A mineral lick for wild game and a swimming place for the Nez Perce and other Native American tribes, the Lolo Hot Springs, “discovered” by Lewis and Clark in 1805, became a health resort for dudes and wealthy Westerners in the late 1880s. Today the Lolo National Forest in west central Montana, 32 miles southwest of Missoula, is a paradise for camping, hiking, fishing, and in winter, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. In a prime location to explore 500 miles of trails and scenic drives, the Lodge at Lolo Hot Springs offers weary adventurers the chance to relax in two indoor natural hot spring mineral baths in enclosed grottoes. Built to suggest a Western fort, lodge rooms are lined with white pine logs and log furniture and have large picture windows overlooking the forest. The lodge rents ATVs and snowmobiles to guests. Lodge-based activities include geocaching, Frisbee golf, horseshoes, croquet, and volleyball.
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During the day guests disappear into the wilderness. The lodge itself has a lobby for relaxing, but things are livelier next door at the Lolo Hot Springs cabins and RV park which has a restaurant, bar, casino, and a year-round, 94-degree, swimming pool–sized hot spring. Independent adventure-travel operators run fishing, horseback-riding, and guided ATV trips from both facilities.
Need to Know
Rooms: 18 rooms. From $89. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: 11 a.m. Dining options: The lodge offers complimentary make-your-own-hot-waffle breakfast and self-catering BBQ pits facing a small fish pond. The Lolo Hot Springs Resort (cabins and RV park) next door has a grocery store and full-service breakfast, lunch, and dinner restaurant, but meal offerings tend toward pizzas and hamburgers. Spa and gym details: There is neither gym nor spa, but guests can pay $7 admission to a year-round large outdoor and indoor hot spring swimming pool at the adjacent Lolo Hot Springs Resort.
Who’s it for: Self-drivers exploring Montana scenery; hikers and skiers who want to soothe sore muscles in natural hot springs. Our favorite rooms: Request one of the six Executive Rooms with king bed and log walls with large windows. Several family rooms sleep up to six. Upstairs rooms in the main lodge have the best views. Good to know: There's no need to buy bottled water, as the lodge has its own purified, 400-foot-deep mineral spring. Bring board games and other indoor evening entertainment for kids, as there’s no TV and only limited cell phone coverage.