Whatever the season, you can find bathers soaking up a healthy dose of relaxation in one of Idaho’s hundreds of natural geothermal hot springs. Fortunately, some of the most breathtaking springs are just a short drive from Boise.
Whether you crave the primitive pleasure of feeling sand between your toes and listening to the calm rush of a nearby river, or the luxury of soaking in a pristine and modern geothermal pool, we’ve assembled a list of our favorite nearby hot springs.
The Springs at Idaho City
1 hour drive from Boise | Maintained pool
Best season to visit: fall or winter
This cozy mountain spa has something for everyone – a large communal soaking pool, a spacious hot tub, private pools available for hourly rental, on-site masseurs, and even a toasty sauna. Reservations for The Springs are required, which ensures it never gets too crowded. Also, there are specific family days and times where kids are not allowed, which helps everyone enjoy The Springs in their own way.
You’ll find everything about your trip relaxing: from the short-but-picturesque drive up to Idaho City to the incredibly helpful service staff who will bring your food and drink orders poolside. When there’s snow on the trees and frost freezing to your wet hair while you sip on a boozy hot chocolate, you’ll swear life doesn’t get any better.
And if driving back to town seems like a hassle after all that relaxing, Inn The Pines has rooms and cabins for rent just down the road.
Kirkham Hot Springs
1 hour, 45 minute drive from Boise | Natural hot springs
Best season to visit: winter or spring
These multi-tiered hot springs are one of Idaho’s most popular. Down a short staircase from the parking area, you’ll find multiple pools – and even a few hot springs waterfalls – overlooking the rushing waters of the south fork of the Payette River. The source of these springs is a toasty 120°F, but most pools range in temperature from 95-110°F.
Be forewarned: the Kirkham campground has been permanently closed and is in the process of being converted to a day-use only area. The hot springs are still open for use, however, parking is currently limited.
In the summer months, you have to be an incredibly early bird to get a spot at Kirkham. Thanks to its accessibility and shallow pools, this site is especially popular with families. For this reason, closing is not optional; bathing suits are required (there are signs to remind you of this).
Because of its popularity, we recommend hitting the springs during its off-season. In the fall, as the water level of the Payette River lower, there are also more soaking options. And if you want a pool to yourself, try hitting these springs during the week.
Gold Fork Hot Springs
2 hour, 10 minute drive from Boise | Maintained pools
Best time to visit: fall or spring
With six pools ranging in temperature from 85-110°F (what people call the “lobster pot” pool), Gold Fork is the granddaddy of all hot springs. There’s even a shallow, sandy pool suitable for young children, which makes it incredibly popular with families.
Gold Fork has changing rooms, suits and towels for rent, free lockers, and tables and chairs for use. You can buy snacks on-site or bring your own. There are a few downsides: reservations aren’t required, so it can get very crowded, and they only accept cash/check (no credit cards). Additionally, the last three miles of the road into Gold Fork are not maintained, so proceed at your own risk during the winter months.
During summer and winter vacation periods, families on the vacation commute from McCall to Boise often stop in for an afternoon. The least busy times to visit are when school is in session.
Rocky Canyon Hot Springs
1 hour, 30 minute drive from Boise | Natural hot springs
Best time to visit: late spring or summer
If you’re hunting for a bit of an adventure, Rocky Canyon is perfect for you. Its remote location, combined with the fact that you have to cross the Middle Fork Payette to reach the pools, deters many casual day-trippers – especially those with young children.
Once you’ve hiked from the road about a half-mile and crossed the river, you’ll find a series of rustic rock pools to choose from. The hottest, at about 100°F, is at the top. This pool is one of the smallest but also offers the best views.
The Middle Fork waters can get high – and cold – which is why it’s only safe to hit these hot springs in the late spring or summer, when water levels are lower and temps are safe.
Mountain Village Resort
2 hour, 45 minute drive from Boise | Maintained pools
Best time to visit: summer and winter
A log structure has been built up around this human-made hot springs pool, giving it the feel of a large jacuzzi. But don’t let that deter you. Huge doors open up on one side to breathtaking views of nearby Valley Creek and beyond it the Sawtooth Mountains, making this spot arguably the most scenic of any hot springs in Idaho.
