Natural hot springs are one magical element of the west. They bubble from the earth around unexpected corners, enticing people to stop just for a moment or enjoy their magnificence with a long soak. Each hot spring offers a different experience, but all offer incredible beauty and calming solitude.
Sitting in Boiling River hot spring you’ll marvel at the incredible view while wild buffalo pass by, and you’re sure to swap stories with locals and other kind travelers. At Elkhorn, the world will stop for a brief moment as you sit in a copper basin overlooking the river with snow gently falling all around. And at Huckleberry, you’ll likely be the only soul for miles, and will find that sometimes that’s just what the heart needs.
My husband’s family has been hot spring enthusiasts for years and was the first to introduce me to their magic. He has priceless childhood memories of searching out the perfect spring, milkshakes in hand, on warm summer evenings and warming up after a day of skiing in the dead of winter. Since sitting in my first spring, the yearning to experience the next has been unquenchable. From right off the road to a 5-mile cross-country ski trek, each is special and unique.
… you’ll likely be the only soul for miles, and will find that sometimes that’s just what the heart needs.
Initially, I was told that hot springs are great for healing the body. The natural minerals are thought to cure a range of ailments, but now I know that they also cure the soul. A quiet morning spent at Elkhorn with a friend, bald eagles looming overhead, brings a stillness not found in any city. A sunset soak at Boiling River, sharing a laugh with other wayfarers brings a kinship and serenity that fills the soul like no other.
The hot springs featured here are Boiling River (Yellowstone National Park near Gardiner, Montana), Elkhorn (Stanley, Idaho), and Huckleberry Hot Spring (Grand Teton National Park near Jackson Hole, Wyoming).
Here’s how to discover them for yourself:
Boiling River Hot Spring – Yellowstone National Park – Gardiner, Montana
From the town of Gardiner, Montana enter Yellowstone Park via the North Entrance on US Hwy 89. Follow US Hwy 89 for approximately 3 miles and Boiling River Hot Spring be on the left-hand side of the road. Park in the free parking lot approximately ¼ miles prior to the springs and hike in from there.
Elkhorn – Stanley, Idaho
From Stanley, Idaho turn left onto highway 75 toward Lower Stanley. Drive approximately 4 miles and Elkhorn (also referred to as “Boat Box” ) is on the right-hand side of the road. Road parking is available.
Huckleberry Hot Spring – Grand Teton National Park – Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Take highway 89 until you see Moran Junction and take a left toward John D Rockefeller Jr. Parkway. Drive through Grand Teton National Park until you see signs for Flagg Ranch on the left. Park here, grab your snowshoes or cross-country skis and hit the trail. It’s approximately 1-mile in from the trailhead to the spring.
Have you soaked in a natural hot spring? Where?
Images via Scott & Ashlee O’Malley of The O’Malleys