A woman in a red bathing suit stands under the hot waterfall at Kirkham Hot Springs in Boise National Forest and holds her palms up as water pours over her

9 Amazing Hot Springs Near Stanley Idaho

Our guide to the best hot springs near Stanley Idaho, the gateway to the Sawtooth Mountains, is all you need to plan a trip that's adventurous yet relaxing.

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Tucked away throughout Idaho are more than a hundred soakable hot springs, often surrounded by idyllic views of pine covered mountain slopes and crystal clear rivers.

An abundance of these springs are clustered in an area between Garden Valley and Stanley, conveniently located right along the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway. As you wind your way through Boise National Forest, hugging the bank of the Payette River, clouds of steam rise from just off the side of the road, indicating spots to pull over and take a dip.  

We made it our mission while traveling through Idaho to visit as many as we could. We’ve experienced both natural springs and commercially developed ones. Some popular and easily accessible, others more off the beaten path and less visited.

Below you’ll find our recommendations on the best in the Stanley area, tips for how to maximize the experience, and answers to everything you need to know before setting out.

Soak in the Best Hot Springs Near Stanley Idaho

Kirkham Hot Springs

When arriving at Kirkham Hot Springs, you'll park in a large lot directly on the Payette River. A closed gate blocks the bridge leading onto a former campground, which is now day use only.

Remember to bring $5 cash, or an Interagency Pass, to cover the per-vehicle parking fee before heading in for your soak, then cross the bridge on foot and turn right to access the hot springs. You'll notice some pools located right off the campground, both straight across from the bridge and where the pavement ends, near a wooden platform. We recommend continuing on, either down toward the river or across the hillside to find the best pools.

If you've never experienced a steady stream of water pouring down on you from a natural hot spring then you're in for a treat. The hot waterfall cascading over the hill into the river is a highlight and was the most relaxing part of all our hot spring experiences.

Kirkham is on the highly popular side, being considered one of the best hot springs in the area, maybe in all of Idaho. For that reason we'd strongly recommend an early morning visit. When we arrived at sunrise there was only one other visitor for about an hour. By the time we left cars were beginning to fill the lot.

Though the campground is no longer in operation there's still a vault toilet on site and the USFS provides trash service.

A woman in a red bathing suit walks across rocks and between pools of water toward a hot waterfall at Kirkham Hot Springs in IdahoA woman in a red bathing suit floats on her back in a natural hot spring pool surrounded by rocks overlooking a river and mountain view at Kirkham Hot Springs in Idaho

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Bonneville Hot Springs

If you're interested in a hot spring where you can camp, then Bonneville is one good option. You'll find it just off the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Route, 19 miles east of Lowman and 40 miles west of Stanley on a bluff over Warm Springs Creek.

The campground is open May through September and puts you a short, 1/4 mile walk through the woods from the hot springs. Non-campers looking only to soak will need to display an Interagency Pass or pay the $5 day use fee.

When the campground's closed, you'll need to park at the gate or trailhead, which adds about 1 mile to the hike. Snowshoes or cross country skis are recommended during winter months.

A rustic wooden soak shack is surrounded by thick clouds of white steam at the end of a dirt trail at Bonneville Hot Springs

You can't miss the steam rising up around the creek when you emerge from the trees, but another distinguishing mark of Bonneville Hot Springs is the private soak shack. Its aged wood panels give it an undeniably rustic appeal and it's sure to be one of the most unique soaking experiences you'll have. Inside you'll find a simple cast iron tub, which you can plug with a wood stopper. Hot water is crudely piped in so you can fill it up to your preference.

Downhill from the soak shack there are several pools, made from river rocks, of various size and temperature.

