Unlocking Yellowstone: Mammoth Hot Springs

There’s a a pretty knee-jerk reaction I get when I tell people about Mammoth Hot Springs. The first part involves taking out their phone to check and see if the photos on Google are for real – since it is legitimately one of the most stunning and unique sights in the natural world. The second part is to map out just how long it takes to get there. From OC, it’s a 20-hour drive or a pretty easy flight from John Wayne Airport or Long Beach to Bozeman, and then a quick hop across the Montana-Wyoming border.

The springs look like a cave turned inside out. Cascading pools over softened limestone form an absolutely stunning visual. Easily walkable via an upper or a lower boardwalk, the sight is tough to comprehend, especially some of the more outrageous shaped terraces (this is largely because limestone is a relatively soft type of rock which allows travertine formations to grow much faster).

Among the best known of the Lower Terrace’s features is Liberty Cap. Named for its resemblance to the peaked caps worn during the French Revolution, this hot spring cone rises 37 feet in the air. Another favorite of the 50 area springs is Minerva – renowned for its wide range of colors and travertine formations.

Yellowstone Riverside Cottages

Just a few miles from these otherworldly springs lie some of Yellowstone’s cutest and most well-appointed accommodation at Yellowstone Riverside Cottages (yellowstoneriversidecottages.com). Located on the Yellowstone River, at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the property features five cottages, seven suites and four studios. With interior decor that matches and reflects the rugged landscape outside, there’s a touch of comfort you won’t want to leave behind. Even for the stunning views just beyond your bedroom windows.

Adorable window boxes bursting with wildflowers in the spring and summer, and adirondack chairs as far as the eye can see on the lovely outer deck and pergola overlooking the river with panoramic views of the park, no detail is overlooked. The Roosevelt Arch rests right in the middle of the riverscape and the kids were particularly thrilled to witness elk strolling through town and a family of deer walking along the riverbank.

Amenities also include a walkway for easy fishing access, BBQ charcoal grills, tables and seating to thoroughly take advantage of the great outdoors. Having said that, Yellowstone Riverside Cottages is also ideally situated for all the creature comforts – coffee shops, restaurants, bars, gift shops and a grocery store are all within easy walking distance.

We opted for the aptly named River Suite #13 – with a balcony literally on the river – and plenty of space inside with a main floor and loft space (a queen bed on each floor), full kitchen complete with cook-top, fridge, microwave/oven combo, coffee-maker, cookware, utensils), two flatscreen TVs and free WiFi. This property proved to be the perfect “home base” for our daily treks into the park and a short 10-minute drive to Yellowstone Hot Springs (yellowstonehotspringsmt.com).

Yellowstone Hot Springs

Settled between two mountain ranges on the south end of beautiful Paradise Valley and nestled on the bank of the Yellowstone River, Yellowstone Hot Springs is undoubtedly one of the world’s most unique soaking experiences. Set against this majestic backdrop with big horn sheep and bison grazing nearby as eagles soar overhead, each of the three mineral-rich pools here are designed with serenity, relaxation and rejuvenation in mind.

What made the experience even more remarkable was the “order” to which guests could indulge for maximum stress relief and circulatory benefits. Start with a 10-minute soak in the hottest of the pools (104-106 degrees) to heat your core. Then take a few short laps around the “Kniepp Walk” – alternating between its two parallel pools of ankle-deep warm and cold waters before “plunging” into the 65-degree pool for a few seconds, then start the process again. After a few rounds of this, our family agreed we each felt incredibly invigorated.

The proximity of our accommodation to these incredible sights positioned our stay for success from the start. Especially with tired teens in the back of the car at the end of the day, longing for a bite to eat and a soft place to land. Yellowstone Riverside Cottages. There’s no sense in Googling anything else.

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