Hot Springs Near Stanley Idaho: A Day of soaking

hot springs near Stanley Idaho

No trip to the Sawtooth Mountains would be complete without a day of soaking in some of the downright awesome hot springs near Stanley, Idaho. After all, what better way to soothe your aching muscles and relax after days of exploring? Did you know that Idaho actually has more soakable hot springs than any other state? It boasts an estimated 130! With that being said, there’s no shortage of options. However, this could lead to overwhelmingness – “where do I begin?” In this post, I will list and discuss some of my personal favorites and lump them into one full day’s itinerary!

ᑭOᔕT ᑕOᑎTEᑎTᔕ:

  • What to bring for your day of soaking
  • Kirkham Hot Springs
  • Bonneville Hot Springs
  • Boat Box Hot Springs
  • Sunbeam Hot Springs
  • Additional hot spring stops
  • My Hot Spring video near Stanley, Idaho
  • Where to camp (for FREE)

Author: Mindy Michaels, mindyonthemove.com

Main Photographer: Doug Michaels

My name is Mindy Rose Michaels and I am an avid adventurer and traveler.  I “work to travel” (as I like to say) and thus, live a very unconventional life. My husband, Doug, and I are freelancers in the film industry and work on various reality/doc tv shows for a multitude of networks, such as: Travel Channel, Animal Planet, NBC, Discovery, A&E, Starz, HGTV etc.  Our work keeps us constantly moving and constantly on our toes AND, when we’re not working, you best believe we’re still on the move. Always. Because we love to travel as often and as far as possible.
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DISCLOSURE:

THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS AND I RECEIVE A COMMISSION IF YOU VISIT A LINK AND BUY SOMETHING ON MY RECOMMENDATION. PURCHASING VIA AN AFFILIATE LINK DOESN’T COST YOU ANY EXTRA, AND I ONLY RECOMMEND PRODUCTS AND SERVICES I TRUST. ALL OPINIONS ARE MY OWN. FOR MORE DETAILS SEE MY DISCLOSURE AND PRIVACY POLICY.


HOT SPRINGS NEAR STANLEY IDAHO:

What to bring along for your day of soaking

Packtowl Ultralite Body Towel

This lightweight and super packable towel will dry you off between soaks, dry quickly and make packing up and hopping from one spring to the next super convenient!

Hydrapak Stash Collapsible Water Bottle – 1L

It’s super important to stay well-hydrated while sweating away during your soaks! This collapsible water bottle is the easiest to tote around, stash away and even holds a whopping 1L when full! It can even be frozen (or filled with hot beverages) and is durably made (BPA- and PVC-free).

MSR TrailShot Microfilter

This ultra-compact and ultralight water filter will come in handy when maintaining your hydration. Simply pump the cool river waters (next to many of the hot springs in this post) into your water bottle and DRINK UP! It’s really that simple. This little guy will filter out any bacteria, protozoa and particulates, providing you with safe-to-drink goodness!

KEEN Whisper Sandal – Women’s

These babies are my go-to summertime adventure shoes! I literally wear them all the time and everywhere. They’re super waterproof and provide awesome toe protection for wading in rocky waters, etc. Furthermore, their tractions provides stability while climbing up and over all the rocks and hillsides during your hot springin’ adventures! (BONUS: they’re currently on SALE!)

KAVU Tepic Short – Women’s

Another article of clothing I’ve worn ALL SUMMER LONG. Not only do these shorts come in rad designs, but they’re the most flattering and comfortable waterproof shorts I’ve ever come across! They fit perfectly, never even come close to chaffing/rubbing and…did I mention? They look super cute! (also, CURRENTLY ON SALE).

Mountainsmith The Sixer 12L Soft Cooler

Pack a lunch and carry along to your favorite soaking spot for an ideal picnic! This little cooler tote is cheap, durable, easy to carry and its PE foam adds insulation to keep your lunch cold.

More specs…

  • Barrel top closure accommodates bottles and cans
  • Removable shoulder strap with bottle opener
  • Waterproof sealed seams prevent leaking

Goodr OG Polarized Sunglasses

Can’t go without a pair of good sunnies to comfort and protect your eyes!

  • Lightweight and fun glasses built to be worn on a daily basis
  • Lens polarization reduces glare for clearer optics on water
  • Lenses block 100% of UVA and UVB rays for peace of mind
  • Anti-scratch and anti-saltwater coating boast longevity
  • Snug and lightweight frame grips ears to prevent bouncing

Thinksport Sunscreen SPF 50 

When out in the sun (and in water), it’s vital to protect your skin from the sun with reliable suncreen! I used this particular brand my entire trip out west this summer and never came close to burning.

