Native Americans knew the benefits of these healing waters for thousands of years

By Eileen Ogintz

Native Americans have known the benefits of mineral hot springs for thousands of years. They named this area of Wyoming — the tiny town of Saratoga now — the “place of magic waters.” 

Centuries later, hobos crossing the country during the Great Depression would stop to soak their aching feet and clean up. Thus the name Hobo Hot Springs. Today, these pools are free and open 24 hours a day with the Saratoga Hot Pool water temperature ranging from 101 to 110 degrees.

Saratoga Hot Springs in Wyoming
Saratoga Hot Springs in Wyoming

“We go and soak and then jump in the freezing (North Platte) river and keep doing that,” said Sean Hightower, working as a wrangler at the nearby Medicine Bow Lodge & Adventure Guest Ranch.

Saratoga Hot Springs Resort, just 50 rooms, first opened some 145 years ago as a log store and today is considered the state’s premier mineral hot springs. “I think it is one of the best hot springs destinations,” said one visitor from Denver, who has visited many in Colorado and elsewhere.

The rooms surround a big lawn and the 70-fot hot springs pool, plus and individual teepee-covered pools, each one a bit hotter than the next.  There is a spa and fitness center. And though the hotel is strict about its 3 pm check -in, we were able to change in the fitness center and relax in the pools and snooze in the loungers. 

Hobo Hot Springs is free to the public in Saratoga WY
Hobo Hot Springs is free to the public in Saratoga WY

Before white settlers moved here in the late 19th Century, the land around the natural hot springs was neutral ground between Native American tribes who frequented this area for the healing waters. The log building was the first post office, community center, saloon, gambling hall and bar. Explorers, trappers, fur traders and settlers came here for a hot bath. The hotel was built in 1884 and attracted military officers from nearby Fort Steele, local ranch, and sportsmen from the East Coast for its healing waters.

After the hotel burned down in the early years of the 20th Century, the state of Wyoming purchased the site and established the Saratoga Hot Springs State Reserve. Travelers paid 50 cents for a dip. The hotel was rebuilt in1950. In 2008, it was bought by International Resort Properties and transitioned into a four season Wyoming Resort.

Today people come here to ride horses, hike, flyfish, tube and kayak on the North Platte River, and snowmobile in winter (guided tours are available from Wyoming Outdoor Adventures).

They also come to sample craft bears at the Snowy Mountain Brewery at the hotel.  Incidentally, the brewery is named from the Snowy Mountain Range in this area. There are an assortment of brewery beers on tap—everything from Altitude Apricot brewed with apricot puree, to chocolate meltdown java porter — infused with coffee, chocolate, and tobacco notes to coconut stout. There is also pale ale, lager, and more.

Saturday night pizza and craft beer special at Snowy Mountain Brewery  at Saratoga Hot Springs in Wyoming
Saturday night pizza and craft beer special at Snowy Mountain Brewery at Saratoga Hot Springs in Wyoming

We opted for a Friday night special—a pizza ($29) with a pitcher or lager ($10). There are burgers, salads, steaks, BBQ ribs and more.  While we were here, a surprise 60th birthday party was going on in the Biergarten while nearby families were playing outdoor games. There’s a pool table inside and TVs turned to the latest sports events.

Saratoga may be tiny (just 2500 people) but it’s a fun stop on a road trip with a great Italian restaurant, Bella’s Bistro, popular Saratoga Sandwich Company, historic Wolf Lodge hotel with just 10 rooms and a steak house. There are also vintage stores (my husband Andy scored a nice western shirt for $15), and western jewelry and gear stores that can sell you all you need for fishing and other outdoor adventures.

Time for one more “dip” in the hot springs pool before we have to leave.