You’ve probably come to this post because you are a fan of Idaho hot springs. (We are too!)
You’ve also probably come here because you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path pool that’s a little more remote! We know some popular hot springs in Idaho can get busy, so we wanted to give adventure lovers like you somewhere to check out that’s a little harder to reach and less crowded than most.
That’s where Rocky Canyon Hot Springs comes in! This beautiful soaking spot alongside the Middle Fork Payette River is an adventure in itself, with a long drive, river crossings, and climbing to reach its tiered pools.
In this post, we’re sharing how to get to Rocky Canyon Hot Springs, what to expect, and tips on how to safely enjoy these pools for an epic soak.
Experience Rocky Canyon Hot Springs near Garden Valley, Idaho
Quick Facts About Rocky Canyon Hot Springs:
- Nudity? Possibly. These remote pools have enough solitude for nudity.
- Average water temperature: Pools vary in temperature, with the hottest pools at the top.
- Pool Features: Tiered pool that are located on a hillside.
- Exact coordinates: (scroll down to directions section)
- Dogs allowed? Not encouraged. The river crossing can be quite dangerous.
- Clarity: Average. Lots of silt at the bottom of pools.
- Fees: None
What’s So Special About Rocky Canyon Hot Springs?
Rocky Canyon Hot Springs is located on the Middle Fork Payette River in the Boise National Forest. What makes it special? Soakers must forge the river to access the pools, making this quite an adventure to take on.
It’s got quite the dramatic history too. In its prime, Rocky Canyon Hot Springs had 10 tiers of natural pools, and it was a popular place for locals to drink, soak nude, and have a good time.
City officials didn’t approve of the “funny business” happening at the pools, so in June 2009 they came in with sledgehammers in tow and smashed the pools to bits. It was a huge deal to the locals, and a few pools have been restored by locals, but definitely not to their former glory. You can see some cement remnants of the old pools if you look close enough!
Knowing the care and effort locals have put into restoring Rocky Canyon, It’s important to follow proper hot spring etiquette. This was, you can respect the historic significance of these places and keep them clean for other.
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 Rocky Canyon Hot Springs Trip
Read our full hot springs packing list, or keep scrolling for Rocky Canyon-specific items to consider!
Swimsuit (or not) – Rocky Canyon Hot Springs is located quite a ways north of Garden Valley off S Middle Fork Road (NF-698). Therefore, it’s likely you’ll encounter nude bathers, so come prepared for that!
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 – Water shoes are an absolute must here, especially for the river crossing. We own these classic Teva Hurricane sandals, and they have the perfect amount of grip. You can also expect to wear them in the pools, and use them for climbing over rocks and up to the pools on the hillside.
Gas For Your Car – Rocky Canyon Hot Springs is a 30-minute drive from Garden Valley, Idaho. Garden Valley has gas, but it’s good to fill up your tank before you leave. This is especially true if you are using gas to power up a generator or warm up when camping near Rocky Canyon Hot Springs.
Water and Snacks – Make sure to have fresh water and snacks on hand. Yes, there is a river right there, but it can contain some bacteria that isn’t good for human consumption. Pack snacks too, because the river crossing can take quite a bit of energy.
Sun Protection – This location is completely exposed to the sun. If you are visiting Rocky Canyon Hot Springs 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 river below.
Route Directions – Rocky Canyon Hot Springs is reliably recorded on Google Maps (unlike lots of other hidden Idaho hot springs). Regardless, 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 – Dry bags are ESSENTIAL for these hot springs, because the river crossing can get quite deep in some places. Protect your gear in dry bags to keep water out. We got these brightly colored dry bags from Amazon, which come in several sizes!
Hot Springs Etiquette
Before we will give directions, we want to make it very clear that Rocky Canyon 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 Rocky Canyon Hot Springs:
1. The pools and tubs are carefully built up with boulder and rock walls, so don’t move any rocks around.
2. Don’t add any soaps, shampoos, or other chemicals to the water. It could and pollute the water and the river.
3. The water can get extremely hot, so be cautious about getting in and out of the pool, especially the top ones.
4. The river crossing can be extremely dangerous during high river levels. If you are nervous about crossing, just don’t go. Plan another visit when the river levels are lower, which is usually late summer and early fall.
5. 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 Rocky Canyon Hot Springs: 44.1723328,-115.9733902
Directions: Here are the distances from popular Idaho towns nearby:
- Distance from Boise to Rocky Canyon Hot Springs: 63 miles – 1.5-hour drive
- Distance from McCall to Rocky Canyon Hot Springs: 88 miles, 2-hour drive
- Distance from Stanley to Rocky Canyon Hot Springs: 96 miles, 2-hour 10-minute drive
Directions to Rocky Canyon Hot Springs
Regardless of your starting point, you’ll reach the town of Garden Valley/Crouch before you reach Rocky Canyon Hot Springs. This is your last stop for things like gas, food, and water. From town, continue on S Middle Fork Road for 15 miles. The road starts out paved but quickly turns to dirt once you leave town.
Drive 15 miles up the road and keep your eye out for a wide pullout on the left side of the road, near the river. This is your parking spot! Getting out of the car, you can see the hot springs across the river. There are no fees to visit Rocky Canyon Hot Springs.
