Post Summary: Boat Box Hot Springs In Idaho, What To Expect & How To Care For It!
A tiny metal tub sits alongside the Salmon River in Idaho…is it even real??
Yes, it’s real, and YES it’s tiny! Fitting precisely two people, it’s one of the smallest and most unique hot springs in Idaho.
Boat Box Hot Springs has a long history of serving the nearby town of Stanley, Idaho with a roadside escape, easing sore muscles after a rafting trip or a day of hiking in the Sawtooth Mountains.
In this post, we’re sharing how to get here, what to expect, and tips on how to conserve and maintain this piece of Idaho history for the next generation!
Experience Boat Box Hot Springs In Stanley, Idaho
Quick Facts About Boat Box Hot Springs:
- Nudity? NOT encouraged, as it literally sits off the side of the highway. Wear your swimsuit!
- Average water temperature: HOT. Some sources say up to 110 degrees.
- Pool Features: One singular metal tub.
- Exact coordinates: (scroll down to directions section)
What’s So Special About Boat Box Hot Springs?
The history of Boat Box Hot Springs is that is was built for the community, BY the community. Once called Elkhart Hot Springs, this tiny tub is a local favorite, receiving lots of foot traffic because of its novelty and proximity to town.
It got its name “Boat Box” from the old wooden box that once stood in place of the newer metal cauldron. It was a common spot for rafters to pull over and enjoy after a long day on the Salmon River, and to enjoy the scenery and gorgeous setting. After the untamable river swept away the old pool, it was replaced by the metal one today, secured by metal cables so visitors can enjoy it for years to come.
Need more hot springs inspiration? You will like these Pacific Northwest hot springs:
- Scenic Hot Springs in Washington
- Trail Creek Hot Springs near McCall, Idaho
- Goldbug Hot Springs near Salmon, Idaho
- Willow Creek and Hart Mountain in Eastern Oregon
What To Pack For A Boat Box Hot Springs Trip
Read our full hot springs packing list, or keep scrolling for Boat Box specific items to consider!
Swimsuit – Boat Box Hot Springs is located on the edge of Highway 75, so swimsuits are a must.
Quick Dry Towel – There are plenty of high-quality, fast-drying towels on the market right now, so there is no reason to pack in bulky ones that take up unnecessary space. Our favorites are from Nomadix (with their cool national park prints) and Slowtide for their stylish Turkish rowels.
Water Sandals – We own these classic Teva Hurricane sandals, and they have the perfect amount of grip, plus velcro straps for easy on-and-off action! Boat Box does not require a hike, but you can expect to walk over sharp and potentially slippery rocks getting in and out of the pool.
Gas For Your Car – Boat Box Hot Springs is located just 3.3 miles from the town of Stanley, Idaho. However, if this is just the first stop on your trip north on Highway 75, you’ll want to fill up with gas. It will be your only reliable gas stop for quite some time.
Water and Snacks – Make sure to have fresh water and snacks on hand. Boat Box has a tendency of being extremely hot and deep, so it’s really easy to overheat quickly in this pool. Listen to your body, and make sure to use the attached bucket to dump in fresh cold river water if needed.
Sun Protection – This location is completely exposed to the sun. If you are visiting Boat Box during the day, make sure to pack a wide-brimmed hat to protect yourself. Be cautious with sunscreen and bug spray, as these chemicals can spread into the water.
Route Directions – Boat Box Hot Springs isn’t well marked on Google Maps. Make sure you label the coordinates on an offline map so you can refer to them if you lose cell service. We use these road trip apps ALL THE TIME when finding Idaho hot springs!
Dry Bag – There are many reasons why a dry bag would be helpful when visiting Idaho hot springs. For Boat Box specifically, the tub is located alongside the river so if you want your items close, you’ll have to make sure they are protected from accidentally falling in near the rushing current. We got these brightly colored dry bags from Amazon, which come in several sizes!
Directions to Boat Box Hot Springs
Before we will give directions, we want to make it very clear that Boat Box Hot Springs is a sensitive area that requires users to treat it with respect and care. One instance of misuse can ruin this location for all future visitors, so here are some hot springs etiquette tips to consider before a visit to Boat Box Hot Springs:
- The tub itself is extremely small, with room for one (maybe 2) adults.
- Don’t add any soaps, shampoos, or other chemicals to the water. It could compromise the metal, and pollute the water (and the river!).
- The water gets extremely hot, so be cautious about getting in and out of the pool.
- The ‘parking lot’ is just a pullout from the highway. If it’s full, skip the visit and come another time. Absolutely do not park ON the road as trucks wind quickly around corners. An accident here can have deadly consequences.
