The Jerry Johnson Hot Springs is among Idaho’s most popular natural springs. Best enjoyed late summer, when the heat is bearable and the spring runoff has passed, this location’s three hot springs sources each offer their own soaking opportunities in secluded forest and within easy walking distance of a highway.
Get back to nature – sit and soak as the river thunders by and the birds soar overhead: Your own moment of alpine heaven, one of many like it on our list of the best hot springs in Oregon.
What To Expect
The Jerry Johnson Hot Springs (also known as JJ Hot Springs) sees a lot of footfall, and are open year-round, though the seasons each offer their own characteristics to tempt or put off visiting (read on for more on that). This is Idaho’s most popular natural springs, enjoyed by both locals and visitors alike, among them lone explorers, couples, groups of friends, and families with kids. Clothing is optional, so be prepared to see a lot of guests choosing to bathe nude.
The three rock-and-sandy-bottom pools at Jerry Johnson Hot Springs have temperatures ranging from 100 to 115°F, and are around 2-3 feet deep. There are rocks around the riverside pools that can be moved to let more river water in to cool your soak, if needed. Our favorite, the “waterfall pool” is submerged by the Warm Springs Creek until mid-summer due to the spring runoff which kicks off in May, while the other two hot springs sources have pools that are available year-round, one of which is well set back from the creek.
|Idaho, Highway 12, Mile Marker 152 – 153
|Idaho, Highway 12, near the border of Montana, between Mile Marker 152 and 153
|6 am – 8 pm
|Optional, nude preferred by most
|No direct road access. Park in the designated parking lot, walk an easy 1.5 miles to the Springs
|100 – 115°F
NOTE: The waterfall pool is accessed by a steep incline, so depending on the weather, you might want to give it a miss.
All the pools, reached by well-walked dirt trails, offer stunning mountains and pine-and-cedar forest surrounds – perfect for that recharge you need in nature. And on quiet days, you may even be lucky enough to spot some deer or elk!
Summer – Expect the Hot Springs to be busy with tourists and college kids. The atmosphere is fun, the weather is hot, and nature is in full bloom. In early summer, you may miss out on the waterfall pool, which is often submerged in the spring runoff until August.
Winter – Expect snow and ice. The roads themselves will be snowy, and caution should be used when driving them. The snow doesn’t stop people coming to warm up in the Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, though, and you’ll meet plenty of people on the way trudging through the snow and sliding on the compacted ice to reach that little piece of forested heaven.
NOTE: There are no bathroom facilities here after the one in the parking lot off the highway!
Jerry Johnson was a locally renowned veteran prospector who searched for precious metals in the Lochsa area during the 1880s and 1890s. The Jerry Johnson Hot Springs is named after him, as is the campground now located on the site of his old cabin (which is now long gone). Jerry Johnson apparently did find some gold!
How To Get There
TOP TIP: “Doors” open at 6 am. Get there early as the pools get busier as the day goes on!
From Missoula (Montana): Drive southwest on Lolo Highway 12 for 65 miles. Around 1 hour and 20 minutes later, you’ll reach the Warm Springs Pack Bridge where you’ll see the Hot Springs trailhead parking lot (just off the highway, against the treeline, and between Mile Marker 152 and 153).
Missoula to the Jerry Johnson Hot Springs
From Kooksia (Idaho): Drive northeast on Highway 12 for 1 hour 40 minutes until you get to the Warm Springs Pack Bridge, where you’ll see the Hot Springs trailhead parking lot (just off the highway, against the treeline and between Mile Marker 152 and 153).
Kooksia to the Jerry Johnson Hot Springs
NOTE: There is a pit toilet in the parking lot – the only one in the area, so if nature’s calling, now would be the most comfortable time to answer!
Cross the highway and the wooden suspension bridge over the Lochsa River.
Turn right once you get to the other side and start along the wide dirt trail which runs parallel to the Warm Springs Creek. Depending on the season, the tree-lined way can be muddy or icy, so be sure to check before you come, and dress right!
After one mile of relatively level trail, you’ll get to the waterfall pool. Another half-mile on, you’ll discover the other pools, all of which are easy to spot from the main trail.
NOTE: You’ll need to climb over some rocks to get into the pools, so water sandals might come in handy!
Map of the trail from Highway 12 to the Jerry Johnson Hot Springs
Can I Stay There?
On site, no. Access to the Jerry Johnson Hot Springs ends at 8pm, and there will be patrols ready to fine anyone they catch there or parked in the parking lot. But there is a seasonal official campground, named the Jerry Johnson Campground, one mile from the Warm Springs Pack Bridge trailhead, between Mile Markers 150 and 151.
The Jerry Johnson Hot Springs Campground officially opened in the mid-2000s and has moved a couple of times since – first away from the Hot Springs due to misuse, then again due to water contamination issues. It has 20 first-come, first-served spots which are paved and can accommodate either tents or RVs, and it offers water and pit toilets for all guests. Stay there for $14/night.
