Hot Springs Near Boise Idaho – The Best Natural Hot Tub Waterfall#PNW . Idaho . Travel . United States
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The Best Hot Springs Near Boise, Idaho: Pine Flats Hot Springs
All the Best Hot Springs in Idaho
Hot Springs Near Boise Idaho – The Best Natural Hot Tub Waterfall. Idaho is known for its natural, scenic hot springs. From remote, riverside springs with epic views of the Sawtooth wilderness area to fully developed, commercial pools like the Springs in Idaho City, Mundo Hot Springs near Council, and Zimms between New Meadows and Riggins, Idaho has it all. North of Lowman, you’ll find one of the most popular natural springs, Kirkham Hot Springs. Kirkham has a series of larger pools that sit beneath dripping caves at the edge of the South Fork of the Payette. The pools sit just below a campground across the river from the main highway. Kirkham is well-maintained, popular, and highly visited, and with good reason.
Soak in a Natural Hot Springs Waterfall
But our favorite hot springs near Boise, Pine Flats Hot Springs, sits about an hour and a half from Boise or Eagle (depending on which route you take). It also feels much more remote. We typically have the springs to ourselves, partly because there’s a short hike along the South Fork of the Payette to get there. But compared with Kirkham, Pine Flats feels much more isolated. And because it sits down quite a way from the highway, you’d never know you’re just below the main road between Banks and Lowman.
Information About Pine Flats Hot Springs
Fees and Amenities
Day Use and Camping Fees
- Day-use fee: $5
- Single Campground Sites: $15
- Double Campground Sites: $30
- Payment Accepted: Cash or check on site; pay online at Recreation.gov.
Camping and Campground Information
- Can I Make Reservations? Yes, during summer season. Click here to visit Recreation.gov for reservations.
- Number of Sites: 24 sites total.
- Family Sites: Additional group sites may be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Campground Closures: Around October – April, depending on weather conditions and snow.
- Winter access: Limited off-highway parking available when campground gate is closed in winter; add another 0.25 miles (0.4 km) to your hike during winter.
- Off-Season Camping: Contact the Lowman Ranger District at 208-259-3361 for off-season camping information.
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Driving to Pine Flats Hot Springs
Driving from Boise to Pine Flats Hot Springs – Banks to Lowman
Distance from Boise to Pine Flats via Horseshoe Bend
- Distance from downtown Boise on Highway 55 through Horseshoe Bend: 70 miles (113 km)
- Boise to Banks: 42 miles (68 km)
- Banks to Pine Flats: 28 miles (45 km)
What to Expect on the Drive from Boise to Pine Flats via Horseshoe Bend
The fastest route to Pine Flats takes you through Horseshoe Bend and Banks, at least if you are driving from Boise. Even in winter, this route is frequently plowed and mostly clear. However, occasional rock slides or falling debris may temporarily block a lane. (Recent improvements and enormous cabled nets prevent the worst slides and rock falls onto the highway). Driving from Horseshoe Bend along the Payette and then along the South Fork provides a variety of terrain and ecosystems. These range from dry, lower-elevation scrub brush and grasses to the higher elevation pine forests that thicken and deepen as you climb. And you’ll enjoy plenty of wide, sweeping views like these as you wind higher up into the Boise National Forest.
Driving from Boise to Pine Flats Hot Springs – Idaho City to Lowman
Distance from Boise to Pine Flats via Idaho City
- Distance from downtown Boise on Hwy 21 through Idaho City: 80 miles (129 km)
- Boise to Lowman: 74 miles (119 km)
- Lowman to Pine Flats: 5.6 miles (9 km)
What to Expect on the Drive from Boise to Pine Flats via Idaho City
The drive through Idaho City is arguably more scenic. But the road itself is much more curvy and can be more treacherous, especially after fresh loads of snow and ice. On our latest visit in late October, we drove up via Horseshoe Bend and came back to Boise through Idaho City. An early snow left as much as 4-5 inches on the road in places between Lowman and Idaho City, near the Mores Creek Summit and before. The highway district had begun to plow. But between the ice, snow, and curvy road, we found ourselves driving 20-25 mph through several sections of road.
