Post Summary: Incredible Idaho hot springs and what to expect at each one.
To us, Idaho feels like the last frontier.
There are so many places to explore, and every time Berty and I visit we’re blown away by the sheer beauty of this state.
One feature we especially love is the vast amount of Idaho hot springs.
There are literally hundreds of backcountry soaks in the state! Berty and I have made it a point to check out at least a few every time we are in the area.
In this post, we’re sharing the ones on our radar to encourage you to experience them yourself, and to seek out the hidden ones, too!
Planning a bigger Idaho road trip? Read these posts for more travel tips and inspiration!
- The Ultimate 7-Day North Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
- 10 Magical Weekend Getaways From Boise, Idaho
- Stay Overnight In A Fire Lookout (Crystal Peak Lookout)
- Backcountry Yurt Camping In The Boise National Forest
Idaho Hot Springs Etiquette
In all of our hot springs posts, we like to share common courtesies and mutual responsibilities for all soakers who wish to partake.
Please keep these hot springs etiquette tips in mind as your help will allow these places to be enjoyed for years to come!
1. Keep Them Clean.
Natural springs and connecting waterways cannot support soap/shampoo (even the biodegradable kind).
Don’t treat it as your bathtub! Nothing should be added to the water except yourselves.
2. Pack It In And Pack It Out.
We’ve encountered PNW hot springs where beer cans were littered everywhere and the water was filthy.
Keep it clean for yourself and for other visitors by packing out all your trash. You can even bring an extra trash bag to help out others who have left their waste behind. Read our full hot springs packing list for sustainable and useful items for a great soak.
3. Leave It Better Than You Found It.
Some places have been cut off from access because of public misuse.
Help it continue to be enjoyed for years to come by being respectful of any boundaries, structures or waterways in place.
4. Clothing May Be Optional.
Depending on the location, you may encounter soakers in the nude.
You will more than likely see this if you are heading to hard-to-reach hot springs. Learn to be okay with it!
5. Be Respectful Of Other Visitors.
Everyone comes for their own reasons. Be respectful of people who wish for a silent soak.
6. Be Aware of Hot Spring Capacity
Some locations can only fit so many people (some as little as one soaker!) Doing a little research beforehand about the size, capacity, and popular times can help you determine the best dates for your visit.
Facts About Idaho Hot Springs
- There are more than 130 soakable hot springs in Idaho. Even more that are too hot for humans to enjoy!
- The geothermal activity is thanks to the Idaho Batholith! This is an area where geological activity pushes molten rock closer to the earth’s surface.
- Minerals found in hot springs can include boron, calcium, sodium, sulfate, lithium, potassium, fluoride, chloride, magnesium, manganese, iron, zinc, phosphate, silica, and nitrogen.
- There are many health benefits to soaking in hot springs.
The Best Idaho Hot Springs You Need To Experience (And Exactly Where To Find Them)
1. Kirkham Hot Springs
Of all the Idaho hot springs, Kirkham Hot Springs one is arguably the most well-known in the state.
It’s an insanely beautiful, multi-tiered hot springs along the side of the Payette River.
Despite the number of cars we saw in the parking lot, (there were at least 10 other people there) we were able to find our own pool and have our own quiet experience!
The cascading waterfalls, crystal clear pools next to the river, and steaming hillside were some of the many beautiful features you can expect here.
*There is a $5.00 fee to park your car for day use, so bring cash!
Note: Kirkham Campground is permanently closed and it’s day-use only! However, The new Free Camping Collection from Dyrt PRO is our favorite way to find free camping nearby these hot springs.
This year, The Dyrt launched their Free Camping Collection of 5000 drive-in accessible locations that include free campgrounds and free dispersed sites. Plus, the Free Camping Collection shows you boundaries of free dispersed camping areas on a map and tells you when a camping permit is required (and if so how to get one).
Try the PRO Free Camping Collection for free, no strings attached — use our code “mandagies” to get 30 days free.
2. Boat Box Hot Springs
The tub can fit 3 soakers, but any more than that and you are in for a tight squeeze.
This place is perfect for visiting on a cold day because the steam will rise beautifully off the river, and the sound of the flowing river will give it an extra-relaxing feel.
There are several other Idaho hot springs in the general area, so we suggesting renting a place in Stanley for an overnight stay. Here are some Airbnb suggestions:
**This location is run and maintained by locals and is extremely small.
Take extra care when visiting Boat Box and be courteous of the capacity it may hold. Because of its size, even the smallest bit of damage or misuse can have a big impact on the space.
Planning your visit during an unpopular time can give you a better chance of enjoying this tiny Idaho hot spring!
3. Hot Spring at Mountain Village Resort
Owned by the Mountain Village Resort in Stanley, Idaho, you can access this Idaho hot springs by staying at the resort or paying for use by the hour.
This one is unique because of the swinging barn doors that face directly towards the incredible Sawtooth Mountains.
You can experience a serene mountain soak with one of the most spectacular views in the state!
