The name Chico Hot Springs evokes a magical combination of cowboy spirit and natural refinement. And that’s a good thing because this enchanting resort offers all of that and much more. Here you can experience phenomenal cuisine, explore the gorgeous landscape of rural Montana, and treat yourself to luxurious spa treatments all in an ambiance that is both down-home welcoming and exquisitely chic. We’ll share with you the top items on our personal list of the many reasons to visit one-of-a-kind Chico Hot Springs.
Disclaimer: Chico Hot Springs Resort and Day Spa, one of TravelAwaits’ picks for The 11 Best Hot Springs In The U.S. (not sponsored) provided us with complimentary food and accommodations. This article reflects our own opinions based on our experience.
1. Big Natural Hot Springs
The first thing that came to our minds when we learned about Chico Hot Springs was, well, the hot springs. They’re not tiny little bubbling ponds of murky warm water but rather two large pools where hot springs flow. The larger pool is over 100 degrees and designed for you to soak in first for relaxation. You then migrate to the connected slightly cooler pool to refresh. You can go back and forth as many people do. If you’d rather hang around without getting wet, get a drink and nibbles from the Poolside Grille. Natural minerals keep the waters safe and clean without the addition of chemicals. When you emerge not only is your tension gone, but your skin feels baby soft as well.
2. Cowboy Chic
Relaxing in a rustic environment with all the amenities of a luxury resort is a special treat. Accommodations at Chico Hot Springs include a wide range of options. Choose a room in the historic main lodge or one of its extensions or go for something a little more remote like a cabin, chalet, cottage, or log house. We loved our cabin, which was woody but modern, quite spacious, and loaded with niceties. The personal coffee center had more tea, coffee, hot cocoa, and treats than we could have possibly consumed during our stay. We loved the hammock outside, perfect for reclining with a good book in the open air. For something memorably unique try one of the custom-built Conestoga Covered Wagons in the Cowboy Camp or the Chico Short Line Caboose, a luxuriously restored railroad caboose with cherry floors, stained glass windows, and custom furniture in a private spot above the resort. Lodging can accommodate individuals, couples, small and large families, or groups up to 12 people in a single structure. And for those with a four-footed companion, Chico Hot Springs is pet-friendly.
3. Saloon Fun
There’s plenty to do at the Western-style Chico Saloon. Shuffleboard, foosball, a pool table, video poker, and game machines speckle a lively setting enjoyed by guests of the resort and Paradise Valley residents alike. Friday and Saturday nights add live music and Chico also hosts an annual “Hoedown” block party and Super Bowl shindig. Dine on casual fare like burgers, sandwiches, salads, nachos, and a fabulous platter of various seasoned fries by the pound. Taps offer a dozen or so Montana brews, including a special custom-crafted Chico Amber Ale and rotating seasonal beers. Wine lovers will be thrilled by the stellar selections, including Dom Perignon for burgers and bubbles. With rustic furnishings, colorful baseball caps dangling from the ceiling, and large screen televisions all around, Chico Saloon is a fun place to hang out and play.
4. Spa Delights
For a rejuvenating experience, make an appointment at the relaxation center. Sitting on a bluff away from the main resort, the Day Spa is a peaceful spot to enjoy pleasure and pampering. Services include massages, geothermal therapies with stones from the Yellowstone River, spa scrubs and wraps, and combination packages. Release stress and tension from your mind and body with personalized treatments at the Day Spa and let yoga classes in the sunny fitness room set your spirit free.
5. The Great Outdoors
Chico Hot Springs is enjoyable outdoors no matter the season. The Horse Barn is open all year, weather permitting, offering horseback and carriage rides from short jaunts to long treks with lunch on the trail. Fly fishing is a Montana tradition, and Chico is the perfect launching pad for the many rivers, creeks, lakes, and streams ready and waiting. The private Ranch 635 area has an 18-hole disc golf course, a hiking and mountain biking trail system, and incredible panoramic views of Paradise Valley, the Gallatin Range, and even the Crazy Mountains on a clear day. Area wildlife includes badgers, coyotes, foxes, elk, deer, and maybe even a black bear. Birders can see hawks, eagles, meadowlarks, bluebirds, grouse, and more. May through September whitewater rafting and scenic river floats are plentiful. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and dog-sledding adventures provide winter fun, especially when capped with a hot toddy or cocoa upon your return.
