A beautiful scenic drive with plenty of hot springs along the way? Count me in! Idaho is my husband’s home state and I’ve made a concentrated effort to see more of it with him. So when the opportunity presented itself to take a three-day road trip through that beautiful state, we, of course, said yes!
This guide will be broken up into three days of adventure because there is no way you can see all of the hot springs along our route in a single day. It is also helpful because we will break them up into regions just in case you aren’t able to fit the entire route into your plans.
A short note about hot springs etiquette before we present this guide. Hot springs are incredible places that nature has blessed us with for EVERYONE to enjoy, not just yourself. So please, follow these easy tips to make these places enjoyable for years to come
HOT SPRINGS ETIQUETTE-
We’ve gone back and forth about whether or not to share the location of some of the hot springs that we have visited. It’s not because we are selfish and want to keep those spots to ourselves. Rather, we desperately do not want them to get trashed. We’ve decided that since the whereabouts of these hot springs are already floating around on the web, we might as well share them along with some hot springs etiquette with hopes that they will continue to be taken care of
-Pack in what you pack out. Most common items that we see left behind are towels, random socks, wrappers, and beer cans.
-Keep them clean. Avoid spilling your drinks/food while soaking. Also, important to note that these are not baths…leave the bar of soap at home.
-Do some good and pick up garbage if you see it. We like to bring a bag with us in case we encounter trash left behind from others.
-“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.” Although Aretha Franklin probably wasn’t referring to hot spring visitors, the same rings true. Be respectful of those around you. I sometimes like to play light music while I’m soaking, but refrain if others are around. Everyone visits hot springs for different reasons, so don’t assume your reason is the same for everyone else.
Day 1 started in Twin Falls, ID. If you missed Day 1, you can find it here! Day 2 will cover the area from Twin Falls, ID to Stanely, ID.
Day 2 Itinerary-
Wake up early so you can fit as many hot springs into the day as possible. If you are traveling this route during winter, you know how short days can really be so you will need to maximize the sunlight hours.
Frenchman’s Bend Hot Spring-
From State Route 75 in Ketchum take the warm springs road west on a road that turns from the pavement into a gravel path 4 miles into the drive. Just beyond a bridge at 10.5 miles, you’ll see a sign that welcomes you to Frenchman’s Bend. Park the car and then walk upstream to the pools. The hot spring is nestled in the creekside boulders right underneath the road. Please note that this is a seasonal soaking pool.
Russian John Warm Springs– From Ketchum, drive 18 miles northwest on State Route 75. You can find the turnoff located 2.5 miles past the Baker Creek Road. After that, turn west onto a dirt road which you will find just after milepost 146. Then take a south turn to the parking area by the pool. The spring is partially covered by a short stack of logs. The water here is around 85-95 degrees and about 1 foot deep.
After visiting Frenchman’s Bend and Russian John Warm Springs you’ll arrive at the small town of Stanley, ID. We reviewed several lodging options, but found that the Stanley High Country Inn was a no-brainer! After an already busy morning of seeking out hot springs, it was so nice to check into a warm Inn. We stayed in the Ace of Diamonds Suite and all we could say was WOW! From the california king size bed to the propane fireplace, the suite just screamed “welcoming.” We also loved that the room had a door which led directly to the deck that housed a large hot tub and a killer sunrise view.
Later that evening after we were done soaking in the local hot springs, we came back and cuddled on the queen size futon while watching our favorite shows. We joked that if we could move anywhere in the world, we would stay indefinitely at the Stanley High Country Inn! It was the perfect romantic oasis that we needed after our adventures. Oh, and did we mention they offer an out-of-this-world brunch? If you weren’t already sold before, this brunch will for sure do the trick. We ordered the Belgium Waffles and the Eggs Benedict with homemade banana bread and a delicious parfait. Steve’s favorite part? Their very own hot sauce! Stay at the Stanley High Country Inn, you will not regret it!
Although it may be tempting to spend the entire day inside your luxurious suite at the Stanley High Country Inn, there are still too many hot springs left to explore!
Boat Box Hot Springs-
Drive .4 miles east of the Stanley junction on State Route 75. There are two things to watch for, steam and a small pull-out by the river in the middle of a left curve. This turn is less than a mile away from milepost 92. Park there and carefully climb down the rocks to the river. You will then witness the coolest sight you’ve probably seen… an old tub being filled with piped water from underneath the highway! Oh, and did we mention that the tub is situated with a beautiful view of frosted trees and a blue river? Hands down, this is the most unique hot springs that I have ever visited.
If the tub is currently being occupied, no worries. Awesome people have built up additional hot pools along the river. We really liked these hot springs because it was so easy to control the temperature. Too hot? Move a rock and let some of the cold water from the river in. Too cold? Take the piped water and direct it into these small hot pools.
Bonus Hot Springs:
From the Stanley junction, go 3.6 miles east on State Route 75 to the first big bend in the river. It is located just west of milepost 193. Park in the nearest pull-out and then walk back upstream. The best way that you can find these hot springs is by spotting the steam while driving along the road. You’ll also be able to see these hot springs while soaking in Boat Box Hot Springs.
Mormon Bend Hot Springs:
From the Stanley junction, go 6.6 miles east on State Route 75 to the Mormon Bend Campground. The springs are .2 miles east of milepost 196. We weren’t able to reach these hot springs since they sit on the other side of the bank. If you have a way to get across the cold river though, by all means, give it a go!
Kem Hot Springs:
Drive 8 miles east of the Stanley junction on State Route 75 just beyond the Basin Creek Campground. There is a pull out on the right which has a path that drops to the hot springs. This is a rock and sand soaking pool that has about 110-degree water.
Sunbeam Hot Springs:
Just west of Sunbeam off of Hwy 75. What we love about the sunbeam hot springs is that there is a bathroom and a changing area located nearby. If that is something that is important to you, then I would make this stop a priority. The water flows out of the springs at 160 degrees, but there are built pools along the edge of the river to mix river water with the hot water.
Elkhorn Hot Springs: Elkhorn Hot Spring is a small soaking box on the rocks between the road and the Salmon River. You can park at the same place that you do for Sunbeam Hot Springs and just walk upstream. The water here was so hot that we couldn’t get in! And unlike Boat Box Hot Springs, there was not a bucket to put in cold, river water. We later thought that we could have just put in snow, but that thought came after we had already left. So we enjoyed sitting in the small hot pools that had been built up next to the box.
And that’s it for Day 2! If you plan on making your Idaho Hot Springs Road Trip longer than three days, I would extend your stay in Stanley, Idaho. That town is the mecca of hot springs in my opinion.
Our stay in Stanley, Idaho was hosted by the Stanley High Country Inn. All opinions remain our own.