Date of Trip: January 2001
There is nothing better than soaking in a pool in what seems the middle of nowhere, either after a long hike or first thing in the morning after sleeping on the hard ground all night. Here are the places I have visited so far and my impressions of them.
When walking to the Granite Hot Pool, my then 2.5-year-old son took one look at the falls below him, pointed and uttered, “Awesome.” We didn’t even know he knew that word, but he summed up all of our feelings that day.
One suggestion: A great guide book to have with you is “Hot Springs and Hot Pools of the Northwest” by Jayson Loam and Marjori Gersh.
Best Way to Get Around
Car, snowmobile, cross-country skis, your feet. Most places, you’ll have to drive most of the way and then hike in, but some are surprising just off the side of the road.
Lava Hot Springs
This little town is only a short drive from home so we visit it quite often. The whole town of revolves around wonderful Geothermal Pools.
Our favorite pools are the Geothermal Pools at the east end of town that are open 363 days a year. I love the gravel bottoms of the Roman-style pool in a sunken garden. Sitting and soaking here with the feel of small pebbles between your feet is so romantic. There are two other partly-shaded hydrojet pools. The temperature of all the pools is around 107 degrees.
The pools cost $5.50 for adults aged 12 and up, $5 for children aged 4 to 12. For an additional $1.25 you can come and go as you please during the day; this is a nice feature, as we often go and get lunch in town and then come back and soak again.
Massage is also available on the premises, but I would make reservations beforehand, or as soon as you get there, to ensure you get a spot.
There are several hotels in town that have natural hot-spring pools on their premises: Riverside Inn and Home Hotel and Motel.
Nat-Soo-Pah Hot Springs
My family and I took a road trip in August, and our first stop was just outside Twin Falls, Idaho, at Nat-Soo-Pah hot springs. For $7, we pitched our tent on the grass of the large tree-filled lot.
The rates for the pool were just as reasonable–under $15 for two adults, a 5-year-old, and an infant. The staff was totally friendly and very helpful. The facilities consisted of three swimming pools of natural mineral water flowing out of a spring at 99 degrees, while the soaking pool was kept at 104 to 106 degrees. There is also a fun water slide at the side of the large swimming pool. You can bring inflatables or rent tubes or sliding pads that also float. Great for lounging, and worth the $2 rental fee. With a stamp, you are free to come and go throughout the day.
Locker rooms, snack bar, picnic area, overnight camping, and RV hookups are available on the premises. Keep in mind before you get there, the nearest store and service station are 4 miles away, and it’s 16 miles to the nearest motel. No credit cards are accepted, so best to bring cash. They do have firewood for sale at the front. Open from May 1 to Labor Day.
This little side trip was the highlight of our trip, and my 5-year-old is still asking us to go back.
Russian John Hot Spring
Another just-off-the-road natural pool, this is the remains of an old sheepherder soaking pool on a slope 200 yards above the highway in Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Although it is “open” all year round, the temperature rarely gets above 89 degrees. While we were here, we were the only ones around, so it was quite a nice little soak. This is a small pool, so you may have to wait if any one else is visiting.
Directions: On ID 75, 30 yards south of mile marker 146, turn west and then south to the parking area. From the parking area, it is only a short distance to the spring. Local custom is clothing-optional.
Warfield Hot Spring
This is a great little pool just off the side of the road and is easily accessible to everyone. It’s certainly a fun little place to stop and soak if you’re in the Sun Valley area.
We visited in the spring, when there was still snow on the ground. Half the fun of going to these volunteer-built pools is the feeling of roughing it–no locker rooms!
Directions: From ID 75 (Main St.) in Ketchum, drive 10.6 miles west along Warm Springs Road. The spring is visible from the road . . . so bathing suits are advisable although not required.
Natural mineral water accumulates in the shallow rock-and-sand pool at temperatures of about 102 degrees. This pool is big enough for several people and, while we were there, we shared it with a very colorful old-timer who was full of stories about the area. So grab your suit (or not) and head to Warfield.