IN IDAHO, geothermal geology and remote, mountainous geography combine to produce some of the most plentiful and enjoyable hot springs anywhere in the US. There are 130 to choose from, and below you’ll find 5 of the best, where au naturel is the soaking style of choice.
Important note: Please remember to keep your footprint light — stay on trails and pack out everything you bring to the hot springs. Working together helps us keep these special places clean and safe for years to come.
Goldbug Hot Springs
Set in the Lemhi Range, between the small towns of Salmon and Challis, lies Idaho’s most beautiful high-desert hot springs. A chain of six or so waterfall-fed pools and some truly epic mountain views are the reward for those willing to take on the two-mile hike up shade-deprived switchbacks to get here.
Pool temperatures vary from chilly to toasty depending on time of year (dip in a finger or toe before sticking a leg in). It’s not often you encounter swimsuits given the remoteness of the area. Sun protection, extra water, and food are more of a must, especially during the warmer months.
Near mile marker 282 on Highway 93, turn east onto a dirt road and drive the short distance to trailhead parking. Follow the marked trail for 2 miles (mostly uphill) to reach the pools. Note that there’s over 900 feet of elevation to conquer, with the majority occurring in the last half mile.
Bowery Hot Springs
Located next to the East Fork of the Salmon River, Bowery Hot Springs features a fiberglass hot tub with hot springs plumbing. The tub is replaced every once in a while, though is typically in somewhat of a rustic, yet functional, condition. It’ll probably be empty when you arrive, as visitors are encouraged to drain and clean the tub after use. It takes up to an hour to fill, after which you’ll probably want to bucket in some water from the river to reach your ideal temp. Nothing to do then but relax and enjoy the peaceful forest surroundings (and clean the tub once you’re done, of course).
From Highway 75, not far from the town of Clayton, take Forest Service Road 120 (aka East Fork Salmon River Road) south for almost 30 miles, to where it ends at a gate before reaching a Sawtooth National Forest guard station. Park here and hike south past the station along the river to the hot springs.
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs
Three hot springs sources, each with its own set of rock-walled pools, await at the end of an easy one-mile hike through the ultra-lush Clearwater National Forest, home of the beautiful Clearwater River. Going nude is so much the norm here there’s a sign saying so at the trailhead. Don’t be too surprised if you encounter an opportunistic clothing-optional hiker on the way in or out!
Temperatures in the source 1 pools vary by season, from ice cold to boiling hot. At source 2, it’s 100-105°F for the landlocked pool, with the rest varying depending on proximity to the river. Source 3 is usually a perfect 103°F.
From Powell Junction, take Highway 12 west for just over 10 miles to a large pullout marked Warm Springs Trailhead. Hike across the Warm Springs pack bridge over the Lochsa River to a fork. Take the trail west signed to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs — it leads to the first of three water sources.
West Pass Hot Springs
An old mine shaft, abandoned because miners struck hot-springer gold, is the source that feeds the three cast-iron bathtubs known as West Pass Hot Springs. Located deep within the scenic Sawtooth National Recreation Area, the tubs at West Pass sit on a hillside bluff overlooking the rushing waters of West Pass Creek. You can freely forget the swimsuit this far off-grid.
The tubs are filled with rubber hoses that transport hot water from the source. Remember to test the temperature before climbing in, and don’t forget to drain and clean the tubs after enjoying a stellar soak.
Refer to the directions above for Bowery Hot Springs. A half mile before reaching the gate and parking area for Bowery on Forest Service Road 120, head east less than a half mile up a bumpy road to a parking area. Follow the path from there — it’s a short distance to the hot springs.
Loftus Hot Springs
Loftus Hot Springs is tucked away near the Middle Fork of the Boise River, next to a service road within the boundaries of Boise National Forest. The temperature of the main rock-and-mortar-reinforced pool is usually near perfect, clocking in between 102°F and 105°F.
Waterfall fed, sandy bottomed, and a few feet deep, it’s one of those hot springs that’s tough to beat. You’re pretty far from civilization here, and as such, Loftus is hospitable for those wanting to soak minus the suit (though you may want to keep swimwear within reach due to the proximity of the road).
North of Boise on Highway 21, take Forest Service Road 268 (aka the Middle Fork Boise River Road) east over 30 long, washboard miles toward the remote mining town of Atlanta. Look for the parking area on the west side of the road, opposite the Boise River and close to mile marker 34. Follow a short path from the parking area to the hot springs.