It’s important to note that S Middle Fork Road is the busiest forest road in the state of Idaho! Expect LOTS of traffic back and forth, which cars, RVs, and ORVs kicking up dirt and dust constantly.
Enjoying Rocky Canyon Hot Springs
So what can you do to prepare yourself for the best possible visit to Rocky Canyon Hot Springs?
Below, we’re giving some general tips and advice on how to get the most out of your trip to this riverside soak. This includes safety tips to keep you safe during the river crossing!
Best Time to Visit Rocky Canyon Hot Springs
For maximum enjoyment, we recommend coming when river levels are low. Optimal soaking months are typically during late summer and early fall when spring runoff has dried up.
Access is nearly impossible in the winter months. The access road is not plowed or maintained when it snows, making it more difficult to reach. Most alarming though would be the freezing temperatures of the river. (Which would swiftly send you to the hospital).
No matter what time of year you visit, it’s essential you tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back because the river is unpredictable. Don’t plan to have cell service here – instead pack in a satellite communicator, like a Garmin inReach mini to get a hold of someone in an emergency.
This is a great place for long and quiet soaks – most people coming out here are dedicated to the journey. You’ll find lots of like-minded individuals who value solitude and relaxation!
Camping Near Rocky Canyon Hot Springs
There are plenty of spots to camp near Rocky Canyon Hot Springs. (But if camping is not your jam, you can keep going down the road to Silver Creek Plunge Resort, or back to Crouch for plenty of Airbnbs/Hotels)
Along the way, you’ll encounter many camping spots right off the road, which are part of the Boise National Forest. While there are a lot, this is the busiest forest road in Idaho, meaning on any given summer weekend, the spots will be full! Come mid-week or early on a Friday to secure a spot.
Some are for reservation but most are free to use. To find out which are which, we like to use an app called The Dyrt, which is a campground finding tool. It’s an excellent source for finding free camping in Idaho.
(We have a code to try The Dyrt Pro FREE for 90 days! Click here and use the code mandagies90 to redeem it!)
Rocky Canyon Hot Springs Pool Descriptions + River Crossing
So, what kind of pools can you expect at Rocky Hot Springs?
Below, we’re sharing images and descriptions of the pools and their defining features.
Just remember, the pools can look vastly different depending on what season you visit. The river levels can affect pools, weather can change their temperature, and misuse can cause major change (unfortunately).
For reference, these images were taken in June, when river levels are high and the sun is bright.
In order to reach the pools, you’ll have to cross the river. Remember, the water is freezing cold.
To do this, make sure you’ve got your belongings secured to your body, ideally in a dry bag. Walk down the short trail from the dirt parking lot to reach the bank of the river.
Keep your eye out for a rope that goes across the river. Someone put it there a while ago, and we used it to keep our balance. It’s best to cross in pairs to keep optimal balance and stability.
The middle is the deepest part, a little higher than waist-deep in June. The river flow was pretty powerful and a little scary, so make sure you’ve got good footing and a good grip on that rope!
Once across the river, it’s time to enjoy the tiered pools! The lowest three pools can be found mixing with the fresh river water, so these tend to be the coldest pools. They can also be completely submerged when water levels are high!
As you climb up the hillside, you’ll find that the pools gradually get warmer as you limb higher. Always test the water temperature before getting in!
*Red Spider Mites Warning*
These pools have confirmed cases of visitors encountering Red Spider Mites.
These annoying little guys hang around the dry rocks near hot springs, waiting to burrow on your towel of nearby clothes. Their bites are itchy and can last for weeks. They are non-life-threatening, but can make you super uncomfortable!
To keep these guys at bay, keep your clothes and towels away from the water’s edge. Hang it over a tree limb and make a dash for it when you leave the pools. This will reduce the chances of them hanging out in your clothes.
Put on bug spray AFTER your soak, and rinse off ASAP to get even more off.
Other Things To Do Near Boise, Idaho (And More Hot Springs!)
Is Rocky Canyon Hot Springs just one stop on your weekend trip from Boise, Idaho? Here are some other things to do nearby to elevate your experience!
Pine Flats Hot Springs: Pine Flats Hot Springs is similar to Rocky Canyon but without a river crossing. Pools are scattered across a rocky hillside, with lots of waterfalls and steamy pools to explore.
McCall, Idaho: For a perfect weekend trip from Boise, Idaho, McCall is the place to be! Explore the hikes in the Payette National Forest, walk around the historic downtown, or spend all day by the lake. The choices are endless here!
Hiking in the Boise National Forest: If you love getting outside and exploring new places, the Boise National Forest is for you! Take an overnight backpacking trip to the popular Idaho City backcountry yurts, or take some day trips on their groomed snowshoe and nordic ski trails in the wintertime.
Visiting other Idaho Hot Springs: Rocky Canyon Hot Springs is just one of many hot springs near the Banks-Lowman Highway. Keep driving north from Stanley to encounter Boat Box Hot Springs, Sunbeam Hot Springs, Bonneville Hot Springs, and Kirkham Hot Springs. Going north on Highway 55? Don’t forget to stop by Gold Fork Hot Springs, Trail Creek Hot Springs, or Burgdorf Hot Springs!
Have you visited Rocky Canyon Hot Springs in Idaho? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comment section below!
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