Getting away sometimes feels like coming back to myself. Or at least that’s how it felt to visit Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort—a multifaceted mountain-dwelling paradise located in (you guessed it!) Paradise, Montana, just a stone’s throw away from Missoula.
I think we all long for some version of a getaway in January, whether it be from the gray wintry days or our humdrum routine. Whatever the reason, we burrow into the treasure chest of the internet and sigh at Caribbean blue waters, picturing ourselves surrounded by the warm waves if only for a moment. Luckily for me, Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort didn’t involve boarding a plane, sitting in traffic, or spending a fortune right after the holidays. It did, however, have aqua blue waters, which were the main reason for my stay. Rejuvenation is sometimes closer than we think and what it looks like doesn’t always fit the commercial picture.
Did you know that the temperature and the minerals of the geothermal pools at Quinn’s combine to produce natural healing for much of what ails us? I was intrigued, barefooted and towel-wrapped, as I read the informational board outside the pools. My senses took some convincing with the smell of sulfur in the steamy air, but I submerged into the blissful, silky waters and began letting go.
Long ago, when Quinn’s was first founded in 1885, miner’s used these cleansing and revitalizing waters to heal their bodies. We’re talking nearly 118 degrees or more. The legal limit in the state of Montana for public resorts is 106 degrees, which is the temperature of Quinn’s hottest pool. While I enjoyed the waters, I heard stories about the pile of crutches—the physical residue from those miners who first enjoyed the natural waters—and I could only imagine how the earth swallowed them up in darkness only to lick their wounds and breathe new life into their bodies afterward. This, I thought, was historic Montana—tales of the mountain and the true power of natural healing.
While it’s no surprise that we’d want to harness this extraordinary natural resource, maintaining and creating an authentic feel when it comes to the water was and still is a challenge. But no feat is too big for Quinn’s. It’s not lost on them that their pools, which are simple and healing yet lacking in natural aesthetic, are too small. Times change and people want a more authentic feel for their hot springs experience, without jeopardizing the healing benefits of the waters.
Denise Moreth, who is the General Manager and Events Director at Quinn’s, talks about Quinn’s the way one references a family photo album or a treasured friend. She’s lived all the memories—the building of the lodge, the Canyon Cabins, the Golden Eagle (family-style cabin), the infrastructure projects, the introduction of wifi—and even painted the pools that are in the process of being replaced. But Denise also has a story to share about her health.
“I was on two different medications for rheumatoid arthritis. One was methotrexate, which is a very damaging cancer drug, but it was for pain. I started using the pools and I got off all meds and never had to go back,” said Denise.
The new pools, scheduled to open this summer, are a stark contrast to what currently exists. Ben Slusser, Vice President of Quinn’s, set out last year on a journey to create this vision.
“We had this vision of really getting back to nature and to provide our guests with a feeling of truly escaping in a mountain hot springs,” said Ben. “But the problem was, we had no idea what we were doing or if it was even possible. Through a lot of banging on doors, I found Keven Hambright out of Missoula, and through the combined visions and his expertise, we are making the impossible happen. We could not be more excited!”
There will still be several “all natural” pools of varying sizes and the setting will be more natural.
“The hot springs are the heart of the resort,” Denise said. And it’s true. It seems that their whole staff is devoted to carrying out the healing process by way of dining, lodging, and luxurious details. Even their Project Manager Damian Albright is a long-time employee, having seen Quinn’s transform time and time again. The underground infrastructure is in his wheelhouse, which helps give lofty dreams real, functioning roots.
And that’s just the beginning of what’s going on behind the curtain at Quinn’s. In years past, Quinn’s was known for a hardy meat-and-potatoes menu. Travelers from near and far enjoyed a hot plate of loved but always familiar ingredients up until recent years when Micheal Garrison, Executive Chef at the Harwood House Restaurant at Quinn’s, started to make a name for himself as a young chef with a creative hand.
“Initially, I just wanted to do something that had not been done before,” said Micheal. “I started producing what I call ‘oddity’ where we use a lot of flavors that aren’t proven affinities.”
But Micheal didn’t get creative with food on purpose--not at first.
“I grew up pretty poor," said Micheal. "I’d go over to my mother’s house and there really wouldn’t be anything there, so I’d go through the freezer, the refrigerator, the cupboards—I cooked for my family a lot when I was younger—and I just mixed ingredients. I think through a lot of nasty dishes I learned how you should actually pair flavors,”
Naturally, Micheal gave Ben some anxiety over changing a pretty large facet of the resort. Luckily for Micheal, Quinn’s had a habit of running features on their menu every night. This gave Micheal a chance to test the waters with new pairings of flavors and gauge the guests’ responses to them.
“Instead of somebody coming to our restaurant and saying, ‘Good food,’ our goal is for them to mention a specific entree…to get them to name a dish tells us that they liked the dish enough to remember it by name,” said Micheal.
It’s clear that Micheal and his sous chef, Justin Pilkington, are creating new waves in regional dining. The menu is daring and adventurous without being reckless, which makes big changes seem easier to digest, literally. And in case you haven’t heard, Kevin Boles—the Food and Beverage Director and 20-year Quinn’s veteran—is the man behind the locally famous Wild Game Meatloaf. His father had the winning recipe that is still used today.
Wellness is the word for this trip, for every capacity. I am full in more ways than one and at the end of a long soak in each of the pools I am rejuvenated and at peace. There’s something about looking up at the stars and watching the steam dissipate into the dark, endless sky above. The jagged cliffs are backlit by the moon just above the river-side cabins and there’s the sound of a train pressing the tracks faintly in the distance. Paradise, indeed.
STAY: Whether you’re on a romantic getaway weekend with your special someone or just want to enjoy an adventure with the kids, there’s an accommodation fit for your needs. (Editor’s pick: Stay in a riverside cabin, wrap yourself in a white robe and never leave your porch swing, unless you’re dining at the Harwood House or going to the pools. Eat, sleep, repeat)
DINE: The Harwood House is rustic Montana with tasteful nods to artists that completely encompass the lifestyle of the West. Pick a fireside table and order the meatloaf on night one and on night two, venture outside the box! Chef Micheal is a downright genius in the kitchen. You’ll also want to enjoy a glass (or bottle!) of wine, since Wine Spectator gave Quinn’s wine list the Award of Excellence for 2019. And for those night owls or bar-loving guests—Quinn’s Tavern has all the right things that say welcome to Montana and stay for another.
SOAK: Don’t get bogged down by floating particles—it’s just silica! Your skin will thank you for it. Seriously, the pools are not to be missed. Sulfate, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and iron. All of these minerals come together to do natural wonderful things for your body like relieving symptoms of arthritis, normalizing heart rhythms, eliminating body toxins, and promoting healthy skin among so many others.
CELEBRATE: Wouldn’t you love to say that you were married in Paradise? The event space is dreamy, complete with tasteful decor and grandiose windows that embrace a natural cathedral of trees and mountainside. It’s the perfect place to say I do.
Quinn's Hot Springs Resort
190 Hwy 135
Paradise, Montana 59856