- Pack your trash out and consider picking up any that have been left behind. This raises the standard of cleanliness for the next guests.
Coordinates to Boat Box Hot Springs: 44.2448647,-114.886138
Directions: From the ‘T’ intersection in Stanley, head north on Highway 75 for 3.3 miles. The cauldron will be on your left, along the river’s edge. Use the pullout to park.
Enjoying Boat Box Hot Springs
So what can you do to prepare yourself for the best possible visit to Boat Box Hot Springs? Below, we’re giving some general tips and advice on how to get the most out of your trip to this tiny tub.
Best Time to Visit Boat Box Hot Springs
For maximum enjoyment, we recommend coming very early in the morning, and on a weekday to have the best chance of getting the pool to yourself. Because it only fits two people, if there are already people there, you may have to wait nearby in your car until they are finished.
Also, if you’re looking for a long, quiet visit, this is NOT the pool for you! Try going to a spot like Bonneville Hot Springs or Goldbug Hot Springs if you want to stay for a long soak.
In regards to the best season for visiting Boat Box, we think that Boat Box Hot Springs is great to visit year-round. Heavy snowfall may make access a little more difficult, but Highway 75 is an important road for transportation, so it’s kept relatively clear.
In the spring and summer, the lush greenery makes for a gorgeous backdrop as you soak. In the fall and winter, frosty temperatures and snowfall make for an extra steamy soak!
Filling Up The Pool
Depending on the visitors prior to you, the pool may or may not be filled. In other Pacific Northwest hot springs (like Bagby Hot Springs) this is a hygienic practice that’s common. If you find that the pool is dirty upon your arrival, you can open the valve at the base of the pool to drain it.
If you find that the pool is empty upon your arrival, use the white PVC pipe to funnel water into the pool. We had to do this on our recent visit, and it took about 15-20 minutes for the pool to fill up all the way.
It also took a while for us to find the right positioning for the pipe, for water to flow freely through! Keep trying until you find the right angle, and use nearby rocks to keep it in place if you don’t want to hold it.
Cooling The Pool Down
The water sourced from above is extremely hot! If you need to cool down the water, use the attached plastic bucket to fill up river water and dump it into the pool to reach your desired water temperature.
Make sure to check the water temperature every bucket dump. The river water is much colder than you’d expect, and we made the mistake of filling it up with too many river buckets! Semi warm hot springs aren’t very fun to sit in (especially if it’s cold outside!) so check the temperature every time.
Soaking In Boat Box Hot Springs
Personally, this is one of our favorite hot springs in Idaho for its intimate nature! It can only fit 1-2 people comfortably, (3 if you want to squeeze!) so it feels like you get up close and personal with the people you come with.
It also is fairly deep when you sit down, so it feels like it covers almost your entire body. There are small ledges on the sides, so you can quickly pop out of the water and cool off if you need to!
Other Things To Do Near Stanley, Idaho (And More Hot Springs!)
Is Boat Box Hot Springs just one stop in your visit to Stanley, Idaho? Here are some other things to do near Stanley to elevate your experience!
Redfish Lake: Redfish Lake is a 15-minutes drive south of Stanley, Idaho. For a dreamy getaway, consider staying overnight at the Redfish Lake Lodge, spend some time out on the water, or stroll the many scenic trails around the base of the Sawtooth Mountains! Keep driving south about 1-hour longer to hit the resort town of Sun Valley for another relaxing option!
Mountain Village Resort: Stanley’s Mountain Village Resort is one of the few private hot springs in the area. For access, guests of the hotel can sign up for a private 1-hour session for free, or day users can pay a small fee to visit the pool. This is an iconic Idaho hot springs for its dreamy setting and GORGEOUS mountain views!
Hiking in the Sawtooth National Forest: If you love getting outside and exploring new places, the Sawtooth Mountains are for you! Take an overnight backpacking trip to the popular Alice Lake, or take some day trips to alpine lakes, wildflower-filled valleys, and much more.
Visiting other Idaho Hot Springs: Boat Box Hot Springs is just the beginning of many hot springs along Highway 75 alone. Keep driving north from Stanley to encounter Cove Creek Hot Springs, Sunbeam Hot Springs, Challis Hot Springs, Goldbug Hot Springs, and Jerry Johnson Springs. Going west? Don’t forget to stop by Bonneville Hot Springs, Kirkham Hot Springs, Pine Flats Hot Springs, or Rocky Canyon!
Rafting the Salmon River: Want a historic Idaho combo? Raft the Salmon River during the day and wind down in the hot springs for the perfect Sawtooth summer getaway combination!