Crystal Park and Elkhorn Hot Springs

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The mosquitoes were horrendous (predictable, given the wet spring and so much snow through the winter), so we did some very quick digging and screening of a few shovels of earth at Crystal Park…just long enough for me to get THE BITE.  It’s really ugly what has been allowed by the National Forestry people, but the place is a big tourist draw. We didn’t see anyone else digging at this time of day…a little stop we made on our way to the Lodge, from Coolidge.

Watch the entrance to the park!  I practically took the bottom of my car off, getting over the cattle guard at the entrance.  Time for a bit of patching to happen there!

Crystal Park is a unique recreation area at an elevation of 7,800 feet in the Pioneer Mountains in southwest Montana. Crystal Park is open for day use only and has a fee per car. Facilities include 3 picnic sites with tables and grills, information signs, toilets, and a paved trail with benches and an overlook. The facilities are designed to be universally accessible.

Quartz crystals are scattered liberally through the decomposed granite of the unique 220-acre site that’s been reserved by the Forest Service for the popular hobby of rockhounding. Quartz crystals are hexagonal (six-sided) prisms, with a pointed “face” at each end. The crystals found at Crystal Park can be clear, cloudy, white, gray or purple. They can be smaller than your little finger or up to several inches in diameter. Gray, purple and other colors are caused by minerals within the quartz. Gray crystals are known as “smoky” and the highly prized purple ones are called amethyst. Single crystals are most common at Crystal Park. Most of the crystals have little value other than as collector’s items.

Rules established for Crystal Park include a ban on tunneling. The rules are listed on signs and in brochures available at the site. Other rules include use of hand tools only, and a five-day-per-person season limit on digging.

Even with the short dig that we made, Ramona and I unearthed some bits of crystal.  We brought our spoils back to the lodge, washed them up and divided up the treasures…a beautiful remembrance of our first day in the mountains.

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Big pits dug all along the incline and apparently, down the other side.

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Elkhorn Hot Springs is a beautiful little spot!  Getting there and journeying back over the winding roads, Ramona and I enjoyed the siting of a beautiful fox.  Ramona was able to snap a couple of quick photographs for our remembrance.  We were like two little kids, so excited to see the beautiful and shy creature disappear into the tall woods.

Foxy Sighting

This is Ramona’s photo, lifted off the internet with absolutely no permission. Love you, Sunshine!

The Elkhorn Hot Springs are a delicious place to stop and rest for the night. If you’ve been used to tent camping, this is a huge step up in terms of accommodation.  Some would describe it as rustic, but with running water and potential to clean up, I thought it was insanely wonderful!  We got to float in the soothing waters of natural hotsprings and to rest in a cozy and friendly lodge.  Breakfast was a cowboy’s breakfast, all included.  As a Canadian, this hit my pocketbook a little more than if I was a citizen, but with my cut $25.00 American currency….it was an unbelievable deal and a treasured experience.  If anyone wishes to travel the United States, connect with my buddy Ramona.  She has done the research.  She knows how to create memories on a very good budget.

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In the day, I would have roughed it more…now, places like these are the bomb!  So much fun!

Nestled in Beaverhead National Forest, the historic Elkhorn Hot Springs has been a favorite resting and soaking spot for a hundred years. Step into Montana’s past and stay in the main lodge which was built in 1921 or one of the many authentic and romantic cabins built during the 1920’s and 1930’s. There are two outdoor hot pools as well as an indoor Grecian style sauna. The mineral waters are 100% natural and because of the substantial rate of flow from the source, no chlorine or other chemicals are required to be added to the water – there is a constant flow of new mineral water entering the pool at all times.

Just an hour’s drive from Dillon, Elkhorn Hot Springs is the perfect spot to explore all that Southwest Montana has to offer. About 4 miles away you will find Maverick Mountain Ski Area. Close by are miles and miles of cross country ski trails and sled trails. During the summer, in less than 7 miles you can dig for buried gems at Crystal Park. Just a 25 mile drive from the Hot Springs is Historical Bannack State Park and it’s a great way to relive some of Montana’s colorful past. If that isn’t enough for you, and you are the adventurous type – you may want to take a trip to the real-life ghost town of Coolidge!

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