Stanley, Idaho can get REALLY cold in the winter, so prepare for sub-zero temperatures if you are planning to visit between November and March.
We came in March and noticed that our hair would freeze as soon as it emerged from the water – you can see it here on our vlog!
Want a Unique Place To Stay Around Here? Try Backcountry Yurt Camping!
4. Trail Creek Hot Springs
- Day Use Fee: None
- Nudity? Yes, but heavy foot traffic. Bring a suit just in case.
- Hike Required? No, but a steep & short 1-min walk to the pools.
- Average Pool Temps: 100-110 degrees (125 at the source)
- Stay nearby in Cascade, Idaho: Like at this adorable A-frame on Airbnb
Many Idaho hot springs in a backcountry setting require a long hike or backpacking trip to reach (kudos to you soakers who are that dedicated!).
To our delight, we discovered that Trail Creek Hot Springs had the impression of being deep in the forest, AND had the convenience of a short walk. It’s the best of both worlds!
Situated next to Trail Creek, this hot spring was built up by past soakers to fill several pools with steaming hot water.
Someone also created a spigot and plug to channel cold river water into the basin to regulate the water to any temperature you desire. Similar to the Boiling River in Yellowstone, you can go between the hot spring water and the chilly river water for your own version of a polar bear plunge!
The water was refreshingly clean and clear, and we spent several hours here enjoying each other’s company and meeting others as well.
5. Gold Fork Hot Springs
If a spa-style soak is more your preference, Gold Fork is an Idaho hot springs you must visit.
Gold Fork Hot Springs has several pools of varying temperature ranging from boiling hot (commonly referred to as the lobster pot) to some manageable for all ages.
The water is naturally sourced while being channeled into beautifully constructed pools for a clean and comfortable experience.
Here, you have the convenience of changing rooms, towels to rent, snacks to buy, and even tables and lounge chairs. You are able to bring your own food, so pack a picnic and stay for the afternoon!
*This Idaho hot springs take cash only, so leave your cards at home! The current rate as of March 2018 is $10 per adult.
6. Burgdorf Hot Springs
This rustic hot spring experience is definitely one to add to your bucket list!
Burgdorf Hot Springs is a year-round destination, but only accessible by snowmobile 6 months out of the year – which makes it more appealing, in our opinion. You can rent a snowmobile from Cheap Thrills in McCall, Idaho. Plan for a 30-mile ride to the hot springs!
This place is open for day-use guests as well as one who would like to stay in their rustic-style cabins.
Cabins are $40 per person per night, and they require a $10/ night firewood fee in the winter months (trust us, you’ll want that firewood to keep warm!).
Burgdorf’s cabins are a full-on camp-style stay, which means you bring your own food, sleeping gear, and lighting. Their rustic cabins have no electricity, no running water, and no plumbing!
The best time (in our opinion) to visit is when you can make a weekend out of it. Better yet, make it your winter road trip destination during those colder months of the year for fewer crowds!
Bring your friends, plenty of food and water, and bring sleeping gear to keep you warm for the winter chill (they only provide simple mattresses).
7. The Springs Mountain Resort – Idaho City
The Springs in Idaho City is a luxurious hot springs location just an hour north of Boise, Idaho.
Here, you can choose between a large communal soaking area (where you can order food and drinks poolside!!), a large hot tub, toasty sauna, and several private pools.
The admission is affordable ($20 per adult), but reservations are required to keep the capacity at an enjoyable level for all guests. Call ahead to reserve a date, and prepare for an entire day of rest and relaxation.
Private pools require an additional reservation and can be enjoyed by the hour. We highly recommend this, as the ambiance and scenery here provide an elevated hot springs experience!
8. Pine Flats Hot Springs
Pine Flats Hot Springs is located right off the Banks-Lowman Highway, nearby to other iconic Idaho hot springs like Kirkham and Rocky Canyon.
For an easier, slower trip – stay nearby in Garden Valley (at this adorable self-contained cabin!)
The pools at Pine Flats are situated on the side of the cliff, with the highway up above, and the Payette River below. There are several pools to choose from, varying degrees and sizes. We noticed that the hotter pools were sourced from above, and the cooler pools were closer to the river’s edge.
One of the most iconic pools is located on the western edge of the grouping – a larger pair of pools with an Idaho hot spring waterfall sourcing the pool. It’s quite a magical sight! To get here, you need to cross through the river, so it may be difficult to access in the early season when the river levels are high.
Parking is available at Pine Flats Campground, with a $5 fee to use the site for the day. If you have a campground reservation, you are free to visit the hot springs anytime you’d like. (We did that and visited 3 separate times!)
9. Goldbug Hot Springs
If you’re willing to go the extra mile (or a few) for epic views, Goldbug Hot Springs are the pools for you! Located near Salmon, Idaho, Goldbug is a pretty long detour from major towns (about a 2-3-hour drive from either Stanely, ID or Missoula, MT) but the experience makes it all worthwhile!
