Want to know the best natural hot springs in Idaho to visit this winter (or any time) – then read on!
One of my biggest travel highlights this year was our road trip through Idaho – wow, did I fall in love with this massively underrated state!
During our two weeks roadtripping through Idaho, the two big focuses of our trip were hiking and hot springs – and Idaho does both things really, really well.
As much as I love Colorado, it is not exactly an under the radar destination, and the hiking trails and hot springs of my home state just seem to get more and more crowded each year.
All the natural hot springs in Idaho we visited were both incredibly scenic, and not crowded at all, making Idaho the perfect destination for hot spring lovers like myself.
Check out my list of the best natural hot springs in Idaho, plus a couple of rustic, developed hot springs that are definitely worth visiting as well.
The Best Idaho Hot Springs
Idaho Hot Springs Map
I mostly traveled in the south of Idaho so most of the hot springs mentioned are in this area, although I have added a couple of others that I have heard great things about that are further north.
Check out this Idaho Hot Springs Map so you can start planning which ones to visit!
Best Natural Hot Springs in Idaho
These are all the natural hot springs in Idaho that we visited and absolutely loved – and I’m sure you will too.
Kirkham Hot Springs
Kirkham Hot Springs is not just one of the best natural hot springs in Idaho, it is one of the best in the United States – or maybe even the world!
These hot springs are out of this world beautiful, with super clear turquoise water, hot waterfalls, and a number of pools along the Payette River.
Although they are one of the most well-known hot springs in Idaho, when we visited on a weekday in August there were only a handful of people there.
Make sure to check out the waterfall pools, as well as the pools further along the river, and there are even a few hot pools right by the car park. If it gets too hot, jump in the river to cool off.
There is a $5 day fee to park, and there is camping usually available, although the campground is closed for the rest of 2020.
Bonneville Hot Springs
Another beautiful natural hot spring, Bonneville Hot Springs is not as well-known as Kirkham Hot Springs so it’s more likely that you will get a pool to yourself here.
There are a few small rock pools right on Warm Springs Creek, and a private soak shack with a bathtub that thermal water is piped into. The hot springs are surrounded by forest and far enough off the main road that you can’t hear any traffic. It is a super peaceful spot.
Some of the pools are too hot to soak in, and there is a super hot waterfall. Make sure to check the temperature of any pools before hopping in. The closer to the river, the cooler the temperature.
Bonneville Hot Springs is a twenty-minute drive further towards Stanley from Kirkham Hot Springs and requires a short 0.3-mile walk to reach them.
It is a $5 fee if you are just visiting for the day, or you can camp in the campground if you want to stay longer.
Boat Box Hot Springs
Boat Box Hot Springs is Insta-famous, and has got to be one of the more unique hot springs I have visited.
The “boat box” is essentially a giant cauldron that I think was used in mining operations in the past. It has been placed beside the river and a pipe continuously fills it with natural hot springs water.
There are also a couple of small rock pools on the river if there are already people in the boat box, because it will only fit up to three people, and you wouldn’t want to get in there with anyone you don’t know because it is VERY cozy.
We found the water to be much too hot to get into when we visited, but you can cool it down by carefully moving the hot water pipe so hot water will no longer be flowing into the cauldron, opening the water release tap at the bottom to empty out some of the hot water, then using the bucket provided to collect cold water to pour into the cauldron from the river.
If you do this, make sure to put the pipe back and turn off the release tap when you are done.
All you can see of Boat Box is a small pullout on the side of the road – perhaps big enough for two or three cars. Make sure to check the location on the Idaho hot springs map or you will blink and miss it.
Sunbeam Hot Springs
Lovely Sunbeam Hot Springs is only a ten-minute drive further on from Boat Box, so if it is too crowded there, then head to Sunbeam instead – at least to wait it out.
Sunbeam has a number of small rock pools with beautiful clear water on the Salmon River. It is a very peaceful spot despite being just off the road, with a verdant forest right by the river.
There is also a large plastic soaking tub around the other side of the old bathhouse building by the car park, but I didn’t know this at the time and didn’t see it – you should check it out though!
The pools range in temperature, and when I went in September this year, about half of them were too hot to get in – choose the pools closest to the river for the best temperatures. Hot thermal water comes out of the mountain through a pipe that goes under the road so don’t go too close to the pipe.
This is a popular hot spring with visitors and locals, and we enjoyed chatting with others that were also having a relaxing soak.
Goldbug Hot Springs
Vying for the best natural hot springs in Idaho along with Kirkham Hot Springs is the impressive Goldbug Hot Springs near Salmon.
