Post Summary: Visiting Jerry Johnson Hot Springs In Central Idaho
Scattered along the river’s edge and tucked away in the trees, Jerry Johnson Hot Springs is a relaxing soak in the Clearwater National Forest in Central Idaho.
This collection of riverside and forest pools are like no other soak in Central Idaho, making it a must-add to your Idaho bucket list!
In this post, we’ll be covering:
- LEAVE NO TRACE Hot Springs Tips
- What To Pack
- Directions to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs
- Pool Descriptions
- Best Time To Visit Jerry Johnson
- Other nearby Hot Springs
We’re sharing everything you need to know about Jerry Johnson Hot Springs in this post. Stay for the steaming waterfalls, secluded pools, and incredible views!
LEAVE NO TRACE – Hot Springs Edition
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs is part of a delicate ecosystem, susceptible to human damage if not treated carefully.
Before heading out to ANY Idaho hot springs, please review our guide to etiquette at hot springs to ensure you leave the pools in the same condition you found them!
- Plan ahead and prepare: Check road conditions before your trip, especially in the winter months. Make sure to prepare for icy conditions, and pack the 10 hiking essentials.
- Travel on proper surfaces: Travel on designated trails to the pools, and watch where you step. Rocks can be slippery!
- Dispose of waste properly: Pack it in, pack it out. Carry out all trash (even if it’s not yours), and use the bathroom located in the parking lot.
- Leave Wildlife + Nature Undisturbed: Do not remove any rocks from the pool walls, and don’t throw rocks.
- Minimize Campfire Impacts: Fires are not allowed near these hot springs.
- Respect Wildlife: It is common to spot deer & squirrels in this area. Keep food in closed containers, and keep your distance if they approach.
- Be considerate of others: Everyone visits for their own reasons. Respect other’s experiences too, by keeping the noise down, sharing pools if possible, and letting others get a turn in pools.
What To Pack For An Idaho Hot Springs Trip
So, what should you bring to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs? Like many other pools, you can refer to our general hot springs packing list to find what you need. However, we’re sharing a few things to bring that are geared towards these specific pools, so keep reading for the full list!
Slip-On/Off Shoes: Jerry Johnson Hot Springs requires a short 1.3-mile trail (2.6 miles total) to reach the pools. Pack and wear shoes you can easily slip on and off for minimal fussing and maximum soaking. Grab yourself a pair of Teva Universal sandals to wear in and out of the water, or our reader-favorite Ember Mocs for easy outdoor slippers in the winter!
*Winter Tip* The trail is often snow packed, creating ice patches on steep slopes. Wear micro-spikes on your shoes (these ones by Yaktrax are pretty inexpensive) to keep yourself from slipping.
Water Bottle: Water is essential when soaking in hot springs! The temperature of the pools can potentially bring negative effects, so make sure to hydrate often.
Dry Bag: Here, there is a risk of your bag rolling off the side of the hill or getting wet, especially near the waterfall pools.
Accidents can happen at any time of the year, but the rocks are extra slippery and icy in the winter season. Pack a dry bag to stow away your important items like keys, cell phones, and cameras. You can also bring a big canvas tote to hold bulky items like towels and coats.
Snacks: Bring easy-to-eat snacks for hiking to keep up your energy before and after soaking. Remember to pack out all your trash, including orange peels and apple cores!
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs Directions
From Montana, drive south to and on the Lolo Highway 12 for 65 miles. From the city of Missoula, it will take you about 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach the trailhead parking lot. Here are the coordinates to Warm Springs Trailhead #49: 46.4657205,-114.8837071. The parking lot is between mile marker 152 and 153.
Do not rely on cell service in this area of Idaho. Make sure to download your map before you head out. To learn how to download Google Maps and get other navigation tools, download These 15 Essential Road Trip Planning Apps Before Your Next Adventure
Jerry Johnson Hot Spring Distances:
- Distance from Missoula, Montana: 65 miles, 1.5-hour drive
- Distance from Boise, Idaho: 297 miles, 6-hours 11 minutes
When Is The Best Time To Visit Jerry Johnson Hot Springs?
You might be wondering – when is Jerry Johnson Hot Springs open? What’s the best time to visit Jerry Johnson Hot Springs?
Personally, we think late summer and fall are the best times to visit Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. However, our last visit was in the deep winter season, and we had an incredible time! In the spring season, high river levels can temporarily submerge pools so wait until water levels go down to enjoy those ones.
It’s important to note that the pools are DAY USE ONLY, from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Because of its proximity to Missoula, Montana, this area has been heavily abused in the past by rowdy college students, leaving trash and clothing behind. To prevent future abuse and help restoration efforts, highway patrol has been known to write citations to people who are parked at the trailhead after hours.
