White Sulphur Springs is a small town along Hwy 89 in Montana. After leaving West Glacier, we drove across the Southern portion of the Park and across to Highway 89 South. We stopped along the road before Browning to eat some lunch, but a Native American patrolman asked us to keep going. He said the Blackfeet Tribe is experiencing a high Covid-19 outbreak and they didn’t even want people stopping. The grocery stores and gas stations in the town remain open, which confused us. However, the huge casino parking lot is bare, with its doors shuttered. We realize East Glacier never opened this year due to the road being on the Reservation. But it didn’t dawn on us that we couldn’t even stop at a roadside pullout along the Southern Park border.
Montana’s many landscapes
At any rate, we continued and soon found ourselves in grassy prairies and meadows instead of the forest we’d just left. Many of the small lakes and ponds along the way are surrounded by white ground. At first, we thought it was snow, but then thought maybe salt. Now we think it was probably white sulphur. We passed through Great Falls but kept going with our eye on the prize…White Sulphur Springs. I saw it on the map, where the red-printed words, “mineral springs”, appear next to the town. We soaked in hot springs last summer in Southern California along the Pacific Crest Trail. So I had this romantic notion of it looking very similar. I didn’t bother Googling it, because what else could it be but the same kind of outdoor, wilderness experience?
We drove into town around 2:00, thinking we’d soak for a bit and then head into the Lewis & Clark National Forest for the night. The town is super cute, with an old-Western feel. Big neon signs, wood clad buildings, pretty neat! Like many small towns we pass through, White Sulphur Springs also has it’s share of empty buildings. I wonder if it’s due to Covid or just to small town life or what. Not seeing a sign for the hot springs, we pulled over to check Google Maps.
White Sulphur Springs
Surprisingly we were literally across the street from them. What? There was only a motel across from us. We both began checking and sure enough, if you want to soak in the hot springs, it’ll be in three pools at this motel. What a let down! I pouted for a minute, then Steve saw that they offer RV parking, so in we went to check it out.
Staying at Spa Hot Springs Motel and Clinic actually turned out pretty cool. Well, to be honest, RVs literally park in the back parking lot. However, there are electric hookups, which was kind of a treat for us. We even used our microwave for popcorn! We paid an $8 rate for one soak. There’s also a $15/day rate for going in and out of the pools. The pools are drained and cleaned nightly, with no chemicals added during the refill. Interestingly, the water circulates through the hotels walls prior to entering the pools. It heats the rooms in addition to offering a relaxing soak experience.
The changing room is clean and nice, with lockers, showers, toilets and even a swimsuit dryer. Get your suit mostly dry in ten seconds! The only bad part of the dressing room was the huge full length mirrors. Um, hello, I’m still working off my quarantine weight, and no one needs to see themselves full length in a swimsuit anyway!
Three soaking pools
We dipped into the coolest of the three pools, mainly since it had the fewest soakers. The medium hot pool was full, with some beer drinking going on. I’m all for a cold beer, but it changes the atmosphere, in a pool that clearly states, “no alcohol”. We watched people go into the indoor “hot” pool, even timing one group. They came out within two minutes with beet red bodies. Too hot for us. Murals on the walls try to give a wilderness or historic feel. They’re a nice touch.
White Sulphur Springs history
The backstory for the White Sulphur Springs says that many tribes originally used them (when they really were natural). The Flathead, Blackfeet and Crow all came to the healing waters. The valley became neutral ground, called the Valley of Peace. The waters demanded peacefulness. In 1866, a settler learned about the springs and built a cabin next to them. By 1872, he started charging 75 cents, whiskey extra. And thus began the process, which led to my eventual disappointment at the “locking up” of nature. Isn’t that dramatic? But seriously, how did it go from a neutral, peaceful ground to a place controlled by one man who could then profit from it? I know, I know, it’s capitalism, doesn’t mean I have to like it though!
Despite my dislike of nature being profitized, I’d still recommend visiting here. The spring water soak was quite relaxing, the people watching superb and the hot shower alone was worth the $8 to get in! We take showers in Cupcake. But they’re the kind where you get wet, shut off the water, soap up, then rinse. It’s a little different than home showers. We chatted with the owners and learned what good people they are. They truly desire to offer a great customer experience.
Down the street from the hotel is a decent sized grocery store, a couple of good looking bars and restaurants. Pretty much anything you need is located in White Sulphur Springs. A good find on our way across Montana, exploring on a whim!