Tired of overcrowded hot spring resorts?

Places like Fairmont, Chico, Quinn's, Bozeman Hot Spring, etc are easy to access for most Montanans. The big, well-known hot springs/resorts are usually somewhat near interstate highways and most of the population in Montana lives within an hour or two drive to a hot spring. That's convenient, but it can also make these places busy, especially in peak seasons.

Sometimes loud, crowded pools are fun. Sometimes not. Credit Canva
Sometimes loud, crowded pools are fun. Sometimes not. Credit Canva
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Take a hot spring road trip adventure to the Hi-Line.

If you want to dodge the noisy, crowded resorts it might be fun to take a little road trip to Saco, MT. This small, Hi-Line community on Highway 2 near Malta is approximately a four-hour drive from Billings. It's about the same distance if you're coming from Great Falls. Bozeman to Saco is about five hours, and it'll take you six +/- to drive from Missoula.

Winter weather is no joke in northeastern Montana and it would be wise to watch the forecast before you head out in a blizzard. Locals know conditions can change fast and there are long stretches of highway with not much on them. No houses, no lights, no other cars... for miles. In our opinion, it would be one of the worst places to get stranded in a snowbank or ditch.

A quiet afternoon in Saco, MT, as seen by Google Maps
A quiet afternoon in Saco, MT, as seen from Google Maps
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Hot water, cool history.

If you enjoy Montana history, you should visit the Hi-Line at least once. There are so many great stories in these tiny little railroad towns that popped up quickly. Some have survived the various booms and busts over the years and offer plenty of early 20th-century Western history. It's not a surprise that the Sleeping Buffalo Hot Spring has a great story too.

Photo by Keystone/Getty Images
Old-time drillers prepping a site, circa 1950s. Photo by Keystone/Getty Images
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Instead of oil, they hit hot water.

As the tale goes, a gentleman was drilling for oil in Phillips County, Montana sometime around 1920. He and his crew got down to 3,100 feet when the oilmen suddenly received a disappointing surprise. Instead of oil, they hit water. Water that was racing to the surface at 500 pounds per square inch of pressure and 900 gallons per minute. It was hot too, 108 degrees.

Credit Canva
Credit Canva
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The story gets better.

It involves a rancher who spearheaded a community effort to build a rustic pool out of railroad ties after he realized his Polio-stricken son always felt better after soaking in the mineral-laden water. The pool became known as the American Legion Health Resort. Now it's the Sleeping Buffalo Hot Spring. Read more about its history here.

Nelson Reservoir is nearby. Credit Google Maps
Nelson Reservoir is nearby. Credit Google Maps
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Next time we're up north, we'll have to check it out.

I'm always down for visiting new places, I love tiny towns in Montana with their rustic charm, old buildings, and cool little bars. They're everything Whitefish is not, which I appreciate. The resort near Saco appears to offer finer dining at its 54 Prime Steakhouse in the Buffalo Saloon and the hot spring offers various accommodations in cozy-looking cabins or main rooms.

LOOK: Refurbished Montana Rail Car For Sale

The historic rail car from 1925 is for sale and could be used in a variety of ways. Take a look at how unique it is on the inside.

Gallery Credit: Ashley

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