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12 Best Hot Springs in Idaho

Written by Brad Lane
Sep 28, 2020

The best hot springs in Idaho are in the central mountain ranges of the state. Wild rivers wind their way through this elevated terrain, with geothermal pockets lining their banks. These natural hot springs make for a great adventure destination or worthy side trip in a state filled with so many outdoor things to do.

Some hot springs in the state require quite the hike to access, while others are within a short walking distance from their parking areas. A common feature of all Idaho hot springs is the postcard settings of the surrounding forests. Crowded conditions are another common attribute of the most popular places to soak in the state.

Hot springs are an inviting and fragile environment. The longevity of any hot spring relies on best-use practices. Staying on designated trails and adhering to camping restrictions are two ways to help maintain natural hot springs. Packing out all trash is also essential. A good hot springs goal is to leave the pools in better condition than you found them.

Explore the state's top geothermal attractions with our list of the best hot springs in Idaho.

1. Kirkham Hot Springs, Boise National Forest

Kirkham Hot Springs | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

This burbling landscape on the South Payette River is visible from Highway 21, also known as the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway. Kirkham Hot Springs is one of the most popular soaking spots in the state. The accessibility and plethora of pools at Kirkham cater to large crowds during the summer. The hot pools are also popular during the winter.

A campground of the same name is next to the hot springs. Under two hours from the capital city, Kirkham Campground is one of the best places to camp near Boise. Camping reservations are available six months in advance for the campground. The Forest Service prohibits camping near the hot springs outside of this designated campground. Summer reservations tend to fill up fast.

The campground has a day-use parking area for the hot springs. It's just a few steep steps from the parking area to the pools. Clothing is required at the hot springs, and crowds should be expected.

The size and variety of the pools at Kirkham help to ease the feeling of overcrowding. If the main pools are busy, a couple of hidden pools line the back of the campground. Going to Kirkham Hot Springs in the early morning helps avoid the biggest crowds.

2. Jerry Johnson & Weir Creek Hot Springs, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest

Weir Creek Hot Springs | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Northwest Passage Scenic Byway cuts through north-central Idaho. The route follows the Lochsa River the entire way, and three of the state's most famous hot springs line the roadside. Stanley, Jerry Johnson, and Weir Hot Springs are all within 40 miles of each other along this highway.

Stanley Hot Springs requires the longest hike to access. The other two hot springs, Jerry Johnson and Weir, are within a mile of their parking areas. The proximity to the roadside, and the beautiful hot spring settings, make these two hot springs some of the most popular in the state.

The hike to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs begins by crossing a suspension bridge over the Lochsa River. The trail gains minimal elevation from here, and three spacious pools reward hikers after a mile of hiking. The pools vary in temperature and can fit five to eight people comfortably. Jerry Johnson can be very packed in the spring and summer. Camping is prohibited at the hot springs and along the trail.

Weir Creek Hot Springs offers an even shorter hike from Highway 12. The trail is steep at some points, though, and sturdy footwear helps navigate the route. Nestled into a lush mountain canyon, the pool at Weir Creek is deep and comfortably fits a large group of people. A smaller pool for one to two people sits above on the mountain slope. Camping is allowed at Weir, with available spots to pitch a tent near the beginning of the trail.

Both hot springs are accessible during the winter. Road and trail conditions are more challenging this time of year. For those that make the trip, nothing beats sitting in the steam during the colder months.

3. Goldbug Hot Springs, Salmon-Challis National Forest

Goldbug Hot Springs

Between Salmon and Challis in central Idaho, Goldbug Hot Springs is one of the most panoramic soaks in the state. Hikers must earn their soak at Goldbug, though, with a steep two-mile hike.

The pools at Goldbug tumble down a notch in the mountainside. The trail climbs over 1,300 feet to reach this V-shape cut in the mountain, with the steepest challenge culminating in stairs leading up to the springs. The welcoming pools at the top of the trail offer some sore muscle relief for those that make the climb.

The trail passes through private land near the trailhead. Users need to stay on the designated path while hiking to Goldbug. Camping is allowed near the hot springs, though nowhere within 500 feet of water.