6. Food, Glorious Food
The historic dining room is both rustic and refined. It can be described as something you want to enjoy with a leisurely meal from its creatively traditional yet innovative chef. Dishes like trout almondine and petite filet Oscar are worthy of their classic status. The beef Wellington for two is one of the most highly-prized dishes in all of Montana along with the popular 12-ounce slow-roasted prime rib. Tastes with a modern twist include barbecue bison ravioli, house-smoked rainbow trout, curried sea scallops, and wild mushroom saute. Montana ranches and farms supply fresh local quality ingredients while Chico also grows its own produce on-premises in Chico Gardens, which include a geothermal greenhouse and honey bee apiary. House baked bread also comes from the kitchen. Dessert is a must as creme brulee, seasonal fruit cobbler, and chocolate tart are all divine. But the star of the show is the famous Flaming Orange, a diners’ delight for over 45 years.
7. Wine Heaven
If you’re surprised by fine dining in Pray, Montana, which has only 750 or so residents, you’ll be blown away by the offerings of wine. Regularly receiving awards from Wine Spectator magazine for its extensive and brilliantly curated wine list, Chico offers one of the largest and most diverse selections we have ever seen. Wines from France, Italy, Spain, South Africa, Argentina, Germany, Hungary, Australia, the United States, and more fill pages like an oenophile’s wishlist. Many are available by the glass and large format wines up to 15 liters are offered to serve a crowd. Dessert wines, reserves, and special selections from Margaux, Lafite Rothschild, Petrus, La Romanee Conti, and Screaming Eagle share the menu with modest favorites from California, Oregon, and Washington state. As sparkling wine lovers, we were impressed to see several vintages of Cristal, Dom Perignon, Perrier-Jouet, and even a Bollinger James Bond Limited Edition 007 adorn the list. The elegant tasting room wine cellar can serve private parties from two to six with chef’s tasting or premium pairing menus of seven or 12 courses.
8. Best Breakfast In the West
Breakfast sometimes gets overlooked in the hustle to pack every day with as much fun as possible. But we recommend that at least one morning, guests take time to experience Chico’s lavish breakfast. Think of all your breakfast favorites, sweet and savory. Then picture them made lovingly from scratch along with other delicious items you’d never imagine but happily discover in a massive arrangement of breakfast greatest hits. This is the marvel that’s the Chico breakfast. Pancakes, eggs including made-to-order omelets and Benedicts, local bacon and ham, turkey sausage, waffles, French toast, fresh fruit, house-made granola, and yogurt are just the beginning. The transcendent caramel bread pudding pushed it over the top. Yes, we had a breakfast dessert. And that’s all we’re going to say about that.
Beautiful accommodations and delicious food are most enjoyable when accompanied by wonderful service. Chico Hot Springs understands that and treats you with care and courtesy from the moment you arrive. Proprietor Colin Kurth Davis and his lovely wife Seabring treat visitors like family, sharing stories and history with enthusiasm and humor. Colin, who worked for many years at Chico before taking over as owner, is responsible for its remarkable wine list and cuisine. Seabring, an award-winning journalist, has written seven books, including cookbooks featuring beloved recipes from the Chico Hot Springs Resort. They love to share the history of the hot springs, dating back to 1865. Their pride in the community that has helped Chico thrive readily comes through. That’s why nearby celebrity ranch owners such as Dennis Quaid, John Mayer, Michael Keaton, Jeff Bridges, and Meg Ryan have quietly mixed into the low-key ambiance, even joining the live bands when the mood strikes. Chico Hot Springs makes you dream of returning even before you’ve headed down the road.
While there's a lot to do at this amazing resort, we recommend you allow yourself time to relax, walk around, and enjoy the scenery. Plan some time to do nothing at all, whether lying in a hammock, sipping coffee or tea while enjoying a view, or watching a sunset over the mountains. Chico Hot Springs is one of those rare places you can really feel yourself unwind. Take some pleasure in that and enjoy it to the fullest.
Interested in other luxe vacation opportunities? Consider why Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm is the ultimate relaxing weekend getaway destination or plan a golf trip to Pinehurst in North Carolina.