Goldbug Hot Springs is a number of tiered hot waterfall pools in a narrow valley with impressive views. Every pool has a different temperature, with the pools at the top of the waterfall generally being the hottest.
The setting is simply spectacular and you could easily spend hours hopping around the different pools and having natural hot showers under the many waterfalls here – we did.
Unlike most of the other hot springs on this list, it is a decent hike to get there – 2.2 miles each way with just under 1000 ft elevation gain. Part of the trail travels through private land, so be respectful of that.
Make sure you take lots of water because it can get really hot on this exposed hike in summer, and wear proper hiking shoes.
You can camp at the top of the hot springs as well as spots down by the river below, and I will definitely do that next time.
When searching on Google maps, make sure to search for “Goldbug Hot Springs Trailhead” because if you just search for the hot springs, the directions are wrong (trust me, that’s what we did).
Lava Hot Springs
The town of Lava Hot Springs in southeast Idaho is home to a number of natural hot springs, but the most well-known natural hot spring here is right by town – directly across the river from where you put in for tubing.
These natural hot springs are made up of a couple of rocky pools on the Portneuf River. A hot waterfall flows into the end pool, and the hot waterfall water mixes with the cold river water so you can move to different parts of the pools for different temperatures – the waterfall was very hot so I would advise to not go too close to it.
It’s a great spot to watch the tubers go over the rapids right beside the pools.
You can reach this hot spring either by stopping off on your tube if you are tubing the river, or you can walk through the camping ground and along the river to reach it.
Other Natural Hot Springs in Idaho to Visit
We didn’t get a chance to visit these natural hot springs in Idaho, but I have heard great things, and they are on our Idaho hot springs bucket list for the future.
Frenchman’s Hot Springs
We were meant to go to Frenchman’s Hot Springs during our time in Ketchum, but we ended up just kicking back in the cabin instead – we really needed the rest after our backpacking trip.
Frenchman’s Hot Springs is popular with Ketchum and Sun Valley locals and is a 30-minute drive from town. It consists of a couple of small pools that have been built up with rocks along the side of the river, with a mixture of hot thermal water and cold river water.
Rocky Canyon Hot Springs
Rocky Canyon Hot Springs is made up of several tiered waterfall pools that have been created with river rocks. The closer to the river, the cooler the pool.
The hot springs are a bit of a detour no matter where you are heading. You will need to drive 15 miles on a dirt road, and you will also need to cross a river, so it is only advisable to visit in mid-summer to mid-fall because the river will be too high or too cold at other times.
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs is one of the best Idaho hot springs in the north of the state, and it is a 2-mile return hike to reach the springs.
Located north of Salmon, Jerry Johnson Hot Springs is made up of two year-round pools, and additional waterfall pools that are submerged due to spring runoff until late summer. There are also a few smaller pools that are cooler than the others.
You used to be able to camp there but because of people leaving trash and not respecting the springs, it is now day use only.
Trail Creek Hot Springs
Trail Creek Hot Springs, also known as Samuel’s Hot Springs and marked as such on Google Maps, consists of two large rock pools formed with cement on Trail Creek that were built by local soakers.
The water looks beautiful and clear and the setting in the forest looks like a dreamy spot to spend a few hours relaxing.
It is a very short but steep walk to the springs, and they are located northeast of Cascade, Idaho.
Best Hot Springs in Idaho – Developed
Although natural hot springs are my favorite kind, we also visited a couple of super relaxing and understated developed hot springs in Idaho that I think are also definitely worth visiting. They both have natural thermal water in their pools and are super relaxing.
Maple Grove Hot Springs
We were told about Maple Grove Hot Springs by my brother-in-law who is based in Salt Lake City, and we fell in love with this peaceful hot spring retreat and wished we had more time there.
Set in the beautiful Bear River Valley on 45 acres, this sustainable off-grid resort has yurts and other glamping options available to stay overnight, and four natural thermal water fed pools, right on the river.
Each pool is a different heat, and we enjoyed soaking in them all, chatting to other guests, and stargazing – the stars are amazing here.
We spent a few hours in the evening here and it was heaven. Next time I am going to stay a couple of nights and enjoy the other activities on offer at the resort as well, like SUPing on the river and hiking one of the nearby trails.
This has got to be one of the more offbeat hot springs in Idaho, because I haven’t seen it on any other best Idaho hot springs lists.
It is $15 for a hot springs pass, but the hot springs are included in the price if you stay here.
Lava Hot Springs
Along with the natural Lava Hot Springs, there is also a developed Lava Hot Springs that I highly encourage you to visit as well.
Although these are developed hot springs, over 2.5 million gallons of water flow through the hot springs each day, keeping the water fresh and clean. No chemicals are added to the water.