Autumn is one of the best times to visit Goldbug. The nice chill to the air and dryer conditions are perfect ingredients for a hot spring adventure. Summer can be stifling hot, but still a popular time for the pools. The steam from the hot springs provides a spa-like experience in winter, though the hike is icy and packed with snow throughout the season.

4. Sunbeam Hot Springs, Salmon-Challis National Forest

Sunbeam Hot Springs | Mitchell Friedman / photo modified

Thirteen miles east of Stanley on Highway 75, Sunbeam is one of many hot springs in the immediate area. Sunbeam also might be the most popular. The hot springs are right off the roadside and easy to access. The well-constructed rock pools and ample hot water also provides plenty of landscape to explore.

The hot springs are on the Salmon River. Sunbeam is often a popular bonus trip along with other adventures in the area. Stanley is a central basecamp for exploring Sawtooth National Recreation Area - one of the best national forests in Idaho.

Another notable hydrothermal pool nearby is Boat Box Hot Springs. Also known as Elkhorn Hot Springs, this roadside soaking spot features a large metal tub that comfortably fits one to two people. This unique soaking spot is accessible with a short hike from the highway. Visitors should expect to wait for their turn in the tub on the weekends.

5. Bonneville & Pine Flats Hot Springs, Boise National Forest

Bonneville Hot Springs | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Several hot springs in Boise National Forest are a 90-minute drive from the capital city. Kirkham Hot Springs tends to be one of the most popular, and several others in the area also see some crowds. Bonneville Hot Springs is one such hot spring, located east of Kirkham on the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway.

It's an easy quarter-mile hike to Bonneville Hot Springs from its campground of the same name. The moss-covered spring is accessible by a trail that follows the aptly named Warm Springs Creek. Additional tent-only campsites line the route.

An elaborate set of rock pools below the springs at Bonneville have different soaking temperatures. The pools closest to the spring are incredibly hot, and caution should be applied when stepping in. The area also has a small wooden shack with hot water piped into a tub.

West of Bonneville and Kirkham, at the beginning of the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway, another overnight soaking experience is offered at Pine Flats Hot Springs. Tents and RVs are welcome at Pine Flats Campground. The hot springs are a half mile down the South Fork Payette River from the campground.

6. Stanley Hot Springs, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest

Stanley Hot Springs | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

It's approximately a 5.5-mile uphill hike to reach Stanley Hot Springs in north-central Idaho. The trail also crosses Boulder Creek near the hot springs, which can be dangerous and challenging during spring runoff. For those that make the trek, Stanley Hot Springs offers a rustic retreat on Huckleberry Creek.

The springs tumble out of a canyon wall above the cold-water creek. Several rock pools collect the water sources for an enjoyable soak. While two of the pools are large enough to fit a big group of people, these hot springs see fewer crowds thanks to the near six-mile hike.

The trail to Stanley Hot Springs crosses into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness just after the two-mile mark. Several tent sites surround the hot springs area. Well-used areas above the hot springs are enticing, but the sites farther back on the trail offer more privacy. The trail also continues past the hot springs to the scenic Seven Lakes Basin within the wilderness.

The trailhead for Stanley Hot Springs is within one of the best places to camp in Idaho. The Wilderness Gateway Campground lives up to its name in many ways. Alongside the trailhead to Stanley Hot Springs, the campground also lends access to the choppy waters of the Lochsa River.

7. Rocky Canyon Hot Springs, Boise National Forest

Rocky Canyon Hot Springs | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Near the scenic communities of Crouch and Garden Valley in southwest Idaho, this beautiful spot to soak is on the Middle Fork Payette River. Visitors need to hop on the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway, also known as Banks-Lowman Road, to reach the falls. It's a short drive north on Middlefork Road from the scenic byway to reach the hot springs' roadside pullout.

For those coming from Boise, it's approximately a 90-mile drive to Rocky Canyon Hot Springs. From the unmarked parking area, visitors cross the river to reach the hot springs on the other side of the bank. The water is frigid throughout the year, and high snowmelt makes this crossing dangerous in the spring. Winter visitors need to exercise caution on this river crossing as well.

