“My teeth are chattering,” I realize with a shiver.
Granted, I’m in a bikini, dripping wet, outside, so… not exactly dressed for the weather. I’m doing that thing where you run on your tiptoes — as if your heels touching the ground is what would actually make you cold, not wearing a bathing suit in 40-degree weather. Moving like this, I reach the counter of a wooden, shack-like structure, and order a round of drinks, shifting my weight from my toes to my heels, back and forth, in that odd dance of the cold, wet person that looks very similar to having to pee.
Drinks in hand, I race back to my group, place them on the edge of the pool, and slide back into the water. I’m at a hot spring, so this brings immediate relief. Steam envelops me and I allow myself to sink further down until I’m submerged up to my chin. Next, I dip fully below the surface.
Yeah, that’s the stuff. Underwater, I can just barely hear snatches of music. As I come up for air, I turn toward the bluegrass band playing on a stage above the water, encased in a heated bubble, jamming out. The stars are brighter here than at home in the city, and they’re better than any light show you’d see at a festival — endless points of light, puncturing the pitch black Montana sky, punctuated by music.
Epic is probably the most overused word of our modern century. But this moment feels epic. Sorry, not sorry. The hot spring is thick with people but it never feels crowded. There’s an intimacy to the experience that’s intoxicating.
Norris Hot Springs is only about 45 minutes outside of Bozeman, Montana, and an hour and a half from Yellowstone, tucked into the southwest corner of the state. Driving in, you see a sign that declares: “Water of the Gods” but the rest of the destination is unassuming. A low-key hot spring/ concert venue/ campground/ restaurant/ bar, surrounded by the Montana Wetlands.
It’s gorgeous, as you might expect from Montana, but moreover, it’s something of a love letter to the land it’s on. There’s nothing more fitting for this state than sitting under a blanket of stars, in a hot spring, listening to a jam band, surrounded by friends. It’s one of those iconic experiences that could exist very few places besides this — where everything from the ambiance to the food feels carefully curated.
On the subject of food, Norris sources almost all of their food locally. Much of the produce is grown in their own “Garden of the Gods,” the rest comes from local farms. They call their little restaurant The 50 Mile Grill, because that’s the radius of their sourcing. Electricity runs on solar panels, heat is geothermically sourced from the springs, and recycling and compost make trash cans almost completely unnecessary. The spring itself, with its crystal clear water revealing a wooden pool-bottom, looks just as it would have if you’d visited at its birth, back in the 1880s.
My first night in Norris, I floated for what seemed like hours, chatting with friends and strangers alike, and grooving on the bluegrass until the band left the stage. At some point, I treated myself to a cheeseburger — geeking out on how nearby the beef was raised and the veggies were grown.
The slogan “Water of the Gods,” may seem like a bold proclamation upon your approach from Bozeman, but as the mineral-rich water soothes your weary bones, rejuvenating your body and spirit, it starts to make sense. If you were a god in charge of picking a waterhole, a soaking spot for you and your fellow all-knowing beings to slip into, you couldn’t do better than this.
Want to go there?
Directions from Bozeman: A dream “one road only situation,” take 191 out of Bozeman (it will turn into 84). Norris will be on your left after 33 miles (45ish minutes).
Price: $8 to soak ($3 if you’re camping), $10 when bands play
Food and Drinks: Soaking is free for designated drivers ferrying three or more passengers. The 50 Mile Grill menu includes produce from the Norris garden, along with meats and other foods sourced from small, local farms — as well as local wines and craft beer. Check out the full dinner menu here.
Accommodations: Camping available for $33 per day with hookups, $22 without. Click here to book.
Live music: 7 pm — Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays — year round!
INSTAGRAMS FROM NORRIS HOTSPRINGS TO FILL YOU WITH FOMO:
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Excited to return to the dome at @norrishotsprings this Saturday night! Always a fun venue to play. Show is from 7-9:30. Gonna be a good night for a soak! . . . . #norrishotsprings #waterofthegods #bozemanevents #bozemanmusic #livemusic #localmusic #hotsprings #singersongwriter #instamusic #musiciansofinstagram #travelingmusician #touringmusician #lifeofamusician #musicianlife