Winter Vacation at Elkhorn Hot Springs, Montana

For years I’ve wanted to wake up on New Year’s Day in a little cabin in the woods. I’d snowshoe right from the front door, soak in hot springs, share winter cocktails with friends, sled with the kids, and stoke the woodstove warming the cabin.

Well, this is now a dream come true. Several years ago, we decided to gather some friends and drive the 3.5 hours from our home to Elkhorn Hot Springs, Montana.

We’ve been to the town several times before, but this was our first New Year in the rustic 1900s cabins. My family of four stayed in the Beaverhead Cabin, while two other families rented cabins just footsteps away.

cabin in winter hiding between trees in the woods

Our little cabin in the woods. Photo: Melynda Harrison

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Snowshoe Trails

I took off on a solo snowshoe in the woods as soon as we arrived. New Year’s Eve is also my birthday; my tradition is to spend time alone in the woods on my day. Elkhorn is on a Forest Service lease, so within three minutes of leaving our cabin, I was on one of the many snowshoeing/cross-country skiing trails the Forest Service maintains.

snowshoeing Elkhorn Hot Springs: person snowshoeing in the woods

Off into the woods! Photo: Melynda Harrison

Grasshopper Ridge Trail

The low December sun had already dropped below the Pioneer peaks—shadowing the narrow valley. But, despite the impending darkness, I, along with my dogs, headed up the Grasshopper Ridge Trail, ascending through dense conifers to a lookout at Solarium Point.

From the lookout, I gazed south three miles (4.8 km) to Maverick Mountain, where we would be downhill skiing in two days and beyond to the Big Hole Valley. To the north and east, the mountains—Highboy, Comet, and Saddleback—and twenty miles (32 km) of trails awaited us on this long weekend away from home.

I continued up the trail to a large ridge-top meadow with snow so deep the dogs could barely walk outside my snowshoe track. I paused, breathed deep, and drank Good Earth tea from a thermos. Then, I continued, back in the trees, eventually reaching a road that led back to the cabins.

trail with Maverick Mountain and sun between trees on snowy trail

Maverick Mountain sits in shadow in the distance. Photo: Melynda Harrison

Elkhorn Ski Trail

In addition to the Grasshopper Ridge Trail, you can try the Elkhorn Hot Springs Ski Trail, a challenging ungroomed trail consisting of several loops.

Maps of all the ski/snowshoe trails (and snowmobile trails) are available at the pool front desk. However, they aren’t very detailed—bring a topo map if you really want to know where you are going. Also, there are snowmobile trails in the area. So, you will hear the occasional whine. But stick to the single-track trails (or make your own), and you’ll be fine.

.Read More: 10 Tips for Making Snowshoeing Fun with Kids

kids sledding down snowy road

The kids had a blast Montana road-sledding. Photo: Melynda Harrison

Other Activities

Snowshoeing, cross-country and downhill skiing, soaking, and hanging out with friends on a winter weekend getaway are all potential activities. But one of the highlights of the trip for the kids was sledding down the road connecting the cabins. They’d load two kids per sled and fly down the snow-packed road. But, of course, it was a highlight for the adults, too.

But, in addition to snowshoeing and enjoying the snowy outdoors, there are other activities on the property.

Quality Time

After returning to the cabin from snowshoeing, a man driving a Bobcat dropped off what looked like a cord of wood on the cabin’s porch, promising to bring more should we need it during our two-night stay.

So, we stuffed the wood stove and the fireplace with fir and heated the big, leaky log building while we refueled on chili and bread and greeted the two other families as they arrived. Then, we shared dinner and drinks while the kids played Uno.

Read More: Snowshoeing: The Ultimate Female Bonding Experience

hot springs pool with people and snowy fence in the foreground

The hot springs pool for which the “resort” is named. Photo: Melynda Harrison

Hot Springs

In the evening, we walked up to the hot springs—a turquoise swimming pool surrounded by fresh snow. During the winter, the pools are open Wednesday – Sunday.

While we were there, families splashed in the pool, and a group of college kids celebrated New Year’s Eve with everything they had and swigged cheap beer out of cans. We soaked until a fight broke out and huddled our kids into the changing rooms. Laying on my bed that night buzzed out from soaking in mineral-rich water heated in the earth, I couldn’t wait for the rest of the trip.

Read More: Snowshoeing and Hot Springs in McCall, Idaho


Breakfast is included in the cabin rental and served at the lodge. You can also get dinner (which we do the second night) and drinks there. We tried Elkhorn’s famous prime rib dinner (OK, I didn’t order it, but my friends did, and I can attest that it was a Montana-sized portion). Currently, they are prepping a new menu to be released soon.

The restaurant is open Wednesday-Sunday during the snow season.

woman snowshoeing at Elkhorn Hot Springs ith dog in foreground of photo

Snowshoeing right from the cabin door is one of the big perks of staying at Elkhorn Hot Springs. Photo: Melynda Harrison

Tips for a Trip to Elkhorn Hot Springs

Do you want to plan your own trip to Elkhorn Hot Springs? Here’s some additional intel about what you need to know:

It’s rustic. I don’t mean “shabby chic,” I mean leaky cabins, outhouses where the doors don’t shut, a constantly overheating water pump in the changing rooms, algae in the pools…it’s Montana-rustic, and we love it! Also, there is WiFi at the lodge but no cell service.

Bring sleeping bags if you fail to wake up in time to stoke the fire at night. It can get chilly. Also, we brought a crockpot full of chili and bread for the first night. There is electricity in the cabin, so we plugged in when we got there and had dinner ready.

The road to Elkhorn is maintained but often snow-covered. An AWD vehicle is nice. Finally, stop at the Patagonia outlet in Dillon on your way (about an hour from Elkhorn). You can pick up any essential pieces of clothing you forgot and a lot of stuff you don’t need but can’t resist.

Read More: A Snowshoeing Destination Guide to Red Lodge, Montana

snow covered hill with trees and Pioneer peaks in the background

There was a gorgeous view of the Pioneer Peaks. Photo: Melynda Harrison

Would you ever go to Elkhorn Hot Springs, Montana? Moreover, if you’ve been, what experiences have you done, and what recommendations do you have? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

This article was originally published on January 12, 2015. It was most recently updated on August 24, 2022.

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About the author

Melynda Harrison

Melynda Harrison writes about family travel and outdoor recreation at and covers all things Yellowstone at She is based out of Livingston, Montana where she lives with her husband and two sons. Follow her outdoor adventures on Instagram at @TravelingMelMT.

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