There are also numerous other campgrounds, both official and primitive, in the area, along with RV parks and cabins – some lakeside, others in the depths of the forest. Check with the Lochsa-Powell Ranger District (TEL 208-942-3113 or 208-926-4274. Location: Mile Marker 121.5 on US Hwy 12) to find out what’s open.
For those wanting more comfort than camping can provide, you can head to the small and friendly towns of Kooskia (Idaho) or Missoula (Montana).
Kooskia offers cabins, lodges, vineyards, and riverside resorts- in short, something for everyone! Find accommodation for Kooskia here.
Or consider checking into Missoula, just a bit less of a drive away than Kooskia. There is a range of hotels and guest houses available. We recommend the breakfast-inclusive Holiday Inn Express & Suites Missoula Northwest or the characterful C’mon Inn with its wooden balconies and courtyard hot tub. Check out TripAdvisor’s Top 10 stays in Missoula here.
What Else Can I Do In The Area?
The Lochsa/Highway 12 Corridor within Clearwater National Forest, and its Idaho-Montana base, offer all kinds of outdoor entertainment to inspire and recharge you, including hiking trails, fishing, white water rafting, mountain biking, horseback riding, golfing, and other seasonal sports.
Check out this guide to the Warm Springs Creek Hike if you feel the pull to head deeper into the beautiful wilderness beyond the Jerry Johnson Hot Springs.
You can also head over to another popular soak in the area, the Weir Creek Hot Springs.
The surroundings of Missoula also offer plenty for the family to see and do, from parks to playgrounds, breweries to museums. Check out the Dragon Hollow Play Area with its hand-made “Carousel for Missoula” – the result of 100,000 hours of volunteer wood crafting, and the Garnet Ghost Town, a 19th century abandoned mining town and one of Montana’s best preserved “ghost towns,” where you can take a tour down into the mines. If you’re staying in the area longer, set yourself to exploring the miles of available trails at the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area. Offering some 61,000 acres of glaciated topography, it is ideal for flora and fauna lovers. On your walks, you may well spot elk, white-tailed deer, mountain goats, and grizzly bears. Bird watchers can find over 40 bird species there, including woodpeckers, gray owls, ruffed grouse, and American dippers.
If you’re looking for more hot springs action, we highly recommend the steaming Snively Hot Springs, which prides itself on being one of the hottest (190°F!) and biggest hot springs in the state of Oregon.
The Jerry Johnson Hot Springs is one of the most popular and easiest-to-access hot springs in Idaho. Clothing is optional, you have a choice of hot pools, and the surrounding forest is guaranteed to restore you. Go and get back to nature!
Be sure to read our articles on the other hot springs gems Oregon has to offer:
The Dos and Don’ts of Visiting a Hot Springs
Every hot spring has its own quirks. Visitors to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, for example, should choose when to go so as to get the most out of the area (ie, not during spring runoff), and should be ready to see nudity. For more general and very important “hot springs etiquette,” we highly recommend you take a moment to check out our carefully compiled easy-to-read list of “dos and don’ts” here. And always, always respect our nature – pack out what you pack in and LEAVE NO TRACE.
Frequently Asked Questions
Head along Highway 12. The Warm Springs Pack Bridge and Warm Springs Trailhead (Jerry Johnson Hot Springs) parking lot is between Mile Marker 152 and 153. Cross the nearby wooden suspension bridge and follow the trail alongside Warm Springs Creek for 1.5 miles.
Yes. Some visitors go nude, some don’t. It’s up to you, but please respect whoever else is using the pools, as some people go there with their kids.
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs is open year-round, but during the spring runoff, the lower pools get submerged, lowering the visit value. Check with local rangers before you go (Lochsa-Powell Ranger District (208-942-3113 or 208-926-4274).
There are a variety of campgrounds – both official and primitive – along Highway 12. Alternatively, stay in Missoula, Montana (1hr 20 minutes away) or Kooksie, Idaho, the nearest big town.
Idaho, Highway 12, near the border of Montana. The Warm Springs Pack Bridge and Jerry Johnson Trailhead and parking lot are between Mile Marker 152 and 153.
The Jerry Johnson Hot Springs is in the Clearwater National Forest. The two closest towns are Missoula (Montana) and Kooksie (Idaho).
From Highway 12, the first (waterfall) pool is 1 mile into the forest via the trail; other pools can be found 0.5 miles further along that same trail, all next to Warm Springs Creek.
While we at Traxplorio do our very best to give you the latest information about these hot springs sites, life happens, weather happens, and property owners happen. We always recommend you go to the official hot springs’ web page and/or the relevant state authority page to check conditions, times, and prices (where relevant) before you head out. Thanks for understanding, and enjoy your soak!