A winter itinerary including a map of the 11 best ones to visit
Guest post written by Kate Kaehler from Kate Roams the World
Looking for a unique winter adventure? Consider taking a road trip to visit Idaho’s hot springs. With over 100 natural hot springs scattered throughout the state, there are plenty of options for a soak in these rejuvenating, hot springs rich in minerals.
A state with so much more than potatoes and farmland, Idaho has some of the most epic mountains and scenic hot springs you’ll find in the United States.
You can take this road trip any time of the year, but in the winter with the mountains covered with a fresh blanket of snow- it is really something special.
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Tips & Things you Need to Know Before Visiting Hot Springs in the Winter
- Weather: If you’re headed to Idaho in the winter it is important you keep track of weather conditions in case there are any snow storms blowing in. It will be very cold so pack accordingly. Expect temperatures in Stanley to be a high of 26F and a low of 6F. But- that’s why you’re going to soak in hot springs!
- Road Conditions: Check road conditions frequently before and during your stay in Idaho as snow and ice can impact your travels and make your drive unsafe. There were quite a few times during my trip that I was white knuckling it driving down icy roads. Having a car with AWD or FWD is very helpful. Always keep emergency equipment on hand and tire chains in case you need them. Also be sure to keep your gas tank full, sometimes you can drive a few hours in between towns without seeing a gas station.
- Trail Conditions: Hiking in the winter can bring snowy and/or icy trails. Keep microspikes on hand and a pair of hiking boots that have good grip.
- Go early: If you want solitude, I recommend visiting the most popular hot springs as early in the morning as you can. Some of them are very small with not much room for more than a few people. I crave solitude in nature so I try to go on off times as much as possible.
- Embrace the adventure: Sometimes these hot springs can be hard to find. At times you’ll arrive where the hot spring should be, park on the side of the road, and have to walk around to find it. Remember to look for the steam rising, and if it smells like sulfur you’re getting closer!
- Prevent dehydration: Since you’ll be soaking in very hot water it is easy to sweat a lot- even in the dead of winter. Be sure to keep hydrated with lots of water during your soaks! And take your time getting out of the hot spring afterwards to prevent dizziness.
- Shower before entering: It’s always a good idea to shower before going into a hot spring due to the delicate nature of them. Fragrances or bacteria can disrupt these fragile ecosystems. On the same note, never use soap in hot springs.
- Clothing optional hot springs etiquette: Many of the primitive (not commercially developed) hot springs listed below are clothing optional. For those who prefer to keep their knickers on, be sure to respect others’ choices.
Idaho Hot Springs Map
The easiest way to begin your winter hot spring adventure in Idaho is to fly into Boise International Airport.
If you do this, follow the map below starting at Trail Creek Hot Springs as go as far North as your time allows.
Have only 2-4 days? Goldbug Hot Springs is the farthest I would go, and cut out going to Ketchum.
With 5-7+ days you could go up to Jerry Johnson and Weir Creek Hot Springs. From the Jerry Johnson area it will take you about 6 hours to drive back down to Boise.
Solo Female Travel in Idaho
I took a one week road trip in the winter visiting many hot springs in December of 2021. I felt very safe as a female traveling solo all throughout Idaho.
Safety tips: Always send a copy of your trip itinerary, when you are expected to be in/out of service, and daily updates to someone close to you. I also always turn my ‘Find my Friends’ on for a few friends and family so they can check on where I am.
One Week Idaho Hot Springs Road Trip Itinerary
- Day 1: Fly into Boise. Drive 2 hrs to Trail Creek Hot Springs. Stay in Cascade, ID.
- Day 2: Drive 1 hr to Pine Flat Hot Springs and soak there for a while. Drive 15 mins down the road and visit Kirkham Hot Springs. Drive 1 hr and stay in Stanley, ID.
- Day 3: Schedule a morning soak at Mountain Village Resort. During the afternoon, visit nearby Sunbeam Hot Springs & Boat Box Hot Springs located within 10 mins of the resort. Stay another night in Stanley.
- Day 4: Take a day trip from Stanley to visit Ketchum, ID- a beautiful ski resort mountain town. Visit Frenchman’s Hot Springs while there. Stay another night in Stanley.
- Day 5: Drive 1 hr to hike to Goldbug Hot Springs. Stay a few hours and hang out here- this hot spring is my personal favorite! Stay in Salmon, ID for the night.
- Day 6: Fuel up- this will be your longest driving day. Drive 3 ½ hrs to Jerry Johnson Hot Spring 15 mins down the road you’ll find Weir Creek Hot Springs. Drive 1 ½ hrs to Kamiah, ID to spend the night.
