Chico Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa

163 Chico Rd, Pray, MT 59065, USA

With only a couple of exceptions, you can’t soak in Yellowstone’s thermal features (this is for numerous reasons, not the least of which is that most are so scalding hot they’d burn the flesh off you). North of Gardiner, Montana, though, in the no-stoplight community of Pray, Chico Hot Springs has welcomed soakers to its spring-fed hot pools since 1900. Spend the night in one of the quirky rooms in the historic main lodge, originally built as a boardinghouse for miners, or in a refurbished caboose from the Northern Pacific Railroad. If at all possible, plan to be at Chico on a Sunday morning, when it serves the best brunch in Montana.

When the Art family bought the struggling Chico Hot Springs Resort in 1972, some of the earliest improvements they made were to its dining room. The idea was to create one of the best restaurants in the state; if guests came for the food, maybe they’d spend the night. The family succeeded. Today the Chico Dining Room is so beloved it spawned a cookbook, A Montana Table: Recipes from Chico Hot Springs Resort. While ingredients are as fresh as can be—with produce from on-site greenhouses, meat from local ranchers, seafood flown in overnight from the coast—the menu includes some dishes that have been around for more than 40 years. The classic Chico meal is beef Wellington (service for two) and, for dessert, a Flaming Orange, which is exactly what it sounds like.

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Horse stables

A 20-minute drive from the northern Yellowstone boundary, nestled under the wing of the Absaroka Mountains in Montana’s Paradise Valley, the Chico Hot Springs are an exercise in rejuvenation, and must feature on any Yellowstone travel itinerary. Native Americans first used the bubbling springs for cleaning laundry and for bathing, while today the spring pools are enjoyed by families year-round. Chico Hot Springs Resort features rustic log cabins, chalets, luxury cottages and traditional suites. The resort outfits horseback rides, rafting trips, dogsled treks and more, while dinner in the Chico Hot Springs Dining Room is one of the finest Western gastro experiences you’ll ever encounter; the BBQ bison short-rib ravioli is a revelation.

Chico Hot Springs also has one of the best stables in Montana, and offers fantastic pack trips into the greater Yellowstone region, Paradise Valley, and further afield. Chico’s Horse Barn is operated by Rockin’ HK Outfitters.

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