstone National Park and Butte on Montana Route
84. One of the original draws
to Norris was gold. From 1864-1930 about $4 million dollars worth
was taken from several claims in the area. What gold miners found
here were hot springs that soothed their bones after a long day
of digging for treasure.
Today, new owners are bringing new energy to Norris Hot Springs.
The plunge is the center of a clean, family-oriented resort that
features an artesian fountain that sprays over the 30 x
40 pool. While adding a soothing rainlike effect to the
open-air pools west half, the fountain helps to regulate
the water temperature which remains at about 107 degrees.
The new owners have installed a commercial kitchen and are now
serving quality food at the remote resort. In the summer, the
resort offers a campground for those who want to linger for a
For those lucky enough to stop by on Thursday, Friday or Sunday
evening from 7 pm to 9 pm, there is live music poolside by award-winning
musicians, including mandolin-playing co-owner Tom Murphy. For
more details including what's on the menu in their commercial
kitchen or what musicians are playing when, contact Norris
Hot Springs, Route 84, Norris, MT 59745; (406) 685-3303.
Hot Springs, is the horse in the one-horse town of Jackson, a
tiny town in the middle of the Big Hole Valley. Cattle is still
king here where the only dots on the landscape are the cows and
about 10,000 unbaled haystacks put up in the old style by beavertail
slides in huge mounds surrounded by fences.
The hot springs pool is adjacent to the lodge where the walls
are festooned with stuffed ungulates with large racks and the
floor is a polished dark wood for dancing in boots and jeans.
Nine-foot long skis on the wall remind visitors of some colorful
local history. In the 1860s a Basque who delivered the mail on
these skis was gunned down during a poker game. The local residents
hung the culprit the next day. Justice was made swifter because
of the public outrage that the mail would not
be delivered for four more months until spring because nobody
else knew how to use the skis.
The atmosphere is considerably more hospitable now and visitors
are welcomed with warm rooms, good food and, of course, a hot
spring pool that hovers between 95 and 105 degrees. For details,
contact Jackson Hot Springs Lodge, Box 808, Jackson, MT 59736;
Elkhorn Hot Springs sits about 40 miles northwest of Dillon on
Highway 278 and about 25 miles from the middle of nowhere. The
lodge was built with the enthusiasm of a recently married cowboy
in the 1920s, but still stands sturdy today. The surrounding
cabins offer the amenities of a woodstove and little more, but
they are comfortable and close to the hot pools. Forty kilometers
of groomed cross country skiing trails surround Elkhorn, and
its proximity to Maverick Mountain, a downhill ski area also
makes it a popular destination for skiers in the winter.
However, its remote location also makes it worth a visit any
time of year if looking for a tranquil place to swim. The closest
business establishment is the Polar Bar, a one room drinking
parlor in Polaris about 10 miles down the road. After that we're
talking about no services for 40 miles so gas up beforehand and
be sure to bring a spare tire. For more information, write or
call Elkhorn Hot Springs, Box 514, Polaris, MT 59746; (406) 834-3434.
About a half hour north of Butte is Boulder Hot Springs. The
waters here have had an international reputation for their healing
potential for more than 100 years. A Spanish mission style resort
hotel was built here and has served to provide physical and spiritual
renewal and comfort for visitors to this remote resort since
1890. In 1909 James A. Murray, Butte banker and millionaire friend
of Marcus Daly purchased the property. Murray invested in renovating
the building and his affection for California and its architecture
led to the resort's Spanish mission appearance today.
Lately, the resort has been renovated by a limited partnership
that includes psychotherapist and author Ann Wilson Schaef. While
some of the guests are there to attend structured group therapy
sessions, the pool and bed and breakfast are open to the general
public. There are separate indoor plunges for men and women and
an outdoor pool. For more information, contact Boulder
Hot Springs Bed & Breakfast, P.O. Box 930, Boulder, MT 59632;
(406) 225-4339, or fax at (406) 225-4345.
Like many of Montana's hot spring resorts, Lost Trail Hot Springs
is located near a ski area but a remote one in the Southwest
tip of the state. The pool and resort are nestled near the bottom
of Chief Joseph Pass down the mountain from the Lost Trail Ski
Area not far from the Bitterroot- Selway Wilderness. The pool
is outdoors under the pines, and, at night, under the stars.
For more information, write or call, Lost Trail Hot Springs,One of the most hospitable of Montana's hot
spring resorts is Chico Hot Springs. Chico is a historic hotel
built at the turn of the century that offers simple but comfortable
rooms for guests who come to enjoy the warm waters and indulge
in the hydrotherapy, and massages available.
The hotel is built up around a hot springs swimming pool but
Chico is more than a place to swim. The Chico Inn restaurant
offers world-class cuisine a half hour's drive north of Yellowstone
stuffed steak fillets, and fresh seafood make the menu sparkle.
Sunday buffets are built around baked salmon and a dozen different
pastries amidst the setting of barn wood walls draped with paintings
by Russell Chatham and other local artists.
Chico was built at the base of Emigrant Peak, the tallest mountain
in the nearby Absaroka range and only three miles from the Yellowstone
River, famous for its trophy trout. For more information, contact
Pray, MT 59065; 1-(800) HOT-WADA.
For a comprehensive listing of Montana's hot spring resorts including
maps and other details, write or call for a free Montana Travel
Planner to Travel
1424 9th Ave., Helena, MT 59620; 1-(800) 541-1447.