We riders are a sore bunch, so soaking in hot springs throughout our travels is practically a health-related necessity. To aid motorcyclists visiting the geothermal state of Idaho, I planned a three-day tour to check out a couple of mineral pools and report back on their top quality. I would pickle myself in the name of accountable journalism.
Thinking about that Idaho has far more than one hundred hot springs, it was straightforward to uncover six created and undeveloped ones to pay a visit to within a day’s ride of Boise. 4 of them are on public land so sitting in them is totally free. I find that, um, refreshing.
As an added advantage to riders, the roads to these six are mountainous and fascinating. So is the subsequent stroll often. To sample 1, I clambered up and down a steep dirt path (skirting the poison ivy) in my motorcycle boots and then, sans boots, waded along a frigid river. Thankfully, there weren’t any nudists in the pool, as stumbling upon them is an additional hazard of this assignment.
My guide was Marjorie Gersh-Young’s book Hot Springs and Hot Pools of the Northwest which gives directions (like GPS coordinates) to most identified hot springs in Idaho and surrounding states. Speak about prune skins-the author and her close friends routinely soak in hundreds of U.S. hot pools to hold the book updated.
I hopped on my Honda Transalp and my husband Lynn joined me on his Yamaha TDM. We set off in early July with towels tied to our handlebars. The mercury on the thermometer was bumping 100 degrees F. when we left town. To report authoritatively on each spring, I had to sit in them. When the air is that hot and water temps are even hotter, it really is a true butt-burner.
North to Challis
From Boise we planned to ride to Challis, about 190 miles northeast. The route involves two national scenic byways-the Ponderosa Pine and the Salmon River. I wanted to check out three hot springs along the way: Kirkham and Bonneville on U.S. 21, and Challis, which is inside a campground close to the junction of U.S. 93 and ID 75.
Each very good ride begins with breakfast, and before leaving Boise we stopped for a hearty one at the Trolley Property, a restaurant housed in what was the last cease on the old Boise trolley-car line. From there we aimed east, choosing up ID 21 just before it passes the Diversion Dam, constructed in 1909 to enable water from the Boise River to irrigate the fertile valley and its famous Idaho potatoes.
This highway winds about the 340-foot-high dam that holds back Fortunate Peak Reservoir, the biggest physique of water in these components, and then gets curvy. It really is now the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, which is a favorite among nearby motorcyclists for its hairpins and switchbacks among Idaho City and Lowman, and then over Mores Creek Summit (6,118 feet) and Banner Ridge Summit (7,056 feet).
It’s worth touring the historic structures in Idaho City, which became the biggest city in the Northwest right after gold was found nearby in 1862. The town was totally lawless regional lore has it that only 28 former residents (out of 200) who died of natural causes are buried in the first cemetery.
Kirkham Hot Springs
About 38 miles north of Idaho City, we came upon our first soak of the day. Kirkham Hot Springs sits on the bank of the South Fork of the Payette River four miles beyond Lowman. From the highway, you can see the rising steam.
Locals constructed a number of pools to capture hot water trickling out of fissures along the vertical river banks. The water leaves the ground at about 120 degrees F. and cools although flowing into the pools. Some are hotter than other people, and in one particular there’s a waterfall. Bathing suits are needed, and it charges $ 3 to park while soaking (the fee is waived if you stay in the adjoining campground).
Kirkham offers fantastic scenery and ambiance and is relatively safe because it is visible from the road. I give it a “soaker score” of 8 (on a scale of one to ten).
Bonneville Hot Springs
All this study was producing us hungry, so we refueled our stomachs at the Sourdough Lodge a couple of miles north of Kirkham. Then it was on to Bonneville Hot Springs, positioned close to Bonneville Campground 19 miles north of Lowman. It’s popular on weekends, and I was curious to know why.
To uncover the location, appear for the sign on 21 that says Bonneville Campground. After turning in, we followed a gravel road via the campground and parked in a lot next to a path to the springs.
While signs say it really is a 1?4-mile walk, it seemed longer in our riding clothes. It’s semi-remote and I didn’t see a soul, which created me a bit nervous. Still, surrounded by forest and next to a stream, the setting for the volunteer-created pools is beautiful. Bathing suits are optional, Ms. Gersh-Young notes in her book. I kept my suit on.
Bonneville has excellent ambiance, but the springs are isolated. If you go to, take a pal for security motives. Soaker score: 7.
Challis Hot Springs
We continued north on 21, and quickly the Sawtooth Mountains loomed ahead. Craggy and tall, they’re like a modest version of the Grand Tetons. Snow remained on their peaks, even in July. We gassed up in Stanley, a crossroads exactly where three national scenic byways meet: the Ponderosa Pine, the Sawtooth and the Salmon River.