Looking through the open door of a rustic wooden soak shack at Bonneville Hot Springs where a woman is relaxing in a bath tubA man stands looking away from the camera silhouetted by tall clouds of thick white steam rising from the natural pools at Bonneville Hot Springs

Sunbeam Hot Springs

The history of Sunbeam Hot Springs partially lives on in an historic bathhouse and interpretive site. Back in 1937 the Civilian Conservation Corps developed these springs for public use, but unfortunately it fell into disrepair during WWII. Now, the stone structure serves as a changing room for visitors with nearby information boards describing the ingenuity used in its construction.

A pit toilet is also located adjacent to the bathhouse.

A historic stone building sits among trees on the edge of a river at Sunbeam Hot Springs in Stanley Idaho


Down along the Salmon River you'll find pools formed by rocks, but one of the special attractions at Sunbeam are two soaking tubs. Make your way down the steep slope just east of the bathhouse and parking area. The tubs are located directly below the spring source, with scalding hot water directed through a series of pipes to fill them.

If you're short on time, as we were, keep in mind that the tubs may be empty when you arrive. There are large drain holes in the bottom, so each visitor will need to plug them and then use the pipes to add fresh hot water.

Another important note is that you'll need a way to add cold water from the river to achieve the perfect temperature. We didn't have anything suitable with us and there was nothing left behind near the tubs, so consider bringing your own bucket or other watertight container for this.

There's no fee to visit Sunbeam, so enjoy your soak and just remember to not only leave no trace, but do your part to leave it better than you found it for the next person.

A woman in a red one piece swimsuit and black beanie sits on the edge of a blue soaking tub on the edge of a river at Sunbeam Hot Springs

Boat Box Hot Springs

As of July 2023 Boat Box Hot Springs no longer exists. Unfortunately, locals have reported that the tub was washed away by the river.

Instead of missing out, visit one of the nearby springs on the Salmon River, including Sunbeam, which also has soaking tubs.

Pine Flats Hot Springs

Another fantastic option for camping in close proximity to a unique hot spring is Pine Flats.

The 0.3 mile walk through the woods along the river begins at the campground, which is open May through September. There is a small day use parking area with a trailhead to the springs. When the campground is closed you'll have an added 0.25 mile walk down from the main road.

Campers can use the hot springs for no additional cost. For day use visitors an Interagency Pass or $5 fee is required.

A man in a swimsuit and gray beanie sits in a small natural hot spring pool on the edge of a cliff overlooking a river at Pine Flats Hot Springs

The springs themselves are located on a rocky cliffside overlooking the river and we found it to be one of the most unique spots in the area. A bit of scrambling over slippery rocks to find the perfect pool adds to the adventure, but you'll definitely want to bring along some water shoes or sandals with decent traction.  

Avoid visiting here during spring when higher river levels will cut off access to the lower pools. If the river is low enough you can carefully make your way along the rocks to a secluded waterfall that forms a pool perfectly sized for two.

A woman in a red swimsuit sits in a natural hot spring pool under a waterfall on the edge of a river at Pine Flats Hot SpringsA headshot of a shirtless man wearing a gray beanie and looking to his right with a hot waterfall pouring over rock in the background

Sacajawea Hot Springs

Due to being more isolated than others, Sacajawea is a lesser known spot in the Stanley area. To reach the hot springs you'll need to travel 5 miles down 524/Grandjean Road from Highway 21. It's an unpaved seasonal road, but not a terrible drive, as far as washboard roads go.

The springs are located near Sawtooth Lodge and Grandjean Campground, so crowds may be larger during the warmer months when there are more people staying in the area. Keep in mind, though, that the road will be closed to vehicle access during the winter. Spring river levels are too high and will wash out the pools, so you'll need to time your visit during summer or early fall.

Sacajawea is in yet another beautiful location, but we did find it difficult to get comfortable in the pools. The delicate balance of hot and cold water just wasn't right when we visited and is highly dependent on the river level. Some were way too hot to sit in. Others had pockets of ice cold water from the river that weren't quite mixing with the spring water.

