Hello, all you beautiful people! I’ve got what might be a surprising travel recommendation for you: the great state of Idaho. After checking out such world-renowned spots as Rome, Yellowstone, and even Thailand, I figured it’s time to go off the beaten path.
That’s right, there’s more to Idaho than potatoes! It’s actually jam-packed with soothing, soakable hot springs that are waiting for you to dip your toes in.
Here’s everything you need to know about Idaho hot springs and where to find them!
Take care of the springs
Natural hot springs and the waterways that connect them don’t want your shampoo and conditioner–yes, even if they’re biodegradable! If we want to keep visiting the springs, we’ve got to make sure we’re preserving them.
Many of these springs are located in national forests and other natural areas that can be fragile, so be sure never to leave trash behind. Better yet, pick up after any inconsiderate visitors who might have left their wrappers and cans.
The springs will only remain available for us if we treat them with care!
First up: Boise National Forest
Now that we’ve got hot spring etiquette covered, let’s go exploring! With two and a half acres of wilderness, it’s no surprise that Boise National Forest has more than one hot spring to enjoy.
First, there’s the Rocky Canyon Hot Springs, which you can find on the Middle Fork Payette River. You’ll have to ford the river to get to it, so don’t forget to wear sandals in case of sharp stones! Once there, you’ll find a cascade of hot pools, which get cooler the closer they fall to the river.
Also in Boise National Forest are the Loftus Hot Springs, near the Middle Fork of Boise River Road. Some of the pools are man-made or have been reinforced with mortar, and although there is a sandy bottom, you should still use sandals in case of broken glass. There are convenient campsites nearby that make it easier to reach; however, you might be in for a crowd!
Up and Down the Salmon River
The Salmon River runs right through the middle of Idaho, and it’s named for all of the sockeye and chinook salmon who migrate through it every year. Fish aren’t the only creatures enjoying this river water though, as it’s packed with several hot springs for us humans to use as well!
The Boat Box Hot Spring is an incredible makeshift hot tub made of an ocean buoy secured to some rocks, and it’s fed hot water via a pipe dug into the riverbank. If the water’s too hot for you, there’s a bucket nearby to scoop in some cool Salmon River water, so you and one other person can relax and take in the gorgeous scenery of the Sawtooth Mountains.
The Challis Hot Springs is adjacent to the river itself, found in the Salmon River Valley. This is a resort and campground, complete with natural hot springs, multiple campsites, changing rooms, and swimming pools. As opposed to the previous spots, this one isn’t free, but it’s great for a family stay if you’re in need of a wifi spot and outdoor opportunities to keep the kiddos entertained.
Stanley, Idaho is a tiny town just three hours northeast of Boise, and what it lacks in population (fewer than 100 people!), it makes up for in surrounding outdoor activities.
The Mountain Village Resort is a real full-service retreat, with not only campsites but also rooms and suites, a restaurant, a wedding venue, live music, and of course hot springs. They pipe natural hot water into their man-made pool that seats 8. You can reserve a spot in advance, and if you are a guest of the resort you’ll have access for free.
If you’d rather opt for a completely natural experience, the Frenchman’s Bend Hot Springs are free to the public, along Warm Springs Creek. Here, water flows into multiple springs, some hot and the others freezing. This means that, if you get too hot from the pool, you can cool off with a plunge in nearby cold water!
It can be magical in the winter months, soaking in the warm water with snow all around–just make sure the roads aren’t covered in ice beforehand!
Beautiful Kirkham Hot Springs
The Kirkham Hot Springs in Lowman, Idaho deserve their own category thanks to a variety of geothermal pools and hot water cascades, surrounded by scenic mountains.
You’ll find them on the Payette River or in the Kirkham campground, where a staircase leads straight to the lovely soaking pools. While nearby parking may come at a fee, visiting the springs themselves is free–so you may find it crowded in the summer months.
The good news is that you can visit year-round, so give a winter visit a try for a warm bath in the middle of a snowy wonderland. The steaming waterfalls will give you a spa-quality facial!
As Idaho is rife with natural springs, there’s no way I could fit every single one on this list! So if you’d like to add more pools and waterfalls to your itinerary, or map out an entire road trip to hit the best ones (because you all know I love a road trip!), here’s a quick rundown of my other favorites.
The Goldbug Hot Springs is found deep in the mountains, and it has a top pool that you can hike to if you’re looking for a reward after some good exercise. The Burgdorf Hot Springs is a resort that’s been opened since 1870–this earned it a spot in the National Register of Historic Places! The Lava Hot Springs is an entire resort city, with an indoor pool, hot pools, water slides, kid pools, and anything you need for an all-in-one family vacation.
You know, all this talk of hot springs makes me want to throw off my winter coat and drive back to Idaho right now!