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  1. #1

    Default Maine to Montanna, and a bit in between

    This summer (probably early-July) my father and I will be taking a road trip to Montana from Maine. Our main goals are to visit as many hot springs and national parks as possible, and enjoy the beautiful nature in that area. We're taking our beat up, but somehow still working, 1997 Honda. We're hoping to do this with as little money as possible, and spend as much of our downtime as possible backpacking/camping. We WILL be trucking our kayak along too. This will be our first major road trip together. First off, I'd like to know from people who have done similar journeys about how long it might take. We aren't very time restricted, but I don't necessarily want this to take a month either. I'd like to know about any place in particular you think we should stop, any secluded, natural, undeveloped hot springs you know of, and tips for money-saving.

    Thank you so much, and best of luck with all your adventures. Thinking positive vibes :)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default An epic trip in the making

    Howdy and welcome to the Trip Planning Forums! A first road trip can be an epic adventure. Will this be a round trip trip? If so, driving by the most direct route (which wouldn't include many side trips to hot springs) would require about 8 days of driving more than 8 hours per day to complete. "Downtime" to do camping & backpacking is hard to predict, but probably you need to add another five days and then the time required to drive to the hot springs areas would certainly add 2-3 hours of drive-time on those days you go there. And this doesn't really include much time for finding places to kayak.

    So, at the minimum you are going to need at least 15 days for this trip. Do you have that much time? If you do, fantastic. What is your budget for this adventure? Once we know these parameters, we can offer some other tips.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA!

    Maine and Montana (the latter especially) are large states, but from Bangor to Glacier National Park is about 2800 miles. By that scope, you're looking at about 5-6 days of driving one way by the shortest route, no sightseeing stops included. If you're camping along the way, you definitely don't want to be on the road for more than 10 hours in the day -- maybe 500 miles max -- because you have the teardown/repack every morning, and the set up in the evening. That was the max mileage that our family wanted to do when we were camping, but most of the time, it was less than that. Bear in mind that tent camping spots aren't right next to interstate highways. Usually you'll have to go a few miles out of the way to get to a decent site, especially if you are looking for county and state campgrounds (generally the cheapest).

    I can't help you with the undeveloped hot springs up in that area. Most that I'm familiar with are developed. Did you check the Map Centre here? There are a few mentioned. You might also try, as they have mentions of some in their website...found it as I was reading in preparation for our own Montana trip coming up.

    Be aware that camping fills up quickly in some areas of Montana in July!


  4. #4

    Default Montana, kayak, and hot springs


    My initial thought, having driven from North Carolina to Montana several times, is that you may want to re-think your recreational plans while out there. You mention a "somewhat" time restriction, and your desire to find some remote undeveloped hot springs translates to spending some serious time hiking in and/or backpacking in to really remote sites, so I'm having difficulty imagining how much time you'll find to paddle. Besides, except for some really terrific lakes in the mountains, and a few really great pieces of whitewater, Montana isn't a paddler's paradise. Lastly, I'd be concerned about the extra strain on a 20 year-old car created by dragging what amounts to a billboard on top all the way across the country and back. But hey, maybe that's just me.

    In earnest regarding hot springs, Montana is not the Holy Grail. Idaho is. There are some 300 hot springs in Idaho, the great majority of them remote and undeveloped. The only Montana hot springs I've visited were developed, and I am not personally aware of enough in the way of undeveloped hot springs (meaning I know of some but have not visited them) to make a recommendation.

    That said, reasonably close to MT on the ID side is Gold Bug Hot Spring. It's around 18 miles south of Salmon, ID. A 1.5 mile hike gaining 1,600' of elevation on a public trail puts you in hot water bursting forth from the bank of a icy plunging mountain stream. YouTube is awash in Gold Bug videos. If there's a more scenic natural hot spring in the Lower 48, I'd love to see it. One thing Gold Bug is not is unused. I would not go on a weekend or even in the late afternoon. Instead, I'd arrive at the trailhead by around 7:00am and plan to be on the way down by 11:00am. That will avoid most others and will more importantly avoid the direct sunlight of the middle of the day, which will absolutely roast you if you let it. From late morning to sunset there is no shade at Gold Bug.

    West of Missoula, Lolo Hot Springs is a developed hot spring right on US 12 at the ID line, at Lolo Pass. Within 15-20 miles west, deeper into ID, are fairly short trails off of US 12 to Jerry Johnson and Weir Creek hot springs. Each is undeveloped but each are well known and well used.

    There are one or two very long (10+ miles) hike-ins not far from Yellowstone, southwest of Henry's Lake, ID, and a whole bunch of them in central Idaho, generally in the mountains between Stanley and Boise.

    The websites and have been instrumental in helping us find hot springs, right down to GPS coordinates and pics/videos/reviews.


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