Wide photo of a woman in a red swimsuit standing in front of a cloud of steam rising from the creek side natural hot spring with tall evergreen trees and mountains in the distance and large rocks in the foreground

Hot Springs Pool At Hot Springs Campground

The ambiguous name of this location makes it a bit difficult to find information about it. In fact, we're not even sure that there is an official name, but what we can tell you is that it's directly across the road from Hot Springs Campground.

There's a large, paved parking area, a short downhill walk to get to the springs and no fee to visit them.

While there are a few pools here we found the main, larger pool fed by a pipe to be the most comfortable. It has a sandy bottom, room enough for several people to share and a great view of the river.

These springs are the furthest west, a little over an hour from Stanley, but if you're traveling to the area from Boise they're the first you'll come across along the Scenic Byway.

Stairs lead down to multiple natural hot spring pools along the evergreen tree covered banks of a river in Boise National ForestA woman in a red swimsuit sits in a natural hot spring pool with her hands under a stream of hot water exiting a pipe

Cove Creek Hot Springs

Though it's directly off the main road, Cove Creek still has a feeling of seclusion, probably because it's just a small pool located downhill and away from the parking area. There's also a vault toilet here and a grassy picnic area along the bank of the river.

If you're in search of a place to spend the day, this one is just 10 minutes from downtown Stanley and is a less popular hot spring where you may find some privacy.

Picnic tables sit on the sparsely wooded bank of a river bend with log fog hanging in the air at Cove Creek Hot Springs

Mountain Village Hot Springs

For a soak right in the town of Stanley you can visit this man made pool. Mountain Village Resort's hot springs are surrounded by a log building, providing shelter and extra privacy. Two barn doors open up for an amazing view of the Sawtooth Mountains. Inside the building are a few private changing rooms and benches.

There's room for up to eight visitors in the pool. Soak times are by reservation only, however private soaks aren't guaranteed. Guests of Mountain Village have free access to the hot springs, but non-guests will need to pay a fee. Contact the resort directly to book a time slot for the hot springs.

Map of Hot Springs in and near Stanley Idaho

Plan your hot spring adventure and find your way around the area with our detailed map. We've customized it with all the locations on this list, including the springs, campgrounds, and other points of interest such as gas stations and grocery stores.

Where to Stay

If you've got a few days planned for your hot spring adventure then you'll need to find some overnight accommodations. Fortunately there's no shortage of places to stay and below we'll cover options that are right in Stanley as well as further out.

Hotels

Annual visitors to Stanley greatly outnumber its population of about 100 residents, so while there are several hotels to welcome you during your stay, you'll want to plan ahead especially during the busy summer months.

Mountain Village Resort | An anchor point for Stanley that includes the “Merc” general store, gas and service station, as well as the lodge, the ‘Stanley Outpost’ for large groups, and an RV park.

Redfish Lake Lodge | A historic lodge built in 1929. Eight rooms in the main lodge with 21 cabins and 11 suite units spread around the property. Amazing setting along the shores of Redfish Lake.

Stanley High Country Inn | A rustic option with 12 rooms right in the heart of Stanley. Offers a complimentary shuttle to Redfish Lake.

Camping near Stanley Idaho

Many of the hot springs along the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway are located in or adjacent to a campground.

Bonneville Campground | 22 sites that are available for reservations, plus some additional sites that are first come first serve. Short walk from the campground to hot springs.

Pine Flats Campground | 24 sites that are available for reservations, plus some additional sites that are first come first serve. Located among ponderosa pines on the bank of the Payette. Short hike from here to the hot springs.

Hot Springs Campground | Three group sites and 8 single sites available for reservation. Located directly on Highway 21 so less secluded than others, but convenient access across the road to hot springs.

Grandjean Campground | 31 primitive sites on a first come first serve basis. Close to Sacajawea Hot Springs and more remote than other options.