The Mountain Village Resort owns this little hot springs, which comfortably seats about eight people. Guests have access to the springs for free, or you can pay by the hour to soak (either way, a reservation is required).
We love this spot in summer for the wildlife gazing and in winter, when temperatures take your breath away and make you especially thankful for the warm waters and stunning view.
Bonneville Hot Springs
2 hour, 30 minute drive from Boise | Natural hot springs
Best time to visit: late fall or early spring
While these hot springs are more of a trek to get to, the payoff is worth it: waterfalls of hot water stream from a hillside into wide, sandy pools below. There’s even a rustic shack complete with a spring-fed soaking tub if you’d like a little privacy.
These hot springs are very, very hot, which make them ideal for colder weather seasons (and not ideal for groups with small kids). Larger groups tend to flock here for the nearby campground. But be forewarned that the dirt road leading to the springs is not well maintained, which is why this isn’t a great winter destination.
Burgdorf Hot Springs
3 hour drive from Boise | Maintained pools
Best time to visit: winter
This rustic resort has been operating in some form since the 1870s (note: we truly mean rustic – there’s no electricity or cell service out here). Stepping onto the property is like stepping back in time. You’ll find a lodge, cozy log cabins for rent and three large log-built pools to soak in that vary in temperature from 100°F to 113°F.
In fact, the place has been so lovingly preserved and maintained over the years that it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
While there’s no bad time to visit, the best time, if you can swing it, is during the winter when the road is only accessible by snowmobile (you can rent snowmobiles in nearby McCall). Snowmobiling the 30 miles into the hot springs is a uniquely Idaho adventure in itself – one that can be extended by booking a few nights at the cabins.
Pine Flats Hot Springs
1 hour, 30 minute drive from Boise | Natural hot springs
Best time to visit: summer or fall
Located near Kirkham Hot Springs, Pine Flats also features its own campground. Reaching these hot springs is slightly more of a trek but well worth it. After a half-mile hike, you’ll come upon several pools of varying sizes nestled into the side of a cliff, right next to the Payette River. The pools are more lukewarm and warm than hot, which makes this a great spot for more temperate months.
The real hidden gem of a pool is hidden a few hundred feet further. By hugging the cliff and wading through the river 20 feet or so, you’ll find two larger, warmer pools fed by a hot spring waterfall.
Trail Creek Hot Springs
2 hour, 10 minute drive from Boise | Natural hot springs
Best time to visit: spring and summer
Also known as Samuel’s Hot Springs, these two pools were built up right next to a storybook creek. Not only is there an ingenious spigot/plug system that can channel colder river water to help regulate pool temperatures, it’s easy to take quick polar dips if you overheat.
While the path down from the parking lot (more of an unmarked dirt pullout) down to the pools is short, it’s also steep and involves a creek crossing. When it turns cold, the path gets incredibly icy, which is why we recommend visiting in the spring and summer months.
Idaho Hot Springs Tips & Etiquette
Finally, when visiting Idaho’s natural hot springs remember to keep them clean – that means pack out what you pack in, do not alter the springs in any way, and don’t add anything to the water, including bubbles. Idaho’s great natural resources, including our hot springs, are at risk of misuse and abuse. It is up to everyone to do their part to protect these local treasures.
At many of the natural hot springs, you’ll also find that clothing is optional. Be prepared for that, but wear what makes you feel comfortable.
Because of the ongoing COVID pandemic, hours and usage for the hot springs listed above may be subject to change. Please check appropriate websites, if available, to ensure hot springs are open to visitors before planning your trip.
Lisa is a top Idaho Realtor and creator of WeKnowBoise.com. Whether buying or selling a home, we provide full-service real estate solutions dedicated to helping our clients achieve their goals. From Southeast Boise to the North End, up to Eagle and west to Meridian, or right in the middle of the Boise Bench and downtown - We Know Boise.
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