Hot Spring adventures in Idaho
Posted by Hughes Group Blog Team on Wednesday, February 16th, 2022 at 10:15am.
Natural hot springs open the door to well-planned steamy adventures of relaxation while soaking in warm basins, most often surrounded by nature, wildlife, and breathtaking scenery. The state has the most excellent usable natural hot springs in the nation, with about one hundred and thirty immersible out of over three hundred. Idaho's natural hot springs offer various surrounding terrain and topography. Choose the ideal region and landscape for the next hot spring soaking adventure and relish in some of nature's optimal outdoor activity opportunities.
Natural hot springs do not always require traveling to a remote location to be appreciable. However, a few of the prime locations are going to be the ones that are a bit more challenging and demanding to locate. Additional preparation makes the most sense for traveling to hot springs that may require off-road travels, backcountry exploration, or any time spent out-of-cellular service areas. Pack a topographic map, a picnic basket with all the goodies, and something to stay warm after a relaxing soak.
Idaho's natural hot springs present numerous characteristics and range from not difficult to access to multi-day trips required for allocation of time it may take to reach the destination, especially if a hike is in order. The following list provides information about the public hot springs and features the names of commercial hot spring destinations as privately owned operations; these facilities are best to contact directly for the most up-to-date and fee information.
Public natural hot springs in Idaho are mainly on public lands, national forests, BLM, or wilderness. They most often do not have any fees associated with access except for several day-use fees or parking.
Geothermal water in Idaho is quite popular as the state is considered a geothermal state and ranks fiftieth worldwide for developable geothermal potential. The hot springs flourish throughout the state because they are warmed from within the Earth's crust, forcing the water to the surface where some of the most lavish and exquisite basins are developed or form naturally near the outflow.
The cities within this region that will be the most recognized point of reference include the communities of Grangeville, Lewiston, Orofino, and Lolo. These are excellent destinations for refueling, grabbing additional supplies, or making overnight arrangements.
This region is home to the Clearwater and Nez Perce National Forests and the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. If grabbing a few maps and researching the vicinity might be interesting.
Stuart Natural Hot Springs - sits east of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest within the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, adjacent to the Selway River and the Idaho Centennial Trail. This destination is the epitome of remote and requires an extensive multi-day river/backpacking expedition to reach it. However, not much makes it into reports about the springs, including whether or not they are active.
Reports show that the most information available regarding this spring is that the spring sits alongside a grassy field near Three Links Creek. This location is most definitely weather-dependent.
For optimal results, consider visiting this location during the warmer months for maximum success.
Jerry Johnson Natural Hot Springs -
Discover the Jerry Johnson Natural Hot Springs adjacent to Lochsa River and Warm Springs Creek, at an elevation of approximately three thousand feet above sea level, with nearby camping grounds including Jerry Johnson Campground, Colgate Camp, and a few primitive camping options. Easy to miss, there are multiple pools at this location, not including pools alongside the creek ideal for soaking in cool water. The first pair of hot spring basins are located a few feet from each other and boast creekside views and a choice of sandy or rockwall springs, keeping in mind that the primary pool is often closed until late summer due to being submerged. While the other pool sits nestled amid the forest pine and provides a more secluded feel a few hundred feet from the others.
Access to the hot springs from Idaho's Scenic Byway at the edge of the Idaho-Montana border, Jerry Johnson Natural Hot Springs, makes for an ideal stopping point on any road trip through the area as adventurers are welcome to soak and take a break from their travels. Trekking approximately one mile along the Warm Springs Trailhead No. 49 to the bridge crossing at Warm Springs bridge, the springs are sprawled out in sequence, starting with the waterfall pool; be sure to take caution when descending to the pools. It should not come as a surprise if various additional smaller pools are present due to folks stopping by and desiring a fabulous soak alongside the creek.
Considering that winter can present dangerous road conditions, keep in mind that safety is the priority. Consider checking for road closures and conditions and weather updates before heading out for a winter trip to this destination. Some basins feature steaming hot waterfalls along the rock wall, while others have clear sandy bottoms. The waterfall basins, the first of three basins, are underwater until the late warmer months. The other two sources offer year-round immersing options; the springs are not open for use during nighttime hours and pack in and out.
If choosing to trek to this location during winter conditions, snowshoes might be a consideration and a correct safety protocol. The mid-spring months bring about more than flowers to this location; to celebrate the warmer weather, droves of hot springs enthusiasts flock to this ever-popular location. It is well known to the locals that Jerry Johnson has gained a reputation as a popular gathering place for a more "Natural Soak," where adventurers are most likely to encounter a few of nature's most natural forms of bathers. During the mid-summer months, packing an umbrella or other shade may help shade from the midday heat, as it can get pretty hot, and limited shade options are available.