- Day 7: Drive 4 ½ hrs down back to Boise.
11 Best Idaho Hot Springs to Visit
Trail Creek Hot Springs
Short, steep 0.1 mile walk to these hot springs from the parking area. There is a rope tied to a tree to grab onto to make it easier to walk down. Microspikes/crampons in winter are recommended. There are a few pools here with varying temperatures.
Pine Flat Hot Springs
These hot springs are situated next to a river down a trail 0.3 miles long. In winter the trail can be very slippery. This hot spring has three pools and one has a geothermal waterfall cascading into it- pretty neat!
Kirkham Hot Springs
Kirkham hot springs is a popular stop but you’ll find about 10 pools so there’s plenty of room to spread out! This is a really beautiful spot. There is a 5$ day use fee to pay at the parking lot. There are vault toilets at the trailhead, and the hot springs are a short walk from the parking lot
Boat Box Hot Springs
Located 4 miles down the road from the town of Stanley on highway 75. This is a single small metal tub that is fed by a pipe. This hot spring can get very hot so there is usually a bucket next to the tub that you can use to take cold water from the river to cool it down.
Sunbeam Hot Springs
Also located on Highway 75, just 10 minutes down the road from Boat Box hot springs is Sunbeam hot springs. A very similar set up to Boat Box, but Sunbeam has two small tubs to soak in.
Mountain Village Resort Hot Springs
This unique hot spring has a beautiful mountain view and is enclosed in a small wooden building. It is property of the Mountain Village Resort and you must reserve a time slot in advance.
If you stay at their hotel you get one free soaking reservation included. Otherwise there is a fee of $25 for one hour. I made my reservation a little after sunrise and lucked out with being the only person there. The hot spring is a 5-10 minute flat walk from the hotel.
Frenchman’s Bend Hot Springs
These hot springs are a bit off the beaten path, located 11 miles from Ketchum, with the last 7 miles being on a dirt road. You’ll find the hot springs a very short walk from the parking area.
There are a few rock walled pools with varying temperatures. These springs are beautiful but when I went they were actually too hot to get in! You can control the temperature however by shifting some rocks around to let some cold water from the river in.
Goldbug Hot Springs
The longest hike on this list is to Goldbug hot springs, but believe me it is worth it. With a gorgeous mountain view and one pool being heart shaped, the magical Goldbug hot springs is definitely my favorite on this list.
The hike is 3.6 miles roundtrip with 900 ft of elevation gain. I went as early in the morning as I could and got the best spot all to myself for over an hour. There are a few different pools to spread out when it becomes crowded.
Weir Creek Hot Springs
Reach these hot springs by doing the 0.7 mile round trip hike. In the winter with snow and ice this makes for quite the slippery and potentially treacherous hike since the trail is thin. Be sure to wear hiking boots and strap on microspikes when there is ice present.
When I went to Weir Creek hot springs, the conditions could not have been more perfect. I had the spot alone for about an hour and there was a fresh blanket of snow covering the forest.
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs
Take the 2.6 mile round trip hike to reach the popular Jerry Johnson hot springs, 15 mins down the road from Weir Creek. There are three pools here to soak in with varying temperatures.
Where to Stay to Visit Idaho Hot Springs
- Lodging in Cascade, ID: There aren’t too many options in this small town. Birch Glen Lodge makes for a great budget, no frills choice that is highly rated.
- Lodging in Stanley, ID: Mountain Village Resort– This is the resort mentioned above with a hot spring reservation included. There is also a restaurant onsite and the rooms are moderately priced. I stayed here 3 lovely nights and ate a great breakfast there every morning. Triangle C Cabins is a highly rated site with multiple private cabins to rent for the night.
- Lodging in Salmon, ID: I stayed in this unique Airbnb where a couple manages a few converted gypsy wagons. They are so sweet and let you meet their donkeys! The wagons were beautifully decorated for Christmas when I went in December as well. The Salmon River Inn is another great choice in town that is highly rated.
- Lodging in Kamiah, ID: Hearthstone Lodge is a great pick in this small town. It’s affordable but still elegant and you get a free breakfast at their restaurant in town.
Conclusion: Idaho Hot Springs Road Trip in the Winter
In conclusion, winter is an ideal time to explore the amazing hot springs of Idaho. These natural wonders offer a unique and relaxing experience different to your usual winter vacation.
Whether you prefer to soak in a remote wilderness location or in a developed resort, there is a hot spring for everyone.
So pack your bags, grab your swimsuit, and head out to discover the magic of Idaho’s hot springs this winter!
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