Boondocking

Fellow boondockers won’t be disappointed with options in the Stanley-Lowman area. It's no secret that we love finding free places to stay with beautiful views and some of the best boondocking we've ever done has been in the Sawtooths.  

You'll find some incredibly scenic spots along Forest Road 70633, just north of Stanley.

There are numerous sites on the Forest Roads off Highway 75, near Redfish Lake. However, we found many of these to be a bit more cramped and less scenic.

There are some great spots to be found off Highway 21 closer to Lowman right along the Payette River. You’ll have to work a bit harder for these, making your way down tight roads through the trees and up winding, narrow mountain roads. Also be prepared for sites that are quite uneven.

A Ford Transit campervan sits parked on a hill with a dramatic panorama of the Sawtooth Mountains in the background, glowing in the early morning light

How to Get to Stanley Idaho

Stanley is in the central Idaho region and all major routes to get there are scenic byways, so you're sure to enjoy the journey almost as much as the destination.

From Boise the drive is three hours to the northeast. Take the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, one of the most breathtaking drives through Idaho. This is the perfect route to maximize the number of hot springs you hit. The drive passes through Garden Valley and Lowman.

For a convenient stop along the way we recommend Crouch, an unassuming little mountain town with a well-stocked grocery store, restaurants, and a wine bar.

If you’re making your way north from the ‘Niagara of the West’, Shoshone Falls, take the three hour drive up the Sawtooth Scenic Byway.

Coming from Grand Teton and Jackson Hole? You'll have a five hour drive, joining a section of the Salmon River Scenic Byway in Challis. From there you can hit the hot springs east of Stanley, including Sunbeam and Cove Creek. Consider a short detour to pass by Craters of the Moon National Monument.

A small airport serves as an option for private chartered flights directly into Stanley. One of our favorite things to do on afternoons we were working from the van was to sit and plane watch. The views on approach into the airport, looking down at the mountains, lakes and rivers, must be incredible.

Other major airports nearby are Friedman Memorial in Sun Valley, Magic Valley Regional outside Twin Falls, and Boise. Rental cars are available at any of these destinations so you can continue your drive.

When to visit Stanley Idaho hot springs

Each season brings its own set of pros and cons, so deciding the best time of year for visiting Stanley’s hot springs will depend largely on your priorities.

Clouds of steam are rising up at the end of a dirt trail through the forest toward Bonneville Hot Springs


Summer

Summer is an excellent time of year to be in the Sawtooths. Hiking trails are open and water sports on Redfish Lake or whitewater rafting are popular activities. Temperatures in the region are relatively mild, though the summer can see some hot and dry days.

An early morning soak in the hot springs is still perfectly enjoyable. The large crowds of summertime give an additional incentive to arrive early. We did plenty of sunrise soaks during mid June and either had the springs completely to ourselves or with only a few others.

Fall

With the months of September and October come much cooler temperatures, thinner crowds of people, and gorgeous fall colors around Stanley. Later in the season, however, some hiking trails at higher elevation may be covered in snow and other activities such as whitewater rafting are no longer an option.

Winter

If you’re willing to tough out some of the coldest months of the year and potentially hazardous road conditions, the reward will be incredibly beautiful scenery. Picture clouds of rising steam over blankets of snow and evergreen trees.

Winter may seem like the ideal time for a relaxing soak, but come prepared. Storms can result in road closures, rock slides, and avalanches. Trails into hot springs will also be more difficult to access and will probably require snowshoes and a lot more preparation.

Spring

The biggest disadvantage to this time of year is higher water levels on the rivers. Many of the springs are directly along the banks and depend on the right mixture of water for the pools to be comfortable. Some can be completely washed out or inaccessible. Ice and snow won't disappear in some areas until late May or June, so once again, come prepared.

What to know about the hot springs before visiting

Layers of tall evergreen trees are concealed by thick clouds of fog in Boise National Forest

Water temperature

The water temperature at each spring varies, but it'll be hottest close to the source, usually somewhere around 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Some spring sources can reach much higher temperatures, so take caution since there's a risk of burns over 130 degrees. In the pools where spring water has cooled down or mixed with a cold river you can expect temperatures in the range of 95-110 degrees.  