These Idaho hot springs sit atop mountains around the Salmon-Challis National Forest, but actually sits on BLM land. Camping sites are FREE and available along the 2-mile route, but make sure to stay at least 500 feet from the pools!
These hot springs are unique for their multi-levels, waterfalls, and several prime soaking spots with unobstructed views of the valley below. If you’re coming in the summer, bring sun protection like a hat, because there is little shade! If visiting in the winter, bring and wear microspikes, because the path to the pools can be steep and slippery.
10. Rocky Canyon Hot Springs
Rocky Canyon Hot Springs is a series of natural pools on a hillside near Garden Valley, Idaho. Getting here is fairly easy, but quite a long detour that is not close to any other hot springs. From Garden Valley, drive north from the small town about 15 miles on a dirt road and look for this unmarked pullout to park your car.
From here, you’ll need to attempt a river crossing at the Middle Fork Payette, which is why we only recommend visiting Rocky Canyon hot spring between June – September. Any other time of year, the water may be too high or cold for a safe crossing!
Once across the Middle Fork Payette River, you can enjoy the series of cascading pools, which get warmer and warmer as you climb up the hillside!
11. Sunbeam Hot Springs
Sunbeam Hot Springs is located near Stanley, Idaho right off of Highway 75. Here, you can find a series of small pools along Salmon River, and a square tub nestled along the river’s edge.
This used to be sort of a homestead and bathhouse, with historic buildings and interpretive signs around the property. You can pop into the bathhouse, but there isn’t anything to do inside. To access the hot springs, walk on either side of the building to access the river.
One side includes the pools right along the river, that are fed through a pipe from the hillside. These can be temperamental in temperature, so plan to spend some time finding the right pool that fits what you want. Alternatively, you could walk to the other side and find the plastic blue box! It stays relatively the same temperature.
12. Bonneville Hot Springs
Bonneville is a lesser-known hot spring in Idaho, about a 2.5-hour drive from Boise, Idaho. Connected to a nearby campground, this is a really fun spot for groups, because you can reserve a campsite nearby and then take the short walk to the springs during the day.
Here, you will find that the source of the pools come from the hillside, and then runs off into Warm Springs Creek below. Be warned though – these springs are SUPER. DUPER. HOT. The only pools that are close to beginning enjoyed are near the creek.
This Idaho hot spring would be a great option for late fall or early spring. We would even consider visiting here during the winter season because the water might cool down a bit for you to enjoy more pools!
Be prepared for rough winter conditions though – this area is known for harsh storms, and the dirt road to the springs isn’t well maintained either.
13. Cove Creek Hot Springs
Cove Creek Hot Springs is one singular pool, located on the edge of the Salmon River. It has a designated parking lot with a pit toilet bathroom and a signboard with information about camping and fishing. This hot spring has very easy access from the highway, and it’s just a 10-minute drive from Stanley, ID.
The single pool has a silty bottom that makes the water murky if you moved around too much. We also came in June when the water levels were pretty high, so the col river water was mixing into the pools quite a bit.
We think this hot spring is best used around the autumn and winter holidays – basically anytime where the water levels aren’t super high. We noticed that the pool was more lukewarm than we would have liked, so we suggest visiting when water levels are lower, between September and December (weather permitting.
14. Jerry Johnson Hot Springs
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs is located next to Lolo Pass, which is in the Northeast corner of the state, on the southern end of the Panhandle. It’s actually much easier to get to Jerry Johnson from Missoula, Montana than from anywhere else in Idaho!
These Idaho hot springs require a 2.6-mile walk on a flat, easy trail. In the winter, the snowpack can make the trail icy, so wear micro-spikes to help avoid slipping and falling.
There are three sections of pools: the cliffside collection, the riverside collection, and the “big pool.” Each come with their own unique traits, depths, and temperatures, and we suggest testing them out to find which one you like best.
More Idaho Hot Springs…
There are more hot springs than we can keep track of in Idaho! From backcountry soaks to beautiful commercial spas, there’s a hot springs in Idaho for everyone.
On future trips to experience more Idaho hot springs, here is what’s next on our list:
Idaho Hot Springs (Stewardship and Responsibility)
Before we finish, we’re going to share an excerpt from our Pacific Northwest Hot Springs post that we think is very important to address:
Talking about hot springs on the internet seems to be a controversial topic.
Lots of soakers don’t like locations being shared, naturally for fear of their favorite places being ruined by reckless visitors.
Berty and I believe that blog post or no blog post, these places will be discovered and visited by many people as social media and sharing is a part of today’s culture.
Our blog is dedicated to sharing beautiful places in the Pacific Northwest and beyond, and with that comes a responsibility to educate readers and share expectations of how we can enjoy these places respectfully.
We’re here to be a voice and an example of how to properly treat locations so that people can enjoy them for generations.
If people are going to find out about them eventually, we would rather there be good information about proper practices and etiquette readily available.
Have you visited any of these Idaho hot springs? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!
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