Imagine it: you’re deep in the middle of some pretty aggressive wintertime blues, just wishing for warmer days and a bright sun to see you through. And then, you think of a great idea: “What about soaking in some hot springs!?”
Well, this northeastern Montana paradise hot springs and resort may be exactly what the water doctor ordered.
Located in beautiful Saco, Montana near the Canadian border, Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs and Resort is well-traveled by Montanans, Canadians, and others just looking to steep in some healing waters.
Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs and Resort History
The only hot spring in Montana’s northern tier, Sleeping Buffalo is named for the sacred Sleeping Buffalo Rock that links numerous indigenous American tribes via its potent spiritual power.
Featuring ancient petroglyphs and carvings, the weather-worn Sleeping Buffalo Rock speaks to native peoples’ reverence for buffalo and the land.
A similar reverence can be found in neighboring Saco, where a colorful history found the people of Saco with their own rejuvenating land and waters.
Originally a potential site for oil, a wildcat oil rigger was testing the Saco area in the 1920s, 3,100 feet into the ground – but what he found wasn’t oil.
Hot water gushed out of the surface, flowing abundantly and wildly. Suffice it to say, Saco had a new resource on its hands. Curveball!
But its healing impact wasn’t as immediate as it came to the area’s indigenous tribes.
As water flowed in the years following, nearby cowboys utilized the warm waters to take their weekly baths, and no one thought the better – except everyone around them grateful for their personal hygiene.
But then something interesting happened: in an unfortunate set of circumstances, Saco rancher Elbert Davison’s son contracted polio and the family was at a loss to alleviate his suffering.
An innovative man, Davison built a wooden tub for his son to soak in, which did alleviate his polio conditions – and you could say the power of the healing waters caught on in the community. The rest, as they say, is history.
A larger pool was created using wooden railroad ties, and the greater American Legion communities of Saco, Malta, and Hinsdale worked to shut off the natural gas that could disrupt the flow of waters.
And then, the Great Depression hit. (Another curveball!)
As President Roosevelt formed the New Deal, the Works Progress Administration scoured Montana sites for recreational projects to uplift the Phillips County community and bring more employment to the area.
The site of these unexpected hot waters was ideal for such a project. Similar to National Park New Deal efforts, this Saco wildcard bridged community efforts, replenished waters, and harnessed a connection to the land while rebuilding America.
Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs and Resort Facility
In the present day, folks gather from near and far to celebrate the power of community and a true healing oasis, just as Elbert Davison inspired.
Set at a just-right temperature of 108 degrees Fahrenheit and flowing at approximately 900 gallons per minute, the water contains micronutrients and minerals that you’ll feel as soon as you enter the pool.
Silica, sulfate, magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium, and iron – these powerhouse minerals do the work as you relax.
And to help ensure peace of mind, the pools are cleaned nightly and refilled with hot springs water daily. Even better? High ceilings, huge windows, and a relaxing atmosphere…
Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs and Resort is somewhat rural, so you may want to spend at least two days using their pool, hot tub, ice plunge pool, steam room, and sauna – and that’s where the accommodations come in.
Sleeping Buffalo offers five cozy cabins, luxurious suites, and – of course – camping and tent sites. (We are in Montana, after all!) And as a heads up, there’s a two night minimum stay on the weekend, but you’ll feel a pull to stay anyway after viewing the beautiful rock decor.
Amenities vary between the cabins and suites, but you’re good to go with cozy and lush beds, fast Wi-Fi, Smart TV, microwaves, hairdryers, and – the best of all – mini-fridges.
All cabins have access to a full kitchen and full linens – no need to bring your towels from home, unless you really love yours.
If you’re arriving to camp in the summertime, we suggest bringing bug spray because again, summertime in Montana.
Traveling with your furry loved one? Well-behaved dogs are allowed for $15 per pet, per night, but please do not leave your Fido unattended in cabins or in your vehicle.
And if you’re using the cabins and suites, you’ll have unfettered access to the pools and their towels (beyond a few cleaning hours); if you’re camping, you’ll need to pay a small fee for access – but it’s worth it!
Atmosphere at the Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs and Resort
Make no mistake – Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs and Resort is meant to provide a relaxing ambience to you and your loved ones, but they’ve also been known to host larger events, like birthday gatherings and holidays.
Keep this in mind if you’re coming during the summer, but the wintertime has a very relaxed atmosphere. It’s the perfect winter getaway for couples, and a glorious summertime retreat for families.
If you arrive on New Year’s Eve, be prepared to celebrate the raucous Polar Bear Plunge in the ice baths – after a huge ball drop and party, of course!
Clothing is required in the pools and hot tubs, since this is a family-friendly community, but we love that a nice convenience store and coffee vending machine can be found on the premises.
Something else worth mentioning: Sleeping Buffalo’s convenience store has all of the food you’ll need to cook up a storm, but the nearest grocery store is about 15 minutes away.
We do want to warn you about the sulfur smell! Since the waters come from deep in the ground, you may notice the pool and shower waters have a unique scent.
This is normal for mineral waters, and they’re part of the reason you’ll feel so revived after visiting. Still, we wanted to give you a heads up!
Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs and Resort Quick Stats
Address: 669 Buffalo Trail, Saco, MT, 59261
Phone: (406) 527-3320
Season: Open Year-round
Hours: Office Hours 9am to 8pm Daily; Check In starts at 4:00pm; Check Out is by 11:30am
Pool Amenities: 108 degrees Fahrenheit; 3,200 foot well; natural mineral water
Price: Starting at $24 for Tents; $37-$48 for Camp Sites; $129-$239 for Cabins and Suites; Rates may vary with season and holiday
Nearest Town: Saco, MT
Located just off of Highway 2 in beautiful Saco, this resort near Nelson Reservoir is easily accessible via car, bike, or RV. To come from Malta, head east on Highway 2; from Canada, you’ll want to take 191 down before heading east from Malta.
Don’t forget to visit its namesake, Sleeping Buffalo Rock and Monument, on your way out!
Depending on the season and time of the week, you’re going to get different experiences at Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs and Resort.
Our favorite time to arrive is in the quiet of winter, perfect for a Treasure State solo adventure, couples trip, or cozy snugglefest.
Summertime may find you surrounded by loud families and events – but if you time it correctly, you’re sure to have a personal retreat worth writing home about.