Post Summary: Visiting Pine Flats Hot Springs In Idaho
Perched on the edge of the cliff alongside the Payette River, Pine Flats Hot Springs is a magical soak deep in the heart of Idaho! This series of cliffside 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:
- What To Bring
- Directions to Pine Flats Hot Springs
- Pool Descriptions
- Best Time To Visit Pine Flats
- Camping at Pine Flats Campground
- Other nearby hot springs
We’re sharing everything you need to know about Pine Flats Hot Springs in this post. Stay for the steaming waterfalls, secluded pools, and incredible views!
What To Pack For An Idaho Hot Springs Trip
Slip-On/Off Shoes: Pine Flats Hot Springs is located on the side of a steep river canyon. Access to the pools also requires a 10-minute walk from the parking lot, so slip-on shoes are essential. 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!
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. 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 to keep up your energy when soaking. Remember to pack out all your trash, including orange peels and apple cores!
Pine Flats Hot Springs Directions
The easiest way to reach Pine Flats Hot Springs is from Garden Valley, Idaho. Here, there are plenty of cabins to rent for a fun week exploring Idaho hot springs!
From Garden Valley, drive east on the Banks-Lowman Highway for 18 miles. Turn right into the Pine Flats Campground, and park at the day-use area at the front of the entrance.
From Boise, Idaho, drive north from town on Highway 55 for 35 miles. Watch out for the junction to the Banks-Lowman Highway (towards Garden Valley) and then follow the directions above.
Do not rely on cell service in this area of Idaho. Make sure to download your map before you head out.
Want to get more navigation tools for your road trip? Download These 15 Essential Road Trip Planning Apps Before Your Next Adventure
Pine Flats Hot Spring Distances:
- Distance from Boise, Idaho: 69 miles, 1.5-hour drive
- Distance from Garden Valley, Idaho: 23 miles, half-hour drive
When Is The Best Time To Visit Pine Flats Hot Springs?
You might be wondering –when is Pine Flats Hot Springs open? What’s the best time to visit Pine Flats Hot Springs?
Personally, we think late summer and fall are the best times to visit Pine Flats Hot Springs.
Try to avoid spring, because high river levels can cut off access to the main hot springs (the one with the waterfall). Therefore, it’s best to visit when the river is not high from spring snow runoff.
Our last visit was in the summer and soakers lingered quite a long time, which was frustrating with a limited amount of pools. Increase your chances of getting an open pool by coming early, during the weekdays, or during the off-season.
Pine Flats Hot Springs is open year-round. The Banks-Lowman Highway remains open for the Garden Valley and Lowman communities, which makes this an accessible Idaho hot springs even in the winter.
However, it’s important to note that the gate to the campground closes from September to May. Between then, you’ll have to carefully pull your car off the road by the closed gate and walk a quarter-mile in the snow, so prepare for a cold hike!
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
Sustainability Reminder – LEAVE NO TRACE!
Pine Flats 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 the Leave No Trace principles and our guide to etiquette at hot springs to ensure you leave the canyon in the same condition you found it!
- Plan ahead and prepare: Check road conditions before your trip, especially in the winter months. Make sure to prepare for wet 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 bathrooms 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 the hot springs. Light fires in a designated fire ring only, at Pine Flats Campground.
- Respect Wildlife: It is common to spot deer 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.
Getting To The Pools
To reach the pools, you’ll need to park your car at the day-use area in the Pine Flats Campground. The day-use fee is $5.00 cash, so come prepared with that.
From the parking lot, there will be plenty of signs on the left side saying “Hot Springs”, guiding you down a clear path.
Once one the trail, the path is relatively flat until you reach the pools. The trail is between a quarter and half a mile long, depending on how far you explore the cliffside for your desired pools.
Pine Flats Hot Springs Pool Descriptions
Pine Flats 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.
The Cliffside Pools
The cliffside pools are a collection of natural, geothermal pools of varying sizes and temperatures.
Some have been walled with boulders and lined with tarps at the bottom. These are a great option for small children, for their accessibility and stable temperatures.
The hottest pools can be found near the top of the cliff (the source being 127 degrees), with a gradual decrease in temperature as you get closer to the river. There are pools right on the river’s edge, which are lukewarm at best. These may heat up in the late summer or early fall as the river levels get lower. However, in the springtime, they were nearly washed out!
Spend some time climbing (carefully) around to the several pools to find one that fits your requirements. Pine Flats Hot Springs can handle a lot of visitors, so even if it is busy, it won’t feel like that once you find your own pool!
The Waterfall Pool
The waterfall pool is the main attraction at Pine Flats Hot Springs. Here, you can expect a tall, warm waterfall cascading into a natural geothermal pool below. The pool is rock-walled and can hold quite a few people – making it the most popular pool. The hot waterfall keeps a fresh cycle of water, and the pool sits around 107 degrees.
This particular pool is located on the far west side of the collection, the farthest distance from the trailhead. Pass the first series of pools, hiking along the river’s edge, and climb up and around the rocks to reach the waterfall pool. This is a particularly sketchy area with loose rock, so shoes are recommended here.
Note: We don’t have photos of the waterfall pool, due to the path being cut off from high springtime river levels. However, there is a smaller more accessible waterfall pool, which is pictured below.
This one is alright, but it was a bit too lukewarm for the cold summer morning we came. We suggest soaking in this pool during sunset, or after a hot summer day!
Camping at Pine Flats Hot Springs Campground
The most convenient and easy way to enjoy Pine Flats Hot Springs is by staying nearby – at Pine Flats Campground!
This is THE most convenient way to enjoy the pools. Campground guests get unlimited access to the pools, and best of all, you can visit during sunrise and sunset.
The best time to plan a camping trip here is between summer and fall, ideally between July and September to get the best weather.
Pine Flats Campground takes reservations, and it fills up well in advance. We suggest going online here to book a spot. If you are curious to see more images and reviews of the campground, we recommend checking out the Pine Flats profile on The Dyrt.
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!
What Else Is There To Do Around Pine Flats?
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 Central Idaho to get the most out of your trip to this amazing high-mountain region!
Stay Overnight at Garden Valley, ID – Garden Valley is the perfect home-base for hot spring hunting around Idaho. Browse the giant selection of mountain cabins here on Airbnb!
Rocky Canyon Hot Springs – Rocky Canyon Hot Springs is another Idaho hot spring located on the river’s edge! This one requires a river crossing, so it’s best visited in the late summer and fall.
Bonneville Hot Springs – Bonneville Hot Springs is another pool/campground combo as well, perfect for big groups and families. With a short trail to HOT pools, this is a fun place to explore! You can also visit the wooden bathhouse, with an actual tub inside!
Kirkham Hot Springs – Kirkham Hot Springs is one of the most well known hot springs in Idaho. Come for incredible views and to make new friends – this place is almost always busy!