Swimming With Unicorns: Hike to Boiling River

The Boiling River
The Boiling River

Though my Auntie Ann visits Los Angeles regularly, I haven’t been to Montana since I stopped collecting Beanie Babies.  After my recent trip to Bozeman, I won’t be able to stay away for long!

The day after my journey to Lava Lake with cousin Matthew, we all drove to Yellowstone National Park for a dip in the Boiling River, where a stream of hydrothermal water flows into the Gardner River to form a pool of magical bathwater. 

It was snowing when we reached the trail head, but the hike to the swimming area was less than a mile.

Auntie Ann
My Auntie Ann

The biggest danger we encountered (literally) was a buffalo enjoying his afternoon snack next to the river.  We were less than 20 feet away, but he didn’t seem bothered.

That’s a buffalo.

Once we reached the swimming area, I took a deep breath and stripped down to my bathing suit.  As I entered the water, each step was an unpleasant surprise.  I felt like Goldilocks tiptoeing through a minefield: Too hot!  Too cold!  Too hot!  DAMN, THAT’S HOT!

No Skinny Dipping!
Magical Bathwater

Finally, the waters began to mix, and I settled into a pleasant pocket next to my Auntie Ann.  Her hair was laced with delicate snowflakes, and a smile illuminated her face.  This must be what it’s like to swim with unicorns.

Boiling River
Hot Spring Life

I wanted to stay here forever, but I had to get out eventually.  We endured the treacherous walk back through the minefield of hot and cold.  I put my clothes on so fast that I forgot to take off my bikini bottoms or put on a bra.  Thankfully the walk back to the heated car was very short.

That night, I sat in the hot tub with my cousins until my bones felt warm again.  After dinner, we melted sugar cubes into flaming shots of Krampampuli to warm our bellies.  There’s nothing better than adventures with family to warm your soul too.


Hike to the Boiling River Swim Area

  • Cost: Entrance fee to Yellowstone National park
  • Trail Distance: 1.25 miles round-trip
  • Fitness Level: Flat and easy
  • Source: For trail directions, click here.

Get Directions

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