Hiking to Pine Flats Hot Springs
Trails and Access to Pine Flats
Elevation and Hiking Difficulty
- Elevation: 3,700 feet
- Hiking distance from campground to springs: 0.25 miles (0.4 km)
- Hiking difficulty: Moderate, with some steep, slippery/wet sections of trail and slick rocks at the elevated springs
Interpretive Signs and Regional History at Pine Flats
Interpretive signs near the trailhead and day-use parking area provide information about “Hot Spots and Rotten Eggs” and “Life at the Cauldron.” As you begin the short hike, you’ll pass several rock foundations. The original structures that have long since vanished. Then you’ll wind down toward the South Fork of the Payette River. The trail continues around the bend and ends at the hillside springs.
Hiking Pine Forests and the South Fork of the Payette River
The trail is steep but maintained. And if you come during the late spring, summer, or early fall, it’s a relatively easy path to follow. As winter weather sets in, rain, snow, and ice, make the path a bit more difficult and sketchy. But just for reference, our 4-year-old and 10-year-old both hiked in after the first skiff of snow in late October. Until the heavy snows set in, it’s a pretty easy hike to the springs. First, you’ll start down to the river, through towering ponderosas and other pine forests. Then, it’s back up into the springs complex of hot streams, pools, and rocks.
Forest Fires and New Growth Near Pine Flats Hot Springs
A few years ago, a massive forest fire blazed through this area. The fire consumed many of the trees on the opposite hillsides. Although the landscape has dramatically changed, many of the trees closer to the river survived. And new growth has already started to take root. (More than 20 years ago, the same thing happened near Kirkham Hot Springs. Now, almost 30 years later, a young, healthy forest grows along the surrounding ridge). Some burning occurred on the springs side of the Payette. This just adds to the visual interest as you hike along the river.
Getting to Pine Flats Hot Springs in Spring, Fall, or Winter
Off-Season Access to the Hot Springs
Fall and Winter Closures at Pine Flats Hot Springs
In late fall, the Boise National Forest closes the large gate at the entrance to Pine Flats. That gate leads down the hill to the campground’s 24 sites and the day-use parking and hot springs access trail. As the snow accrues in the National Forest, the paved road into the campground becomes impassable. The Forest Service does not plow this section like the rest of the highway. However, the gate sits back off the highway. This creates a parking area safely off the highway but on the outside of the seasonal gate.
Winter Access to Pine Flats Hot Springs
I’ve hiked down the road in winter numerous times, and the hillside provides protection from the elements. Don’t be surprised, though, if howling winds or a storm approaches quickly along the Payette River Canyon. This area is known as the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway. It’s not uncommon for snow storms, sleet, rain, and other weather to blow through the canyon with little or no advance warning.
Inclement Weather at Pine Flats Hot Springs
Be prepared for inclement weather and rapidly changing weather conditions. This is especially true if you come in the off-season. Don’t take unnecessary risks if the weather starts to change on you. I once visited Pine Flats in January and a snow storm blew in while we sat in the springs. We had a difficult time drying off and getting dressed in the midst of the storm. But once we made our way upstream around the bend in the river, we were much more protected from the elements.
The Best Hot Springs Near Boise Idaho – Pine Flats Hot Springs for the Win!
Idaho is one of the best states in the Western U.S. for the number, variety, and quality of natural hot springs. And many springs are undeveloped, remote, and difficult to access. This keeps them private and undisturbed for the adventurous hiker or backpacker. (Some of my all-time favorite hot springs are high inside the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and elsewhere. But many of those are not very easy to get to or find!) Pine Flats Hot Springs is a great mix of accessible and remote, undeveloped but comfortable. The short hike keeps the crowds down (unlike Kirkham). But the trail is maintained and easy enough for a 4-year-old in a light snow. If you’re looking for an adventure that’s relatively close but feels like a remote wilderness destination, add Pine Flats Hot Springs to your list!