How to get there: Drive to the middle point of mile markers 152 and 153 via Highway 12, approximately fifty-five miles east of the community of Lowell-Kooskia and about fifty-five miles west of the city of Lolo, to the Warm Springs Trailhead and parking area.
Public reviews of this location include statements such as "beautiful location," "popular," and "cannot recommend this enough."
Reports confirm a slight sulfur odor and some trash and litter at this location.
Additional campground options include Wilderness Gateway Campground, Green flat Campground, and Knife Edge Campground.
Nearby destinations include Boulder Creek and Lolo Pass Interpretive Center.
Weir Creek Natural Hot Springs -
Experience this quaint soaking pool with a jaunt of approximately 0.7 +/- miles (round trip), surrounded by dense tree life, sounds of nature, and water rushing down the mountainside. The area is popular for birding, hiking, trekking, and area exploration. The spring basins sit nestled at around twenty-nine hundred feet above sea level and boast water temperatures slightly over the one hundred degrees marker. During the warmer months, this destination becomes highly frequented by travelers and hot spring adventurers, not to mention the area is popular for deer and elk sightings.
For the best results, this destination is prime to visit during the warmer months for optimal enjoyment; this destination is also pleasant during the fall months and may not have quite as many soakers utilizing the pool, though it is wise to take caution when visiting remote areas sensitive to weather conditions especially nearing the winter months.
How to get there: Drive via Highway 12, approximately sixty-seven miles east of the community of Lowell-Kooskia and about forty miles west of the city of Lolo, to the Weir Creek Trailhead and parking area.
Public reviews of this location include statements such as "What a wonderful experience!" "Beautiful but extremely busy on an early weekday," and "Pretty decent hike to the hot springs, totally worth it!"
Reports confirm no odor or moderate trash and litter at this location.
Additional campground options include Johnson Bar Campground & Group Site, O'Hara Bar Campground, Rackliff Campground, Race Creek Campground, Slide Creek Campground, Glover Campground, Fog Mountain Campground, Selway Falls Campground, and Slims Camp.
Nearby destinations include Lochsa Historical Ranger Station, Pass Creek, Lochsa River, Split Creek Trailhead and River Access, Sherman Creek, and Selway Falls (popular).
Area destinations include Howard Camp - Nez Perce Trail (Lolo MotorWay), Indian Post Office, Horseshoe Lake Lookout Road, Weitas Butte Lookout, Rocky Ridge Lake Campground (stunning terrain), and Rocky Ridge, to name a few.
Prospector Natural Hot Springs -
For optimal results, consider visiting this location during the warmer months for maximum success and enjoyment; though not much information is available about this location in reportings, the general area is pleasant during the fall months and boasts an array of surrounding colorful foliage, though it is wise to take caution when visiting remote areas sensitive to weather conditions nearing the winter months, to assist with the maximum potential for successful outcomes at this location primarily due to its remote location, be sure to plan ahead for a multi-day trip including multiple river ford routes.
Additional campground options include Glad Creek Group Campground, Apgar Campground, and Wild Goose Campground.
Additional nearby destinations include Weir Natural Hot Springs and Wilderness Gateway Trailhead.
Marten Creek Natural Hot Spring within the Clearwater National Forest and the Lochsa Ranger District is no longer a flowing hot spring.
Red River Hot Springs - along Hot Springs Road within the Elk City of Idaho County is a private establishment; please contact the facility directly for additional information. Amenities at this location include at-cost lodging options, including tent sites, cabin rentals, RV sites, yurt tents, food, and treated pools.
Running Creek Natural Hot Springs - from Running Creek Road runs less than forty miles from Red River Hot Springs in Elk City and is a commercial facility; contact the facility directly for fees, amenities, opening dates, and additional information.
Tips for improved success when it comes to hot spring adventures:
The weather may be a consideration before heading out for a natural hot springs trip; case and point, the weather may create critical scenarios if excused, unique when trekking the backcountry at higher elevations. Plan ahead.
Check for road closures, advisories, and last-minute changes that could impact the overall results and, of course, the vehicle roadworthy check before proceeding.
Tell a few contacts where the destination is and when the expected return timeframe will be.
Downed trees in the backcountry along low-maintained roads are often unexpected and may stop vehicles in their tracks. For this reason, a sturdy hand saw, or chainsaw may be helpful if this scenario occurs.
Wildlife does not work on a schedule and will present itself when least expected. There are many options for avoiding wildlife, and gathering additional information and knowledge of the signs (tracks, scat, season patterns, dens, and similar) to help accomplish this may help the success of that goal.