Inside the Lolo National Forest, in the Lolo Pass once traversed by Lewis and Clark with the help of their faithful guide, Sacajawea, just seven miles from the Idaho border, sits The Lodge at Lolo Hot Springs. Upon arrival, it looked like many of the quaint lodges sprinkled throughout the mountains.
It sits next to a bar/restaurant, a place where one can ride horses in the summer and snowmobiles in the winter, and a fee-for-use hut with an indoor and an outdoor hot-spring-fed pool.
The lodge, however, has its very own spring-fed hot spring pools, both of them indoors.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
After all the driving we’d done and all the big hotel chains we’d stayed with, and after the previous night in the My Name is Earl special in East Glacier, it was like a breath of fresh air walking into the western-themed lobby. The lodge is co-managed by a young couple, who inherited the role after her father semi-retired. They were so helpful, providing the personal touch that you can’t get in a big hotel. She gave us a tour of the place when we checked in, and during our stay we witnessed her doing the same thing for every single guest when they arrived. He was full of useful information, including tips on things to do and see in the immediate area. They were both so friendly and personable and made us feel so welcome that within minutes of putting our things in our room,
which was also sort of rustic and neat, we went straight back to the front desk and reserved the room for a second night. This gave us time to relax and enjoy the hot pools (the first one was 102.8 degrees Fahrenheit, while the other was 104.1) and just chill before setting out for adventure the next day, without having to drive hundreds of miles in between.
I also finally spotted a moose and a bear.
The handmade furniture in the bedrooms was a nice touch.
One thing I loved about the lodge, which might be a turnoff for some, was that there is no cell reception. There is free WiFi, but only in the lobby. They do have a phone booth where you can make calls for free, and my youngest thought it was the neatest thing ever.
So what is there to do in the area? Besides soaking in the hot spring water, there are miles and miles of hiking trails. If that’s not your thing, I was directed to three nearby treats.
First, about nine miles to the east, there is a side road that takes you through a pass and into a nice valley with lots of rocky outcropping, which is allegedly home to lots of deer, elk, and even some bighorn sheep. I was excited to see some bighorns, as I’ve only ever seen small mountain goats in Hawaii, but we saw nothing but deer. It was a very pretty drive, however.
So we went back the other way. As I said, it’s only seven miles to the Idaho border. At the welcome center, there is a little county road to the left of the parking lot. About a mile down that road (which turns to dirt right past the entry, so drive slow) is a massive field of wildflowers. Lewis and Clark estimated it at 50 acres. I will defer to their expertise.
From there it was a few more miles to the Lochsa Lodge, where we stopped for lunch. This is a beautiful mountainside setting, with the river in the background.
My oldest and I split the absolutely huge Bigfoot Stuffed Burger, which featured two patties stuffed with onions, bacon, and gouda cheese, topped with a huckleberry BBQ sauce.
Fueled and ready to go, we set out for our final adventure of the day. With a beautiful one-mile riverside into the woods,
we reached an area known for its hot springs pools. Unlike the hot springs at Yellowstone, which will boil the skin right off your bones, these are perfect little outdoor hot tubs. Luckily, our waiter at Lochsa Lodge warned us that the pools are considered clothing optional. And some nice folks already in the lower pool warned us as we walked in that upper pool was considered the “more adult” of the two. But as it is also the hotter of the two, I walked ahead to check it out. Rather than the pool, I first saw some naked dude, so we stopped at the lower pool.
After the upper pool cleared out, we ventured up there too, and enjoyed it for a few minutes before hiking back out. Turns out soaking in a real natural hot spring was sort of a bucket list item for my wife, so it was well worth the effort.
Back at the lodge, there were still no moose in the pond.
They told us the first day that starting in mid-June every year, the moose would come down from the mountain, where the mother would wade into the pond where her calves wouldn’t follow in order to wean them. More propaganda, as it turns out. The down-to-earth proprietors aren’t the kind of people I would take to be in the pocket of Big Moose, but this just shows how insidious this conspiracy can be.
I can’t really recommend the food at the Bear Cave restaurant next door, but it will do in a pinch.
One last thing: while much of the included breakfast is standard continental fare, they have a large tub of yogurt with a squirt pump, and one of the turning cereal thingy’s compartments is filled with granola. It’s a tasty option, and I wish more of the big chains would catch on to this, rather than one of the crappy off-brand cereals they usually stuff those with.
Okay, one more last thing: there is a cooler full of iced spring water in the lobby at all times. It’s the most delicious water I’ve ever tasted. If we are ever back in the area, we will definitely be back at The Lodge at Lolo Hot Springs. I miss it already.