I almost don’t want to share the news about the upgrades to the old Broadwater Hot Springs pools in Helena, but they’re the perfect soothing antidote to outdoor adventures in the area.
Part of what I love about these outdoor hot springs is their history. The Broadwater Hotel and Natatorium opened in 1889, which was the year Montana became the 41st state in the nation. The elegant resort was a popular midway point between Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, with the world’s largest indoor pool that included waterfalls, toboggan slides and observation decks.
The catastrophic earthquake of 1935 severely damaged the building. Years later, it was operated as an athletic club, then was purchased by new owners in 2015, who have upgraded the hot springs and added a restaurant.
I recommend you pick your choice of outing first. Cross-country ski MacDonald or Stemple passes. Downhill ski at the mom-and-pop run Great Divide. Mountain bike or hike Mount Helena.
Then ease into the Broadwater hot tub, which is between 101 and 104 degrees, right next to the 60- to 70-degree cold plunge. All the pools are filled by the natural hot springs’ artesian well, which has seasonal temperatures from 148 to 152 degrees.
Order up a local microbrew on tap or a glass of wine from one of the poolside attendants, and slide into the 30-by-70-foot Springs Pool, whose serpentine walls lined with benches afford plenty of nooks for relaxing. If you still need a bit of exercise, swim a few laps in the 25-by-70-foot recreation pool.
A word of caution — these hot springs are popular, and Friday and Saturday nights can get pretty crowded. Instead, I met my son, daughter and a couple of friends about 10 a.m. on a recent Sunday morning, and we nearly had the place to ourselves. After bloody Marys in the hot springs, we showered and headed into the dining room for huevos rancheros and mimosas. They also offer locally-sourced burgers, nachos and other pub favorites.
During the summer, when the restaurant’s two garage doors are thrown wide open, kick back for some live music on the new stage or listen in from the pool.
Just don’t tell anyone I sent you.