A walking path through the woods leads toward rising steam and pine covered mountains at Bonneville Hot Springs in Idaho

Bonneville Hot Springs | Idaho's Hidden Gem for a Relaxing Soak

A private soak shack in the forest and pools of hot water along a scenic creek. Need we say more? Discover why Bonneville Hot Springs is one of the best in Idaho.

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If we're describing our perfect getaway in the outdoors it's sure to include scenic mountain views, a quiet place among the trees to lay our heads, and somewhere to relax and unwind, disconnected from the outside world. Bonneville Hot Springs checks every box on our list.

What makes Bonneville such a hidden gem is that, unlike other popular springs in the area, it's not directly on the Payette or Salmon River. Bonneville sits tucked back in the forest, down a picturesque trail and its soaking pools are along Warm Springs Creek, making for an especially secluded experience.

Read on if a private soak with stunning views sounds appealing. We're sharing everything we know about this unique natural hot spring in the heart of Idaho, including how to get there, what to pack, and how to make the most of your experience.

Exploring Bonneville Hot Springs

While Bonneville is far from the only soaking option inside Boise National Forest, it's one of the most secluded, offering a more private and peaceful experience.

The springs consist of several man-made rock walled pools along the creek. You'll find them in various sizes and, with the mixing waters, different temperatures to suit your tastes.

The most charming and unique feature of Bonneville is the rustic wooden soak shack that sits on a small bluff above the pools. Inside you'll find a cast iron tub. Hot water is piped in directly from the springs and there's a wooden stopper for filling and draining the tub.

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Close the door to the shack for an exceptionally private way to relax. Just remember to be considerate of others and limit your time so that others can enjoy it as well.

The hot springs are located down a short and easy 0.25 mile trail that begins at Bonneville Campground, a great place to stay if you want to enjoy the area for a few days or more.

Directions and Access to the Springs

Bonneville is located 20 miles east of Lowman and 40 miles west of Stanley, in the heart of Boise National Forest and on the doorstep into the spectacular Sawtooth Mountains.

You can reach the springs from Highway 21, also known as the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway. Expect about a 45 minute drive from Stanley and a 2 hour drive from Boise. The turnoff for Warm Springs Road is at milepost 91.5 along Highway 21. Keep in mind that cell phone service will be very limited in the area, so download offline maps to your phone. Seasonal road conditions can be hazardous, so check the weather and for any closures before heading out.

The drive in is less than a mile and, once you pass the campground entrance, you'll arrive at a small day use parking area. There's a $5 fee per vehicle, which you can self pay on arrival, or you can display your America the Beautiful Pass for free access.

Take the trail from the parking area to reach the springs. You'll see the steam rising up as you walk through the woods. Once you reach the wooden shack you can have a private soak in the tub, or venture downhill to find a pool along the creek.

A woman can be seen through the open door of a rustic wooden hot springs soak shack A wooded dirt path leads to clouds of white steam between tall pine trees during early morning

Camping at Bonneville Campground

You can enjoy the hot springs as much as you'd like by staying at Bonneville Campground. The 22 campsites are reservable between May and September, with some first come first serve availability. Single sites cost $15 per night and doubles are $30. There are no electric, water, or sewer hookups, but trash collection and drinking water are provided. There's a vault toilet on site and the campground is monitored by a host.

Boondocking and Other Campgrounds

Other camping options are plentiful in the area. Boondocking is always our preferred choice and the National Forest allows dispersed camping, so use one of our methods if you'd like to find a free place to spend the night.

The USFS manages several other campgrounds in the area, including Park Creek, Helende, Pine Flats, Grandjean, and Hot Springs Campground.

Other Activities Near Bonneville Hot Springs

Since you're coming to the area for a soak, you'll definitely want to visit some of the other amazing hot springs nearby. Don't miss out on Kirkham, Pine Flats, Sacajawea or Sunbeam Hot Springs, which are some of our favorites.

Stanley Idaho and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, less than an hour drive away, are an outdoor enthusiast's paradise. Explore hiking trails into the mountains, take a whitewater rafting trip down the Salmon River, or find more relaxation with a paddle on Redfish Lake.

If you're looking for more quiet and secluded spots, we'd highly recommend a visit to Stanley Lake, where you can enjoy breathtaking views on a stroll along the shore.

We also found that the nearby town of Crouch was a nice little oasis among the otherwise rugged and forested mountains. It's a bit further away than Stanley, but it's in the opposite direction so, if you're either coming from the west or leaving the area in that direction it's worth a stop. You'll find a fully stocked grocery store, several restaurants, and a wine bar, all in a compact little mountain town.

