Montana, thanks to the enormous supervolcano along its southern border, contains many opportunites for hot-potting, and the Bozeman area has more than its fair share. Some are private and easily accessible while others on public lands require a bit more work to get to. In any case, hot springs provide an easy way to relax with friends, warm up and get outside (at least a little bit) during the cold winter months. Here are a couple of options:
Private springs: Although these do not really count as outdoor, any list wouldn’t be complete without them.
Bozeman Hot Springs – the closest spring near Bozeman, the complex boasts not only indoor pools and two sauna rooms, as well as a newly renovated set of outdoor pools. It’s a good weeknight option, however, they do close from sundown on Fridays until sundown on Saturdays. Camping is available, but don’t expect killer views — it’s mainly an RV park.
Chico Hot Springs – located in beautiful Paradise Valley about an hour from Bozeman, this hotel and hot springs is a Montana landmark. Tucked underneath Emigrant peak, tired miners first soaked here, followed by patients at the Chico Hospital later on. Now a hotel with a great restaurant and a rowdy bar, the springs’ two outdoor pools and great views of the surrounding mountains, Chico is perfect for a getaway or a base to launch explorations into the surrounding wilderness.
Norris Hot Spring – a local favorite, this rustic resort boasts just one outdoor pool. Nestled just outside of Norris about 30 miles west of Bozeman, Norris is probably the closest you can get to natural soaking without actually being outside. Norris owns its hippy vibe with an all-wood pool, buddha statue and local beers on tap. Camping is available during the summer on site and all year from surrounding public campsites, such as Trapper Springs a few miles down the canyon.
Public soaks: Harder to get to and less clean than their private counterparts, undeveloped hot springs take you back in time and make great afternoon trips.
The Boiling River – the prototypical undeveloped soak, the Boiling River is located inside Yellowstone National Park and straddles the border between Montana and Wyoming outside of Mammoth. After about a quarter-mile hike along the river, the soak itself is created by cold water from the Gardner River mixing with scalding water seeping from the bank. While this is the premier soaking opportunity, one must respect the area. A step off the trail could lead to the bank collapsing and ruining the area or even scalding oneself. You also risk amoeba-based illness and dangerous currents too far out in the river. It’s best to go early in the day to avoid the larger crowds and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Potosi Hot Springs – located outside of the almost ghost town of Pony, Potosi Hot Springs is one of the few springs in the state entirely on US Forest Service land. Up a long dirt road, Potosi features two smaller kidney shaped pools on the banks of the nearby creek. Requiring about a 1.5 mile hike to the warm pools from the campground and trailhead, mid-winter might not be the best time to try a soak, but fall and spring are perfect.
Renova Hot Springs – more of a warm springs than a hot springs, Renova is a good place to keep in mind for warmer days. Tucked along the braided Jefferson outside of Whitehall, the area provides great opportunity to see wildlife such as moose but at the cost of less than glamorous soaking. Be warned, while a cool drive and a nice opportunity for natural soaking, Renova can be a little gross and mucky some days, but is perfect on warm days and is a great drive.