Chico Hot Springs first opened its doors in 1900 as the Chico Warm Springs Hotel. It was a modest establishment frequented by prospectors from Emigrant Gulch.
In just a couple of years, the hotel had doubled its number of rooms to 20, and it charged 10 cents for a plunge into the 40-foot long and 6-foot deep hot springs pools that were covered over. The geology of the hot springs at Chico causes the water to be heated sub-terra.
The water finds its way to the surface gradually coming through at around 112 degrees, and some of these springs flow as far as Yellowstone National Park. The water in the springs was first tapped and channeled as far back as 1866, although the Native Peoples were making use of them long before that.
The owners saw the commercial potential and excelled in their vision and customer service skills as they began to provide all kinds of entertainment at the establishment while looking for ways to expand it as well as introducing a horse-drawn carriage to shuttle guests to and from the train station a few miles away.
With the advent of the Northern Pacific Branch Line servicing the area, the hotel soon became known as a stop-off for many of the well-heeled travelers on their way to the national parks in this region of Montana, namely Yellowstone and Glacier National Park.
After becoming something of an entertainment hub in the area, and following the death of her husband, the remaining owner reverted back to her original vision of establishing the location as a health spa.
She relinquished all the entertainment and stopped selling alcohol, instead shifting focus on promoting the residence as being beneficial through the restorative elements of the mineral pools.
With the recruitment of a local renowned doctor, the hot springs at the hotel were used as therapy for a range of ailments that received much positive interest and response.
The hotel and hot springs continued to expand, with the addition of a hospital wing and a 5-acre garden and trout pond, added to highlight the restorative and natural elements associated with the springs. When the doctor retired the hospital was incorporated into more hot spring expansion.
Chico changed hands many times over the years and even became run-down and almost derelict at one point. Today though, in the hands of the current owners, it retains a few respectful nods back to its roots while firmly acknowledging the present.
These days Chico Hot Springs offers a diverse variety of options accommodation-wise including Victorian rooms, cabins, wagons, and tents in the various wings of the residence. Chico Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa is open with accommodation, restaurants, hot springs pools, and spa year-round.
The hot springs are situated in the small unincorporated community of Pray, and the closest town comes by way of Emigrant 4 miles away. The springs are just 35 miles from Yellowstone National Park and the charming town of Livingston is nearby.
It is the most developed place in the region and it has plenty of amenities by way of shopping, restaurants, museums, art galleries, and a movie theater within its vicinity which is ideal for anyone wishing to stay in the area longer.
Chico Hot Springs Facilities
Accommodation options at the resort are varied and innovative. They include the historic Main Lodge along with the Lower Lodge, the Fisherman’s Lodge, and the Warren Wing. For something a bit different there are the Cabins and Caboose, not to mention the Camp Conestoga wagon accommodation experience.
You can indulge in the day spa facilities away from the main resort area with its range of various treatments. Reservations are possible, and there is also a fully-equipped fitness center.
Food and drink are available from 4 different areas of the facility, and there is an onsite, outdoor activity center, and area where various activities are organized by the hot springs team for willing participants.
The activities occur on Ranch 635, which is Chico Hot Springs’ own private land designated for multiple-use recreation, and with its own trail system.
The activities and recreation options in this area include mountain biking, hiking, trail running, horseback riding, and even an 18-hole Disk Golf course and a Trout Pond.
There are no motorized vehicles allowed on these trails, which are overshadowed by Emigrant Peak, and the 5-mile loop trail stretches across the hillside to the west of the historic main lodge.
There are two natural mineral hot springs pools. Both are outdoor and open-air, and even better they are chemical-free. Bathing suits are a requirement for the use of these geothermally heated pools, which are open every day of the year.
They are an ideal place for taking a relaxing soak while surrounded by the Absaroka Mountains or the open night sky. Guests at the hotel can access the pools for free between 7 am and 11 pm, while day-pass user hours are 8.00 am to 11.00 pm at a cost of $10.00.
Chico Hot Spring Stats:
- 152 acres in Size
- Average Temperatures are between 96F and 103F
- Accessible year-round
- Price: $5-$10 for children and adults day use
- Website: chicohotsprings.com
- Nearest Town Emigrant, close to Livingston
If you are driving to the Chico Hot Springs you’ll find it via Interstate 90 around an hour from the town of Bozeman and the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport to the east.
If you are heading in a westerly direction you’ll find the springs within a couple of hours’ drive from Billings and its local airport the Billings Logan International Airport also on the I-90.
You can drive all the way down to the end of the road in Paradise Valley, which is where you’ll find the resort.