Common Questions About Bonneville Hot Springs

Is there a day use fee to access Bonneville Hot Springs?

Yes, you'll either need to pay $5 per vehicle or display one of the accepted interagency passes, including an America the Beautiful Pass.

What's the water temperature at the hot springs?

Expect temperatures at the source of the springs to be anywhere from 120-180F. In other words, extremely hot. You should not try to enter the water uphill, but don't worry, the temperature in the soak shack should be a comfortable 104F, give or take. The pools will vary, depending on their distance from the source and the height of the creek, which mixes with the spring water and cools it down.

Where can you spend the night near Bonneville Hot Springs?

The best place to stay would be at Bonneville Campground, which puts you just a short walk away from the springs. You can anticipate the campground being full during the busier summer months, especially on a weekend. You may be able to find a site mid-week, but it's best to reserve ahead of time. Otherwise, you can find a spot at one of the other numerous campgrounds in the area or boondock on National Forest land. Lodging options in the immediate area are limited, but there are a few, including Sawtooth Lodge.

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What should you pack for a hot springs trip?

Pack a bag. Bringing a bag on the trail means you'll have a place to set everything when you arrive and a way to keep things dry. It also helps prevent anything accidentally being left behind. If you don't already own a dry bag, we recommend these ones.

Sandals or water shoes. Something with tread for stepping onto slippery rocks or walking downhill on steep slopes. There isn't any rock scrambling at Bonneville, but you'd be better off with something that straps on or ties rather than flip flops.

An adequate amount of water. Soaking in the hot water can dehydrate you quickly, so don't overlook the basics.

Your swimsuit. Speaking of basics.

A towel. We love our quick drying and packable towels. They do a great job and we don't have to haul around bulky bath towels.

Warm dry clothes. Speaking from experience, no matter how short of a distance you are from the car, you'll be thankful for an extra layer or two when you get out of the hot water and are hit by a cold breeze.

A headlamp or flashlight. Heading out early in the morning or planning a sunset soak? Bring along an adequate source of light for the trip back to the car.

When is the best time to visit?

We'd highly recommend visiting in the summer or early fall, ideally between June and October. High water levels during spring run-off mean that hot springs pools in the area can be washed out and too cold for soaking. While Bonneville Hot Springs are open year-round, the campground and access road will be closed during the winter, meaning a longer hike in and lots of snow. If you do intend to go during the colder months, be prepared for some difficult and potentially hazardous conditions.

The best time of day to visit is in the early morning, at or just before sunrise. This is your best chance to have the springs all to yourself or with only a few others.

Is there parking at Bonneville Hot Springs?

Yes, whether you're camping or visiting for the day only, there are parking spaces available. Just be aware that the day use lot is fairly small, so it could fill up on busy summer weekends.

A woman walks away from the camera down a dirt trail toward billowing clouds of steam at Bonneville Hot SpringsSteaming hot water from a natural hot spring cascades down a colorful rock wall

Hot Springs Soaking Etiquette

We always like to include a few reminders about proper etiquette when visiting natural hot springs.

Generally speaking, practice Leave No Trace principles, making sure to stick to existing paths and not trampling the wildlife. Don't introduce anything into the water, including soap, shampoo, lotion, or sunscreen.

If you're going to bring a beverage, leave the glass containers behind. Make sure to pack out anything you do bring in. Unfortunately we've found lots of trash and personal items left behind at just about every spring we've visited. To offset this, you can bring a bag and clean up any items you do find.

Use the bathroom before heading out to the springs. Many of them don't have a restroom on site. If nature calls while you're there, please find an appropriate place, away from water sources.

It's possible you'll encounter some nudity. The official rule is that public nudity is prohibited, but the unofficial rule is that the farther away the hot springs are, the more likely it is. At a location like Bonneville, which is down a hiking trail, and with the private soak shack, the chances go up.

Pets aren't allowed in the hot springs, so it's best to not bring them. If you must for some reason, please keep them leashed.

It all comes down to loving your neighbor. You may find yourself sharing the hot springs with others. Most people come to relax in a peaceful environment. Don't blast loud music or ruin someone else's experience. Simply put: enjoy the hot springs while being considerate of others.

Love the look of these hot springs? Pin it for later!

Clouds of steam shroud a rustic wooden soak shack with text overlay that says "Bonneville Hot Springs A Complete Guide"

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