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After months of contending with freezing temperatures and seemingly endless snow during what's been a long winter in the Pacific Northwest, I thought there was nothing I'd love more than a beach vacation.
But it turns out that a hot springs getaway in the Rocky Mountains is perhaps the best remedy for the winter blues.
I was lucky enough to be surprised with the gift of travel for my birthday this year, a one-night stay at Quinn's Hot Springs Resort in Paradise, Montana earlier this month.
Situated along the Clark Fork River and surrounded by scenic pine- and snow-covered mountains as far as the eye can see, Quinn's marked my first encounter with natural springs, which are renowned for the range of health and heart benefits due to the presence of minerals such as sulfate, potassium and magnesium, among others.
Quinn's boasts five 100 percent natural flow-through hot springs pools with temperatures ranging from 100 to 106 degrees. There's even a cold plunge at 55 degrees, which is far less popular in western Montana in mid-March. Guests can also enjoy two other pools that are salt treated and kept in the upper 90s to close to 100 degrees to suit all ages.
Following a wintry drive through the Rockies, we arrived and promptly checked into our serene river-view cabin, featuring a charming porch overlooking the Clark Fork beneath. The heated floors, spacious soaking tub, king-size bed, cable TV, Wi-Fi and a complimentary bottle of wine were among the many highlights of our private accommodation.
After dropping off our bags, it was off to the laid-back Quinn's Tavern for some snacks and local beer before our dinner reservation at the renowned Harwood House Restaurant. The latter certainly didn't disappoint and was the perfect mood-setter before we changed into our cozy bathrobes and headed for the hot springs pools, which are open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day but available only to adults over the age of 18 between hours of 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.
The tavern, located just a few steps away, offers a walk-up bar for pool guests to order drinks from and a waterproof bracelet acquired at check-in allows patrons to charge their tab to the card on file at the front desk so there's no need to worry about hanging onto soggy cash or cards.
With drinks in hand, we did our best Goldilocks impression, moving from pool to pool to compare their temperatures before landing on our favorite. The best part about the varying temperatures is you can just jump pools if you get too warm or too chilly. We maximized our time, soaking for close to two hours up until closing time.
The soothing waters, complemented by the starry night sky and romantic fog resulting from the drastic difference in air temperature, are truly something special, a surefire boost to body, mind and spirit.
Falling asleep was awfully easy that night after we were finished looking up available dates to make a return trip-Quinn's is hugely popular so finding a reservation is not easy.
While hot springs experiences vary based on the level of luxury you're willing to pay for, there's no denying the unparalleled bliss they offer travelers in search of a new kind of trip offering a closer connection with Mother Nature.
As trends such as wellness getaways, off-the-beaten-path destinations and experiences in nature gain more momentum, those in search of a uniquely relaxing vacation with real health benefits need not look further than the world's natural hot springs.
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A Maryland native and wanderer who has lived across the U.S. from North Carolina to SoCal, Patrick Clarke graduated from Towson...
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