Challis is 55 miles north on ID 75-the Salmon River Byway. The highway provides sweeping curves as it hugs the river to Challis, and we took complete benefit of them. At U.S. 93 it’s just four.5 miles south to Hot Springs Road, which dead-ends at Challis Hot Springs and Campground.
The springs have been developed in the 1880s to serve gold miners in central Idaho Bob and Lorna Hammond are the fourth generation of family members to personal it. We pitched camp, rode two-up to dinner at the Village Inn in Challis and returned to test the outside hot pool, which cools to a comfy one hundred degrees F. when the artesian waters join cold water piped from the river. We soaked and talked and prior to we knew it, it was ten p.m. and employees had been telling us it was closing time. That is what I contact getting relaxed.
An adult day pass right here is $ five.50, even though overnight camping such as use of the pool for two men and women charges $ 19.50. Changing rooms and shower facilities are offered. Staying at the resort’s bed-and-breakfast inn is yet another overnight choice. My only complaint is that the higher wooden fence about the pool obscures the view. Soaker score: 9.
Pine Flats Hot Springs
The next day, we retraced our steps back to Lowman and followed indicators west to Banks on what is recognized as the Banks-to-Lowman Road (it is also named the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway). I wanted to go to the natural springs near Pine Flats Campground a handful of miles west of Lowman. The waters emerge from a hill above the Payette River not far from the campground.
The setting is spectacular, but getting there can be a challenge. I followed a path from the campground to a rock-and-sand bar on the river, paying close attention to the poisonous “leaves of three” that proliferate about right here. When the river level is low, it really is a short walk along the bar to the spring. The pool is within simple climbing distance above the bar.
If the Payette hasn’t receded, bathers need to wade in shallow river water for about 15 feet. Ooo-wee, that water is cold! My legs ached soon after just a handful of seconds in the frigid river.
But the walk is worth it. A waterfall cascades at 104 degrees F. into the pool and you can soak luxuriantly even though watching the kayakers and river rafters drifting in the present beneath. And it is all cost-free, except for the $ three parking charge. Soaker score: 8
Gold Fork Hot Springs
With the thermometer increasing, we hurried west to Banks and then turned north on U.S. 55 toward Donnelly. There’s no lack of very good scenery on this road, but another national byway-the Payette River. Forest grows to the road and alongside, the North Fork of the Payette River tumbles southward more than large boulders.
Our location was Gold Fork Hot Springs, southeast of Donnelly. We turned east onto Plant Lane and followed blue-and-white signs directing us 6.5 miles on hard-packed dirt roads. In the midst of woods we spied an incongruous group of beach umbrellas and knew we’d located the spot.
After an untidy local hangout, Gold Fork is now a leading-notch private location that boasts appealing pools, a waterfall and altering rooms. As the late-afternoon sun cast long shadows, we slipped into the mineral-rich waters, starting with the biggest and hottest pool and moving to smaller river-rock-lined pools under. For us riders, life was certainly great.
With umbrellas delivering sun protection, you can laze in lounge chairs among dips. Admission is $ 8 for adults. No camping and no credit cards. Soaker score: ten.
I had a single much more soak to go: Molly’s Tubs just east of Cascade near Warm Lake. We had spent the evening at the Super 8 in McCall, a rider-friendly location which serves up a very good free of charge breakfast. In the morning, cooler temperatures riding south on 55 were a welcome relief. Just just before Cascade, we followed Forest Service 22 east to FS 474. Molly’s Tubs are 1.5 miles on the correct, beneath a pullout. If you can’t locate them, quit and ask someone.
That’s what we did, and soon we have been gazing on a strange collection of old cast-iron bathtubs resting at the bottom of a steep bank on the South Fork of the Salmon River. Employing a hose, bathers fill them with hot water from the spring and then add cool river water to produce ideal soaking temperatures.
I have to thank a particular rider buddy for hauling in the tubs years ago and then bringing them back after the Forest Service carted them out. Bring a tub stopper and a bucket, fill the tub and then sit back and enjoy the sound of the river. This place gets higher marks for funkiness and ambiance. Soaker score: 6.
You can not beat Idaho’s hot springs for their beautiful settings and absurdly low admission costs, if any. My tough analysis was completed, and boy, had I suffered, pickling myself for you, fellow rider. Let me know when you want me to do it once more.
For a lot more data: Hot Springs and Hot Pools of the Northwest, Marjorie Gersh-Young, Aqua Thermal Press, www.hotpools.com. Campers at either Bonneville, Pine Flats or Kirkham can get a totally free pass to park at the other campgrounds from the camp host.