The Western State With Hot Springs So Soothing They're Known As The Water Of The Gods

There are few things more inviting than a hot tub after a long day spent in the great outdoors, especially when the water has been heated by the earth itself. There's no shortage of natural geothermal springs in Montana — 61 of them, in fact. About 45 minutes west of Bozeman, Norris Hot Springs has been around since the late 1880s when it was first made popular by miners and railroad workers in need of a little TLC.

Today, it's just as welcoming. The 30-by-40-foot pool contains 38,000 gallons of fresh mineral water, all encased by locally milled fir planks sitting on top of the bubbling springs. The "Water of the Gods," as it's affectionately known, comes out of the ground at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. When it reaches visitors, it's a comfortable 106 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter or 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer.

Part of what makes this spring special is the focus on sustainability. You won't find any chemicals or harsh cleaning agents in this pool; it's just piping-hot mineral water that's emptied and refilled daily (with an extra deep cleaning on Tuesdays). Plus, with the water's low sulfur content, you won't have to worry about tarnishing your silver jewelry or inhaling the smell of rotten eggs, as you might experience at nearby Yellowstone National Park. While it's a natural smell, it's not exactly pleasant. Thankfully, Norris Hot Springs is odor-free.

Local food and live music

To complement your soaking experience, Norris Hot Springs offers live music from a pool-side geodesic dome on weekends. The acoustics are excellent, and the stage is heated from underneath via natural geothermal heat. This ensures the musicians will keep you entertained no matter how cold it gets outside. The pool only shuts down when there's a named storm brewing. Otherwise, the hot spring is fair game.

Once you've worked up an appetite, grab a bite from the spring's in-house 50 Mile Grill, which offers fresh salads, house-made soups, and locally sourced burgers made of grass-fed beef and bison. All of the ingredients are picked from the on-site organic garden or brought in from local farms and ranches within a — you guessed it — 50-mile range. For a drink or two, the No Loose Dogs Saloon keeps the local theme going with plenty of beers, ciders, kombucha, and wines to wash down a hearty meal.

Pool reservations and camping

While Norris Hot Springs was once known for its Nudie Nights and party scene, the vibe today is decidedly more relaxed and welcoming to all travelers. Adults can get in for $12, seniors and kids under 12 for $5, and babies for free. The pool is open to the public from Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with no reservation required. If you'd prefer a more private experience, you can book your group a two-hour slot on Mondays and Wednesdays, starting at $175 for five people.

While you can stay in nearby Bozeman, there are 13 camping sites available from May through September. The tent sites cost $40, and the RV hook-up sites cost $50. You'll have unlimited access to the hot springs for just $3 a day during your stay. WiFi is available, but there is no cell service in the area, so you'll have no choice but to relax in the pool, enjoy the ambiance, and look up at the stars above the Madison River Valley. Such a hard life, indeed.