Overnight camping is prohibited in the parking lot, so please follow the rules!
Our last visit was on a Wednesday morning (8-9 am) and we shared our pool with just one other group. However, as the morning went on, more people came and we passed MANY soakers on their way to the pools. The moral of the story – get there early!
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs is open year-round. The Lolo Highway remains open during the winter season, which makes this an easy to reach Idaho hot springs even in the cold months!
Take caution though – weather, storms, and snowpack can affect road safety, so it’s important to always check road conditions and the forecast before you head out. Click here to stay updated on the most current road conditions.
Planning a Winter Road Trip? Pack These 12 Essentials In Your Winter Car Emergency Kit
Getting To The Pools
To reach the pools, you’ll need to park your car at the Warm Springs Trailhead. The parking lot is a large pullout from the highway.
There is no day-use fee, but there is limited parking, so we suggest visiting early. (You can’t/don’t want to park on the highway – big trucks come flying down the road and it’s pretty scary.)
In the parking lot, there is one pit toilet. This is the only bathroom on-site, and we suggest you use it before your soak to keep the pools clean!
To begin the trail, cross the highway (look both ways!) and look for the wooden suspension bridge that extends across the Lochsa River. After crossing the pack bridge, turn right and follow the clear & wide trail to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs.
Once on the trail, the path is relatively flat, with just a few areas of incline. The trail is 1.3-miles which makes the entire trip a 2.6-mile total hike.
This is a fairly popular Idaho hot spring that receives a lot of foot traffic, so you can expect the trail to have packed snow in the winter. Come with traction on your shoes to keep you from slipping on the ice, especially during those inclines!
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs Pool Descriptions
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs has several pools, each varying in size, shape, and temperature.
Below, we’re breaking down the pools so you can decide which one is best for you! In general, each pool has rock walls, sandy bottoms, and clear-semi-clear water clarity.
The Cliffside Waterfall Pools
The Cliffside pools are the first collection of pools you will encounter. They tend to be the hottest as they are fed straight from the source, at 115 degrees. Be careful with these pools if visiting in the springtime. High river levels can temporarily submerge this collection, or cause cold river water to lower the temperature.
To access, walk carefully down a very steep, dirt trail to the pools below. It’s highly recommended to carry a dry bag with you here – between the rushing river and hot waterfalls, there are few dry spots to keep your items.
The Riverside Pools
The second set of pools you will encounter are along Warm Springs Creek. There is the main pool marked by a large boulder in the center and a collection of smaller, not-as-hot pools by the riverside. These pools are pretty shallow, but still great options if the other areas are full.
The Big Pool
The largest pool is the farthest one of the collection at Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. This pool can comfortably fit a large group of 10, and you’ll often see this one used the most. It’s the deepest and largest, and we also found the water to be very clear.
Sitting in the pool, you get a view of the beautiful meadow down the hill, and on a clear day, you can spot mountains in the distance. The water clarity is great, and one of the cleanest and deepest pools we’ve seen in Idaho.
Despite the many warnings of high use and garbage, we were happily surprised to find very little! Good job everyone!
Camping Near Jerry Johnson Hot Springs
*There is no overnight camping allowed near the springs or in the Warm Springs Trailhead parking lot.
If you want to camp around the area, there are several reservable campgrounds and primitive forest roads in the area. We like to use the mobile app The Dyrt to find camping nearby!
The Dyrt is the biggest campground finding app out there, and our go-to resource for finding campsites (reservable AND free spots) especially when hot springs hunting in Idaho. If you want to try it out yourself, click here for 10% off your pro subscription!
Not interested in camping but want to stay nearby? Check out the Lolo Hot Springs Lodge for another hot springs collection, and a ton of warm cabins to choose from! This is a fun wilderness getaway at the edge of the Clearwater National Forest!
What Else Is There To Do Around Jerry Johnson?
The hot springs may be the most well-known activity to do in the area, but there is still so much to do and see here. Here are some tips on visiting Idaho’s Lolo Pass Area to get the most out of your trip to this amazing high-mountain region!
Weir Creek Hot Springs – Weir Creek Hot Springs is very close to Jerry Johnson – just a 10-minute drive if you continue west on Highway 12. This is another great pool to check out, although it’s much smaller, with only three pools!
Glacier National Park – If visiting in the summertime, consider taking your adventure up north to Glacier National Park! There are several amazing hiking trails to explore, and tons of amazing views, especially on Going To The Sun Road.
Lookout Pass – Just a little farther in the Bitterroot Mountains is the Route of the Hiawatha Bike Trail. Book a fun day of exploring train trestles and bridges on your bike!