With various pools of different temperatures ranging between 102˚F to 112˚F degrees, I enjoyed pool-hopping at Lava Hot Springs and liked that the pools had stone or gravel bottoms, and a number had sun shades.
My favorite pool of the lot was the super hot pool at the back of the small complex, at the bottom of a sunken garden and with a waterfall soundtrack. Definitely make sure you visit the beautiful Sunken Garden before or after your soak.
The entry fee to Lava Hot Springs is a very reasonable $8, and there are changing rooms and restrooms. Don’t get confused with the nearby Olympic swimming complex of the same name, you want the hot pools – they are marked on the Idaho hot springs map at the beginning of this post.
Plan Your Trip to the Best Hot Springs in Idaho
It would be hard to visit all these Idaho hot springs without hours of backtracking, so I would suggest three different routes, depending on what direction you will be heading in.
Starting in Boise, make sure you definitely visit the hot springs that are close to Stanley – Kirkham, Bonneville, Boat Box, and Sunbeam.
Then if you are heading south towards Salt Lake City you could stop at Frenchman’s, Lava, and Maple Grove; if you are heading north towards Salmon and Missoula, stop at Goldbug and Jerry Johnson; and if you are heading north towards McCall, you could visit Rocky Canyon and Trail Creek.
Where to Stay on Your Idaho Hot Springs Trip
Along with the camping that is available at some of the hot springs, I wanted to add a few other options in the areas that the hot springs are in.
We stayed at the historic Sawtooth Hotel and I really liked the vibe there – it’s also one of the cheapest places to stay that is right in town. The room was small but nicely decorated and we shared a bathroom with other guests. There is also a restaurant onsite.
Mountain Village Resort is probably the most well-known place to stay in Stanley and it has numerous room types and its own hot spring onsite that has spectacular mountain views.
If you want to rent your own cabin, Triangle C Cabins is a fantastic option, with cute and rustic-looking log cabins with modern amenities like private bathrooms, fridges, and flatscreen TVs.
There is a hostel in Stanley, Basecamp Lodge, and they have private rooms and dorms available.
Treat yourself by staying at the stylish Hotel Ketchum, the cozy Tamarack Lodge, or at the comfortable Tyrolean Lodge, all of which have pools and are right in town.
We stayed at the Bear Country Inn for two nights and it was a good, simple and affordable motel with large rooms that have fridges and microwaves, an indoor pool and hot tub, and a great location on Main Street.
Other great options include The Stagecoach Inn which is by the river and has a hot tub and pool, and the Twin Peaks Guest Ranch for a real local experience with hiking on the property and cabin-like rooms.
Lava Hot Springs Accommodation
Stay at the homey Alpaca Inn, right in town, the historic adults-only Riverside Hot Springs Inn & Spa, or this super cute cabin right by town.
Maple Grove Accommodation
You should definitely stay at Maple Grove Hot Springs Retreat. If you stay overnight you have so much more time to soak in the pools, plus they have other activities like stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and hiking.
Stay in a cabin, yurt, or canvas tent – or bring your own tent for a great budget option.
What to Pack to Have the Best Idaho Hot Springs Trip
Make sure to pack these items when visiting Idaho’s hot springs:
- Towel – a large, cozy beach towel is best, especially in the colder months
- River shoes or flip flops to wear in or between pools. Great for rocky pool bottoms.
- Water bottle – it’s important to stay hydrated when you are soaking in hot water
- Packed lunch or snacks if you are planning to stay awhile
- Sunglasses and a hat if you are visiting in the middle of the day to protect your face from the sun
- Natural sun protection like coconut oil – don’t pollute the pools with sunscreen
Tips for Considerate Hot Springs Soaking
- Pack out what you pack in. Usually, there aren’t any bins near natural hot springs, and you should definitely not leave your trash behind – make sure you take everything you brought in with you.
- Don’t crowd people – especially now, during COVID times. If there is no room in any of the pools, then just wait till space comes available.
- Be aware that natural hot springs in Idaho are generally clothing optional. Just a warning for people that may feel uncomfortable with this.
- Be respectful of others, especially with your noise level as a lot of people come to relax and unwind so don’t want to deal with loud music or people talking loudly
- Don’t wear sunscreen to keep the pools as pristine as possible. If you are worried about getting sunburnt, use coconut oil instead which is natural and will protect you from the sun. Also, I’m sure it goes without saying that you shouldn’t use soap or shampoo in any of the hot springs either.
I hope I have inspired you to visit these best hot springs in Idaho. Writing it has made me want to get back there ASAP!
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