Specs are as follows:

  • Mineral-based sunscreen contains 20% zinc oxide for broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection
  • Formula is very water resistant so it won’t come off easily while you’re swimming or sweating
  • Thinksport sunscreen is a physical sunscreen, meaning it works immediately upon contact as opposed to chemical sunscreens, which require application prior to exposure to sun
  • Applies easily and absorbs quickly
  • Thinksport SPF 50 sunscreen does not contain chemical UV absorbers, PABA, parabens or BPA

SealLine Blocker Compression Dry Sack

Keep all your belongings dry while soaking in hot springs and wading through the nearby rivers and streams with this fully waterproof compression dry sack.

  • PurgeAir valve keeps it from ballooning out in your pack
  • Fully waterproof design provides a dry place for gear
  • Roll-top closure provides a secure, water-tight seal
  • Continuous Compression cinches without breaking seams
  • PackTight design with flat sides to reduce bulk

Cotopaxi Luzon 24L Daypack

A top-notch, bright and fun daypack to carry along all your needed supplies!

  • A lightweight daypack for short OR longer adventures
  • 24L capacity offers room to pack for overnight trips (if you choose).
  • Durable material protects against rough trails, rocks etc.
  • Rear compartment offers organization for extra shoes
  • Mesh shoulder straps ensure lightweight comfort
  • Sternum strap helps to stabilize pack weight
  • Side pockets afford easy hydration access
  • Repurposed materials give every Cotopaxi product an original style


HOT SPRINGS NEAR STANLEY IDAHO:

Kirkham Hot Springs

hot springs near stanley idaho

Cost: $5 parking fee (free if you have a national park annual pass)

Distance from Stanley: ~55 minutes

Coordinates: 44.0722538, -115.5430570

Pros: Boasts several areas to soak in with varying temperatures and there are even hot waterfalls!

Cons: Kirkham tends to be very busy.

I highly recommend beginning your day, preferably at sunrise, basking in the morning rays at this stunning hot spring location! It’s the furthest away from Stanley (still only under an hour), and it tends to get crowded and fast! Be the first to arrive to snag your favorite soaking spot. Believe me, there are plenty to choose from: next to the Payette River, underneath a flowing and warm waterfall or in a secluded pool among the hillside. Each spot has its own unique temperature so, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be like Goldilocks when testing them all out: “ouch this one is too hot!”, “brrr, this one is cold!”, “ahh, this one is PERFECT”. haha! I found the ones closer to the river to be the most ideal for my liking.

The drive along the Ponderosa Scenic Byway to the Kirkham Hot Springs from Stanley, Idaho is a delight in itself! There are multiple overlooks to pull over at and so much mountain scenery to relish! Of course, the hot springs, themselves, are situated in such a beautiful and cozy spot among the South Fork of the Payette River. It was utterly fascinating to look upon the hillside and see the streams of steam pouring into the mountain air overhead. If you’re able to beat the crowds, you’ll also enjoy the peaceful ambience of the rushing river, chirping birds and burbling waterfalls all around!


HOT SPRINGS NEAR STANLEY IDAHO:

Bonneville Hot Springs

hot springs near stanley idaho

Cost: $5 day use fee (free if you have a national park annual pass)

Distance from Stanley: ~45 minutes

Coordinates: 44.1565396, -115.3139883

Pros: Most secluded and even has a little rustic hut with a private hot spring tub inside!

Cons: HOT! These were the HOTTEST springs that I encountered near Stanley, Idaho.

Bonneville Hot Springs surprised me! Prior to my Idaho journey, I hadn’t read much about them and no one (not even locals) recommended them to us. However, I found them to be one of the most charming hot springs in the area thanks to their seclusion and uniqueness. Once you arrive to the parking lot/trailhead, hike back the Bonneville Hot Spring trail for roughly 0.3 mile to get to the springs. At the bottom of the hillside, below the trail, rests several springs along Warm Spring Creek. Above the trail, you’ll see an old, wooden shack-like structure where you’ll find a bath tub full of circulating hot water inside (photo’d above).

The shack provides a privacy not afforded by the other natural hot springs on this list! Take advantage of this feature before or after your soak in the creekside springs below. Aside from the small hike back to the springs, the trailhead for the springs sits a decent drive back a gravel/dirt road (off of the byway) which equates to this spring’s extended solitude. Like I mentioned above, other than the fact that I found these springs to be uber hot (took me quite awhile to fully immerse), they’re definitely one of my top favorites and a must-visit among your time in Stanley.


HOT SPRINGS NEAR STANLEY IDAHO:

Boat Box Hot Spring

hot springs near stanley idaho

Cost: Free

Distance from Stanley: ~7 minutes

Coordinates: 44.2448241, -114.8861327

Pros: Perfect temperature, ideal soaking depth and very aesthetically pleasing for some sweet photos! Very cozy for you and your significant other.

Cons: It’s right below the road and there’s only one boat box so you have to wait your turn (though, we didn’t encounter any one else when we went).

