For a fun October alternative to wildlife watching and geyser gazing consider a relaxing dip in one of the many hot springs surrounding greater Yellowstone. While many of Yellowstone’s hot springs are too hot—not to mention illegal— to soak in, there are several safe and thoroughly enjoyable hydrothermal destinations that do offer a chance to soak, relax, and enjoy the scenery the area has to offer. Pack your swimsuit, towel, water bottle, and enjoy the healing waters surrounding the park’s beautiful North Entrance!
Chico Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa
Indoor Showers, Restrooms and Changing Rooms: Yes
Food and Beverage: Yes
Lodging Available: On Site
Famous for its fine dining, soothing mineral waters, and rustic flair, Chico Hot Springs provides a soaking experience for those looking to spend either a day or an entire weekend. The resort—a 30-minute drive from Yellowstone’s North Entrance—was established in 1900 as a hot spring destination but now offers other activities ranging from horseback riding to rafting to fly fishing to dogsledding. Chico features lodging, locally influenced menus, a saloon, a gift store, and a spa where guests can receive a massage or take yoga classes. Bands often play late-night at the saloon. Lodging ranges from affordable, dog-friendly rooms with shared bathrooms in the main building to group cabins to two-person covered wagons. Dining in the main lodge is a culinary experience with fresh herbs and vegetables from Chico’s greenhouses; a more basic, yet delicious, menu of pizzas and sandwiches is offered at the poolside grill and saloon. Day passes are available for those who’d simply like to stop in and take a soak. Two spacious, open-air, developed pools offer guests a chance to either relax in the hot pool or splash and play in the cooler, more kid-friendly pool nearby. The water is chemical-free, drained and refilled daily, and is surrounded by outdoor seating with easy access to changing rooms with toilets, showers, and cubbies and lockers for storing clothes and other items. Perhaps the hallmark of Chico, in addition to its western roots and hospitality, are the snowcapped Absaroka Mountains that soar over the hot springs and the surrounding Paradise Valley. For more information, availability, and rates visit www.chicohotsprings.com.
Yellowstone Hot Springs
Indoor Showers, Restrooms and Changing Rooms: Yes
Food and Beverage: Limited and Restricted
Lodging Available: Nearby in Gardiner, Montana
Nestled along the banks of the Yellowstone River in Corwin Springs, Montana, a 10-minute drive from the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone Hot Springs opened to the public in March 2019. Although a recent addition to the local business community, Yellowstone Hot Springs emerges from a longstanding past of previous hot springs at the location. The new facility features on-site parking, a check-in desk where guests can rent towels and purchase snacks, and spacious, indoor changing rooms with toilets, sinks, and showers. Outdoor walkways from the changing rooms lead guests past picnic tables, seating areas, and a fire ring to a large, developed pool with two smaller, inset circular pools—one hot and one cold. The main pool averages a comfortable 102℉, while the cold pool averages 67℉. The hot pool averages a steamy 104℉. The owners take great pride in the serenity of the location and the mineral-rich quality of the water, which flows from the outskirts of nearby Yellowtone Park. Pets, alcohol, and smoking are prohibited, although plenty of fresh water is provided for guests. A daytime soak provides the opportunity to view wildlife, while an evening soak provides a star-filled sky. For additional information on location and hours of operation visit https://yellowstonehotspringsmt.com/.
Boiling River in Yellowstone
Indoor Showers, Restrooms and Changing Rooms: No
Food and Beverage: No
Lodging Available: Mammoth Hot Springs and Gardiner, Montana
For an off-the-beaten-path experience visit the Boiling River hot springs in northern Yellowstone. A 5-minute drive south from the park’s North Entrance, the Boiling River features the only legal location to soak in hydrothermal water in Yellowstone. Two parking lots situated along the North Entrance Road mark the trailhead. Here, picnic tables allow visitors a spot to sit and eat along the Gardner River and an outhouse and metal cans offer the area’s only garbage and toilet facilities. A short walk along a well-marked trail leads guests to a fenced-off area for soaking; look for the wooden gates leading to an open area for changing and clothes storage. Sandals with good tread or thick socks are recommended when entering the Gardner River—as is plenty of fresh water to stay hydrated. Hot water from hydrothermal runoff melds with cold, swift water at the top of the hot springs and algae on the rocks can make them unstable and quite slippery, so take your time. Pick through hot and cold water to find pockets of warm water perfect for soaking. Look for American dippers, mallard ducks, bald eagles, elk, bison, and other wildlife along the way. Always make sure to stay on the trail to protect fragile riverbanks and maintain a safe distance from any wildlife. For more information on the Boiling River and current conditions please visit the national park website here.
Chelsea DeWeese writes from her hometown of Gardiner, Montana, the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park.