Idaho is home to some of the most stunning and accessible natural hot springs in the United States. With around 130 soakable geothermal pools out of 340, Idaho has established itself as a premier destination for hot spring enthusiasts. But what makes Idaho such a hotbed for these springs? As it turns out, Idaho’s unique geological location plays a significant role.
Situated in the central mountain ranges of the state, wild rivers meander through the elevated terrain, creating ideal conditions for geothermal pockets to form along their banks. These hot springs can range from easily accessible to requiring a challenging hike, but all offer a spectacular view of the surrounding forests, making for a picturesque and serene experience.
Rocky Canyon Hot Springs is one of the proud members of Idaho’s large hot spring family. And while it might not be the most breathtaking gem you’d find in the state, it’s still a nice, easily accessible natural jacuzzi to soak in and relax.
|Address||Garden Valley, ID 83622, USA|
|Location||Rocky Canyon Hot Springs is about a 1.5-hour drive from Boise city.|
|Road Access||Any vehicle|
How do you get to Rocky Canyon Hot Springs?
Nestled on the Middle Fork Payette River in the Boise National Forest lies a remote natural spa, Rocky Canyon Hot Springs. The journey to this magical place is well worth the effort, and the closest access point is from Boise city, a mere 1.5-hour drive away.
As you make your way toward the hot springs, you’ll first come across the town of Crouch, your last stop for necessities such as fuel, food, and water.
Once you’ve stocked up, hit the road and continue for 15 miles until you reach the large drive-up to the parking area. Be sure to keep an eye out for a spacious drive-through on the left-hand side of the road, located alongside the river.
Once you’ve parked, you’ll be greeted with the hot springs across the river, inviting you to take a dip and unwind. The best part? There’s no fee or time limit, so feel free to make the most of your trip.
First Impressions: What is Rocky Canyon Hot Springs like?
To be honest, as you approach Rocky Canyon Hot Springs, it’s best to keep an open mind and not set your expectations too high. While the natural beauty, surroundings, and peaceful atmosphere are certainly lovely, the pools themselves are not very ‘Instagrammable,’ but quite primitive and basic.
Still, they do offer a rustic charm that’s hard to come by these days. With its multiple cascading pools and natural greenery, Rocky Canyon Hot Springs might even remind you of the gorgeous Fifth Water Hot Springs in Utah, but a simpler and more understated version of it.
In fact, you don’t even have to hike to get to them, as the pools are right next to the road, and the only thing you have to do is to cross the river, which is actually freezing-cold and not so easily crossable. However, don’t let that deter you from taking a relaxing soak in the pools.
Boise National Forest – where the hot springs are located – is absolutely stunning, and if you’re visiting this national treasure, stopping by Rocky Canyon Hot Springs is the perfect idea to unwind and soothe those tired muscles after a long hike.
There are a total of five pools to choose from, each with a different capacity and temperature, nudity-optional.
The pools are carefully constructed by locals, so it’s important to appreciate their efforts and not rearrange any of the stones.
Interestingly, even though this hot spring is located right off the road, it’s surprisingly private. With no signage and excellent camouflaging abilities, it’s hard to spot unless you know what you’re looking for. The only giveaway is the steam rising from the rocks, which is visible from the road depending on the weather.
The pool closest to the source is super hot, but mother nature has already taken care of that – the cold river running right next to the pools provides the perfect opportunity to cool off after soaking up the heat.
All in all, while the pools themselves may be simple, the experience of relaxing in the warm waters surrounded by the beauty of nature is truly unforgettable.
River-Crossing: Adventure or Danger?
As we said, you don’t have to hike up miles to finally reach the desired pools and get the relaxation you were looking for. However, the river part actually makes these hot springs quite adventurous.
To get to the pools, you’ll have to cross Payette river, which might sound easy, but beware, the water is freezing cold. Before heading out, make sure you have all your belongings secured in a dry bag, and then head down the short trail from the dirt parking lot to reach the riverbank.
Keep an eye out for the rope that some kind person put there a while ago, it can be a lifesaver when trying to keep your balance. Crossing in pairs is also a good idea as it helps maintain optimal balance and stability.
The middle part of the river is the deepest, but usually, it’s a little higher than waist-deep in summer. The flow is pretty strong, which can be intimidating, so make sure you have good footing, sturdy shoes, and a tight grip on the rope.
The water level of the river varies throughout the seasons, so it’s best to visit by the end of the summer or in the fall, because in spring, the snow and glaciers from the mountains start to melt, and the river level rises. During the winter months, the water temperature is so cold that you might go numb in the middle of the river. So, make sure you choose the optimal time to make the most of these pools.
One more thing to keep in mind, although there are no specific rules about pets, it might not be a wise idea to take your furry friend with you, because the river crossing could become dangerous, and holding them while crossing the river might be risky for you both.
Remnants of The Past: What happened to Rocky Canyon Hot Springs?
Rocky Canyon Hot Springs has a rather tumultuous history. In the past, these hot springs were not as primitive as they are today.
It wasn’t too long ago that city officials were not too thrilled with the nudity and drinking that occurred at these springs. Sadly, they decided to take matters into their own hands and destroyed the ten beautiful cascading pools that were once here.
Thankfully, locals were not about to let their beloved hot springs go without a fight. They took it upon themselves to repair and rebuild five of the original pools.
Though the pools are much simpler now, the remnants of the cement pools can still be seen today. So, the next time you soak in these hot springs, take a moment to appreciate the hard work and dedication that the locals put in to keep this natural wonder alive.
Camping and Lodging Options Near Rocky Canyon Hot Springs
If you’re looking to extend your trip to Rocky Canyon Hot Springs and spend a night or two in the area, you have a few options. Boise National Forest has plenty of camping spots near the hot springs, with some requiring reservations and others available on a first-come, first-served basis – most of them are free to use. Most of these spots are also RV-friendly, so feel free to bring your home on wheels.
However, if camping is not your thing, you can head down to the town of Crouch for plenty of hotel or Airbnb options. There are various options available, from budget-friendly to luxurious, so you can find the perfect accommodation for your needs.
Watch out for Red Spider Mites
When it comes to hot springs, the last thing you want to think about is pesky insects that may be lurking around. Unfortunately, Red Spider Mites (RSMs) are a common problem in many hot springs in Idaho, including Rocky Canyon Hot Springs.
These tiny mites can burrow under your skin and lay eggs, leading to days of itchy, uncomfortable aftermath. To avoid them, keep your gear far away from the pools and surrounding rocks, and hang your pack, clothes, and towel off a tree limb.
Before you jump in, check the water by sticking your finger in and moving it around. If you see any RSMs, it’s best to avoid the area.
After your soak, apply bug juice to reduce the chances of getting any bites, but make sure it’s natural and lotion-based to avoid polluting the water.
Stay alert, and don’t let these pesky critters ruin your geothermal therapy!
Overall, Rocky Canyon Hot springs may not offer a lavish and high-end resort experience, but it is an easily accessible natural treasury where you can soak in the mineral-rich geothermal pools, relax and refresh your body, and charge yourself with positive energy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Rocky Canyon Hot Springs is about a 1.5-hour drive from Boise.
No, entering Rocky Canyon Hot Springs is free.
Yes, be prepared for some nudity.
There is no rule restricting pets in the area. However, river-crossing during high water flow might be dangerous so be prepared.
Yes, the hot springs are accessible year-round, but the water temperature and river level may vary depending on the season.