I found Boat Box Hot Spring to be just darling! I loved how comfortable it was to sit in the spacious boat box with my personal best-rated water. There are a few more springs below the box, along the Salmon River, where a couple other people relaxed. But, my husband and I felt hidden away from them inside this super original hot spring tub. We were warned that this is an “Instragrammer hot-spot” and that we may have to wait in line to get our turn. However, this was not the case for our visit – we must’ve lucked out when we ventured here amid this gorgeous August evening. We had it all to ourselves for as long as we fancied.

If it wasn’t for the spring’s proximity to the road, it would’ve been my absolute favorite (though it still remains in the top). Its closeness to Stanley, Idaho makes it a fantastic late evening/sunset soaking spot before heading back to camp for the night. OR, it’s even a perfect location to soak while staring up at the mesmerizing starry night sky! Pretty romantic setting, If I do say so myself! 😉


HOT SPRINGS NEAR STANLEY IDAHO:

Sunbeam Hot Springs

hot springs near stanley idaho

Cost: Free

Distance from Stanley: ~18 minutes

Coordinates: 44.2674836, -114.7478648

Pros: Very natural setting right along the Salmon River with some larger pools for bigger groups.

Cons: Extremely crowded! This was the most crowded spot during our visit. Perhaps because we went during prime time (sunset).

If your luck is better than mine, perhaps your journey to Sunbeam Hot Springs will be far less crowded (I was actually shocked by the crowds because I read from other reviews that it’s a more secluded spring?). Regardless, if you prefer a more natural setting (opposite from the rustic shack and boat box), then Sun Beam is right up your alley! With very warm yet manageable temperatures, I can see why it’s a popular spot at sunset! One can’t help but wonder: did it get its name because the sun did, indeed, beam on the springs at sun set? Hmm….

Regardless, it’s very appropriately named and resulted in an enchanting scene during my short but rewarding soak. I will say… at least the gushing river drowned out the noises from the masses further upstream. And, I’m fairly certain had we arrived a touch later or first thing in the morning, we would’ve beat the crowds! For that reason, I recommend ending your soaking day here at dusk (right after sunset) OR begin here and work your way backwards from my route mentioned above.


HOT SPRINGS NEAR STANLEY IDAHO:

Additional Hot Spring Stops

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Stanley Mountain Village Hot Springs

This is a local resort and spa that features beautiful soaking rooms with stunning mountain views through its wide-open barn doors! Guests at the resort have free access to the hot springs (included in their rate). However, if you’re not a guest, you still may utilize their hot springs but you must reserve your one-hour visit ahead of time (costs $25 per non guest and there’s a 3-person limit).

Basin Creek Campground Hot Springs

Though this hot spring is located between Boat Box and Sunbeam, we did not see it as we drove by and thus, we did not visit. Furthermore, from what I’ve gathered via my online research, it seems this particular campground (where the springs are located) has been flooded out and perhaps no longer exists? I suggest doing further research before attempting to head there yourself (even though it is listed on the map I was provided – photo’d above). Maybe, just maybe, it will be a grand little treasure hunt for you!

Pine Flats Hot Springs

For those who have more time and/or do not mind venturing a little bit further, Pine Flats Hot Spring is a beautiful and peaceful soaking place located a short hike down a 0.5 mile (out and back) trail. It’s about an hour and fifteen minutes from Stanley, but I’ve been told it’s absolutely lovely!


Hot Springs Near Stanley, Idaho Short Video


HOT SPRINGS NEAR STANLEY IDAHO:

Where to Camp for FREE

hot springs near stanley idaho

Salmon River #3 (National Forest)

Cost: free

Type: Dispersed Camping for RVs and tents (no hookups or restrooms).

Note: There are fire rings provided so that you may have a campfire but, be sure your fires are dead out before bed!

This campground sits along the Salmon River, surrounded by pine forests and provides a glimpse of the Sawtooth Mountains in the distance. It was very peaceful and quiet and we really enjoyed our stay here! Tip: when you pull in off of the main rain, continue down the dirt road to the very last site to the right of the cul-de-sac/turnaround area. It’s more remote than the other sites and there’s a [steep] trail that leads down to the river.

Better yet? No reservations are required (they’re not allowed). These sites are on a first come, first serve basis. Don’t fret, though, because we got in around sunset the one evening and still found the best spot available here!

For more free & dispersed camping, check out ALL the options near Stanley Idaho via the Campendium App here.

Click on the logo above to download the app.

The Sawtooth Mountains (near Stanley, Idaho) are best explored via backpacking and backcountry camping! They’re unbelievably beautiful and I couldn’t suggest exploring them this way more! It was one of my greatest highlights out west this summer. With that being said, if you’re a beginner to backpacking and still a tad nervous – but also really want to learn and be prepared – check out my post:


Do you love soaking in hot springs? If so, what was your favorite hot spring you’ve ever visited? I’d love to hear in the comments below – I’m always eager to explore more!

As always….

Thank you so much for reading and happy travels!

-Mindy

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