Hot Springs and Snowstorms
As you may have heard, or experienced, Montana was hit with a record setting snowstorm the fourth weekend in October (2020). Rather than snuggling in at home, we took that opportunity to get out of the “big city” and enjoy a weekend away in the Pioneer Mountains. And if you ask us there is no more perfect pair than snowstorms and natural Montana hot springs.
Southwest Montana is home to six developed natural hot springs, each and every one well worth a visit. In Montana’s Capital City sits Broadwater Hot Springs once a hotel, then a fitness center and recently refurbished to be the perfect place to relax in Big Sky Country. Norris Hot Springs, deemed the Water of the Gods, is located 15 miles north of Ennis. They have an RV park, grill and are most well-known for their live music. Boulder Hot Springs is a historic resort that once welcomed miners from across the area. Today they host a variety of retreats for relaxation from the crazy world we live in. Fairmont Hot Springs, located between Butte and Anaconda, may be the most well-known of the region’s springs; the resort features both indoor and outdoor pools, a water slide, and an 18-hole golf course. The final two springs are located in Beaverhead County amidst the Pioneer Mountains and the site of the weekend’s adventure.
On our way to Jackson Hot Springs, we stopped in Twin Bridges for dinner at The Shack. Whether you are looking for pizza, burgers, burritos or a local craft beer, they have it all! If it’s not a snowstorm, there are three parks in Twin Bridges that would make a perfect place for a picnic if you grab your food to go – Firehall Park, Riverside Park, and (a personal favorite) Jessen Park.
The next stop was Jackson, Montana where you’ll find the hot springs settled directly along the main street of town. Jackson Hot Springs offers a bar and restaurant which brings together a local crowd, along with natural hot springs and lodging. We enjoyed a drink and a bit of live music before settling into our lodge room for the night. The accommodations at Jackson are cozy, clean and just what you would expect from a small town get-away. The fireplace only added to the atmosphere. After our drive in the sub-zero temperatures there is nothing we were looking forward to more than a soak in the hot springs, which did not disappoint. The lodge offers breakfast until 11 a.m. and food throughout the rest of the day.
Due to the snow and icy conditions, we chose not to drive the Pioneer Scenic Byway on this trip, but if you find yourself in the area, the scenic byway is easily one of our favorite drives in the state. From Jackson we made our way to Wisdom where we stopped for coffee at the Hook & Horn. Being the opening weekend of hunting season, we found Wisdom to be crawling with Hunters who had spent the morning braving the elements. The Big Hole Battlefield, located just 10 miles from Wisdom, is the perfect addition to this drive.
We decided to spend the remainder of the afternoon exploring Bannack State Park. With the freezing temperatures (I think it had warmed to a balmy 5 degrees) and a distinct wind blowing through town, we had the entire park to ourselves. There are countless reports of Bannack being haunted by its former residents and maybe even the infamous sheriff, Henry Plummer who was hanged at the gallows just outside of town. Bannack is a unique ghost town purely in the access visitors have to explore the buildings in the townsite, being able to wander in and out of the buildings, up to the gallows, and of course through the cemetery.
Chilled to the bone, we made our way to Dillon for a craft beer at Beaverhead Brewing Company and a bite to eat at Sparky’s Garage. Then it was off to Elkhorn for another night of Montana Hot Springs.
Elkhorn was built in 1918 and has remained much unchanged since the cabins were added to the property in the 20s and 30s. As we drove up into the mountains, we were met with what can only be described as a winter wonderland.
After checking in at the lodge and dropping our belongings off at the small Buffalo Cabin, we wasted no time in heading to the Hot Springs at the top of the hill. These two layered pools offer a unique experience that takes you back to the 20th century, giving you a glimpse of what might have been. Our cabin featured a wood burning stove that provided the perfect white noise for the evening and as long as it was stoked and fed every couple of hours kept the cabin more than comfortable.
We topped off the weekend with a beautiful drive through Big Sky Country, and while Saturday had been marked with grey skies, Sunday featured the most beautiful clear blue skies that make Montana winters so unique!
What is your favorite Southwest Montana vacation? Does it include a trip to any of our Montana hot springs?