Hot springs etiquette

Let's talk about proper hot springs etiquette. First and foremost, these are natural spaces that are often free to visit and undeveloped, so they're not looked after full time. It's our responsibility to be good stewards and to leave them better than we found them for the next visitor. That means not introducing anything into the water, including soap, shampoo, lotion, or sunscreen.

Generally speaking, practice Leave No Trace principles, making sure to stick to existing paths and not trampling the wildlife.

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, and you're less likely to come across a nude soaker at heavily visited springs such as Kirkham or Sunbeam. But the unofficial rule is that the farther away the hot springs are, the more likely it is.

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.

When to go

If you prefer a hot spring soak in solitude we'd strongly recommend arriving early. Even at sunrise during the summer there were a few others arriving at the same time. If you don't mind the crowds and are prepared to wait a bit for your turn in a pool, drop by in the afternoon or for sunset.

Weather in the area can change rapidly and afternoon storms during warmer months are a common occurrence, so there's an added incentive to showing up first thing in the morning.

Cost

Most of the hot springs on this list are completely free. Those located at a developed campground, including Kirkham, Bonneville, and Pine Flats have a $5 day use fee. That fee can be avoided by purchasing an annual America the Beautiful Pass, which also gives you access to national parks and tons of other federally managed sites.

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What to bring to the hot springs in Stanley Idaho

Pack a bag. At some locations you'll have to take a trail to the hot springs. Others are much closer, but packing a bag means you'll have a place to set everything when you arrive, keeps things dry, and helps prevent anything 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. Also, speaking from experience, the rocks you'll be climbing over can be surprisingly sharp. Leave the flip flops at home.

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. Again, 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.

Idaho is full of opportunities to get out into nature and its hot springs are a major highlight. One thing we love about them is how each one has its own features and unique appeal. They've managed to mostly fly under the radar, but are becoming more popular than ever. We hope you'll take time to get out and visit some of them, remembering that we need to preserve these places for everyone to enjoy.

What Else is There to do in Stanley?

The hot springs around Stanley are certainly one of the best reasons to visit the area, but if you're looking for more fun and adventure here are a few suggestions (and ways to support some local small businesses!)

Grab a Bite to Eat

Stanley Baking Co. is one of those charming small town cafes you'll immediately fall in love with. The bacon and brie scones alone kept us coming back. The couple who've kept it running for over 20 years also own the Sawtooth Hotel, which serves dinner Thurs - Mon. Both locations are closed seasonally during the winter.

Book a Photo Session

While surrounded by the incredible landscapes of the Sawtooths, why not take the opportunity to get some beautiful photos done? Autumn Lynne Photography offers couples sessions and elopement packages in the area and her work is absolutely stunning.

Take a Whitewater Rafting Trip

Idaho has earned its nickname as the "Whitewater State" and there's no better place to hit the water than Stanley, the meeting place of the Salmon and South Fork Payette Rivers. Peak rafting season is May through June, when the water is gushing from spring run off.

Sawtooth Adventure Company is another family owned local business based in Stanley. They've been offering adrenaline packed excursions for decades, but also a more tame float trip if you just want to enjoy the views from the water.

Enjoy the Snow

Average snowfall totals here reach 200 inches and, while the winters may be harsh, they also make for a snowshoeing and skiing paradise for those who come prepared. If your plans put you in the area during these colder months you might as well embrace all the white stuff.

Head out with the experts from Sawtooth Mountain Guides on an adventure or, if you'd like to gain some knowledge that will make you safer on your own, enroll in one of their avalanche courses.

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A woman floats on her back in a hot spring pool overlooking a river with text overlays that says 9 Amazing Hot Springs Near Stanley Idaho

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