Traverse the river, and the pools at Rocky Canyon deliver with warmth and a beautiful view. A small handful of pools built into the canyon have different temperatures to enjoy. Either side down the river offers postcard views of the Middle Fork carving its way through Boise National Forest.

8. Frenchman's Bend Hot Springs, Sawtooth National Forest

Frenchman's Bend Hot Springs in the winter

Frenchman's Bend Hot Springs is a popular spot to soak after skiing the nearby Sun Valley Mountain Resort. Also referred to as Warfield Hot Springs, these primitive soaking pools are on Warm Creek and just over 10 miles from the main road in Ketchum. It's a gravel road to reach the springs, comprised of compacted snow during the winter.

It's a short walk from the small parking lot to the hot springs. Frenchman's Bend consists of three pools, two of which include a creek crossing to access.

Temperatures vary at the pool and are adjustable by allowing more or less of the creek to mix with the hot water. Users should expect other people at the hot spring when ski conditions are good. Early mornings are the best time to get a solitary soak.

9. Council Mountain Hot Springs, Payette National Forest

Council Mountain (Laurel) Hot Springs | Mitchell Friedman / photo modified

In southwest Idaho, near McCall, Council Mountain Hot Springs are a set of pools along Warm Springs Creek. The hot spring is also known as Laurel Hot Springs. It's a two-mile hike down to reach the soaking areas. The hike takes visitors through the foliage and elevation changes of the Payette National Forest.

The pools at Council Mountain Hot Springs vary in temperature and abundance throughout the year due to the rise of the creek. Late spring is one of the best times to visit, when the abundant runoff cools the hydrothermal water enough to enjoy. The spring is also preferable for the steep hike in, as summer temperatures tend to make the walk a bit toasty.

10. Loftus Hot Springs, Boise National Forest

Loftus Hot Springs | GrantcKohler / photo modified

This natural hot spring is accessible with a 30-mile drive on the Middle Fork Boise River Road from Atlanta, Idaho. It takes 2.5 hours to drive from Boise to Loftus Hot Springs. Upon driving to Loftus, the hot springs are right off the road with no hiking required.

A reduction in pools over the years has left behind one medium-size pool at Loftus. The pool collects the hot water trickling down the mountainside to the river. The streaming hot water creates a steaming waterfall that tumbles on one side of the pool.

Waiting to get in the pool should be expected on summer weekends. Visit this geothermal attraction come winter for better chances for a solo soak.

11. Trail Creek Hot Springs, Boise National Forest

Trail Creek Hot Springs

East of Lake Cascade in southwest Idaho, Trail Creek is a natural hot spring with a more local feel. The primitive road to get to the falls starts in the city of Cascade, on the northside of town after crossing the Payette River bridge. It's approximately 19.3 miles on this primitive road to reach the hot springs gushing near the roadside.

It's a short but steep scramble to get down to the hot springs. Two pools accommodate medium-sized groups. A set of PVC piping helps control the amount of cold water coming into the heated pools.

Winter is a great time to visit the hot springs, though the path down can be slick and icy. High runoff has the potential to wash out the pools in the spring.

12. Commercial Hot Springs in Idaho

Swimming pool at commercial hot springs in Idaho

For less primitive places to soak, Idaho also has several commercial hot springs with developed facilities. These for-profit hot springs have large swimming pools filled with hot water. They also have other conveniences like lodging, dining, and poolside concessions.

These commercial hot springs are in the same central mountainous region of Idaho. The area surrounding McCall is especially generous with commercial places to soak.

One such commercial hot spring near McCall, Burgdorf Hot Springs, has a long history of hosting visitors. Family-owned for over 100 years, Burgdorf features a communal pool surrounded by simple shelters and the property's lodge. Burgdorf's combines a rustic and modern appeal for a memorable stay.

North of McCall, Zims Hot Springs is another commercial facility with a big pool. The Nez Perce Tribe operates the hot springs. Facilities at the hot spring include a lodge, campground, and large locker rooms. The pools are closed Monday and Tuesday.

Gold Fork Hot Springs offers similar overnight accommodations about 60 miles south of Zims and Burgdorf. Instead of rustic cabins, Gold Fork features all-season yurts. Day-use visitors are welcome at Burgdorf, Zims, and Gold Fork Hot Springs.

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