Post Summary: Sunbeam Hot Springs + What To Expect At This Roadside Attraction
Looking for a classic Idaho hot springs experience?
This network of pools along the Salmon River in Idaho has been a restorative place in the community for centuries!
If you’re looking for a natural, geothermal soak without the challenge of accessing them, we’ve got the perfect place for you, my friend! Sunbeam Hot Springs is a family-friendly, easy-to-find network of pools right off of Highway 75. It’s a perfect addition to your weekend trip to Stanley, Idaho.
In this post, we’re sharing how to get to Sunbeam Hot Springs, what to expect, and tips on how to protect, conserve, and enjoy these natural pools for years to come.
Experience Sunbeam Hot Springs Near Stanley, Idaho
Quick Facts About Sunbeam Hot Springs:
- Nudity? NOT encouraged, as it literally sits off the side of the highway. Wear your swimsuit!
- Average water temperature: Pools vary in temperature but the avereage temp is 100 degrees. The closer to the river, the colder the will be.
- Pool Features: Upright tubs and riverside pools
- Exact coordinates: (scroll down to directions section)
- Dogs allowed? Yes, but keep a close eye on them. The pools can be slippery and very hot, and the road can be very busy. We want to keep your fur babies safe!
- Clarity: VERY clear
- Fees: None
What’s So Special About Sunbeam Hot Springs?
Sunbeam Hot Springs has a long history of being a restorative escape for the people of Idaho. Now part of the Salmon-Challis National Forest, it has quite the history of serving the local community and visitors alike.
On October 1st, 1821, Alexader Ross and some of his Hudson Bay Fur Trappers recorded in his diary stopping at a “Boiling Fountain” which turned out to be Sunbeam Hot Springs. This is our earliest recording of visitors to these pools, but we know the Lemhi-Shoshone people are native to this part of Idaho. Their community used the healing waters of Sunbeam Hot Spings well before Alexader Ross and his party.
It’s important to follow proper hot spring etiquette when visiting yourself, to respect the historic significance of these places!
On-site, you can also visit the historic poolhouse, but by the Civilians Conservation Corps in 1937. It’s not in use today, but many visitors use it as a covered changing room.
It’s pretty fun to see the inside, so before you head to the pools go inside and peek around. For bathrooms, there is a pit toilet on-site. It may not always be stocked with toilet paper, so come prepared with your own TP just in case!
To access the pools (located on either side of the bathhouse) there is a paved walkway that leads down to the river’s edge. Be careful though, because these paths can be icy and slippery during the winter months.
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 Sunbeam Hot Springs Trip
Read our full hot springs packing list, or keep scrolling for Sunbeam-specific items to consider!
Swimsuit – Sunbeam Hot Springs is located right off Highway 75. Swimsuits are a must because this place gets visiting frequently and can be seen from the road!
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! Sunbeam Hot Springs doesn’t require a hike, but you can expect to walk over sharp and potentially slippery rocks getting in and out of the pools.
Gas For Your Car – Sunbeam Hot Springs is a quick drive from Stanley, Idaho, about 12.5 miles away. However, if you are continuing on your Idaho road trip and not coming back, you’ll want to fill up with gas. Stanley will be your only reliable gas stop for quite some time.
Water and Snacks – Make sure to have fresh water and snacks on hand. Sunbeam Hot Springs has pools that can get extremely hot and there is little shade on site. It’s really easy to overheat quickly in these pools.
Sun Protection – This location is completely exposed to the sun. If you are visiting Sunbeam 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 Salmon River.
Route Directions – Sunbeam 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 – There are many reasons why a dry bag would be helpful when visiting Idaho hot springs. For Sunbeam specifically, the tubs and pools are 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 Sunbeam Hot Springs
Before we will give directions, we want to make it very clear that Sunbeam 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 Sunbeam Hot Springs:
1. The pools and tubs are relatively small, so be considerate of others who are waiting their turn to soak.
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.
4. The parking lot is a clear and large pullout from the highway. If it’s full (which is rare), 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.
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 Sunbeam Hot Springs: 44.2691902,-114.7517928
Directions: From the ‘T’ intersection in Stanley, head north on Highway 75 for 12.6 miles. On the way, you will pass several campgrounds, Cove Creek Hot Springs, and Boat Box Hot Springs along the way.
Keep your eye out for the stone bathhouse on the right side next to the river and steam coming from the banks of the river – that’s when you know you’ve made it!
The parking lot will be on your left, with clearly marked spots to fully park off the highway. There is also a clearly marked road sign saying “Sunbeam Hot Springs” letting you know that you are close.
Enjoying Sunbeam Hot Springs
So what can you do to prepare yourself for the best possible visit to Sunbeam 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.
Best Time to Visit Sunbeam 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 there are no fees and Sunbeam is relatively close to the popular outdoor town of Stanley, this place can see heavy use in the summer months.
If you’re looking for a long, quiet visit, this is NOT the pool for you! (Specifically, in the summer months – fall and spring can be relatively quiet). This is a very popular place to take the whole family, so you can expect kids and parents to be splashing around the pools, especially during the day.
In regards to the best season for visiting Sunbeam Hot Springs, we think that this place is great to visit year-round. Highway 75 is an important road for transportation, so it’s kept relatively clear and plowed all year long. However, in times of heavy snowfall, access can be a bit more difficult.
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!
Sunbeam Hot Springs Pool Descriptions
So, what kind of pools can you expect at Sunbeam 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.
On the left side of the poolhouse, you can find two square tubs sitting on the river’s edge. There are some other riverside pools nearby too, but the main attraction on this side of the poolhouse is the tubs!
Pipes feed warm water into the trough, and they are quite small and deep. Berty and I enjoyed these ones for taking pictures, but ultimately we had a better soaking experience in the natural pools.
Network of Natural Pools
The most popular spot to soak in Sunbeam Hot Springs is the network of natural pools sitting alongside the edge of the river. These vary in depth, size, and temperature, so take some time to test them out and decide which pool is right for you. Most pools only go waist-deep.
They have been constructed with boulders and rocks to make the pool walls, and have had sand added at the bottom.
Many of these pools are fed by a spring just up the hill. The flow of hot water cascades down the hillside, feeding the pools. The hot water from the hillside and fresh cold river water swirl together and make the perfect soaking temperature.
Be careful around those hot hillside flows, because that water can get up to 160 degrees (aka skin burning hot!). Always test the pools before jumping in – some can be too hot for soaking.
Another fantastic benefit to soaking in the natural riverside pools is the potential for wildlife viewing! Especially at dawn and dusk, elk, deer, bears, and eagles can make an appearance on the banks of the river. Keep an eye out for these creatures, and always remember to keep a safe distance if they are close.
Other Things To Do Near Stanley, Idaho (And More Hot Springs!)
Is Sunbeam 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: Sunbeam Hot Springs is just one of many hot springs along Highway 75 alone. Keep driving north from Stanley to encounter Cove Creek Hot Springs, Boat Box 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!