For generations, Idaho’s natural hot springs have attracted untold numbers of visitors to their mineral-rich waters First used for bathing and drinking by Native Americans and Western frontiersmen, they were to become legendary for their “cures”—and, to cater to crowds of health seekers in the early 1900s, a select few were to have monumental bathhouses built around them.
Perhaps now more than ever, to sit in a pool of rejuvenating warmth, surrounded by natural beauty as you soak your aches and cares away, is an extraordinarily soothing experience. It’s no wonder that a favorite hot spring lures many Sun Valley locals back again and again and again. All beckon with their seductive natural beauty, but each has a distinctive personality of its own.
About 10 miles from Ketchum along Warm Springs Road sits Frenchman’s Bend Hot Springs, one of the closest, and thus most frequented, in the area. Highlighted by a small cloud of steam and edged by pine trees, its shallow pools are warm and welcoming. Like many other locals, Mark George has many fond memories of kicking back at Frenchman’s Bend, especially after dark. “Soaking beneath a star-studded sky makes for an evening you’ll long remember,” he says. A combination of popularity and new residences in the vicinity has made access to these pools more restricted in recent years, however.
Directly across from the Russian John Ranger Station, about 100 yards west of Highway 75 (near mile marker 146), Russian John Hot Springs is a favorite of local Tracy Lee. This roadside retreat is a popular stop, not only because of its close proximity to the highway and to tourist areas, but also because of its depth, which is reportedly over most people’s heads. Although the small pool may be a little too cool for an evening soak, Lee says it’s ideal for chasing away a chill after water-skiing on a nearby lake.
JoDee Alverson, R.N., and her husband, Mike Crawford, enjoy the seclusion of Bonneville Hot Springs, located east of Lowman on Highway 21, approximately two hours north of Sun Valley. “What makes it so interesting are its surroundings—the cascading waterfalls and beautiful woodlands,” Alverson says, adding that the water’s temperature is perfect for a long soak.
Recreation manager for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Ed Cannady, says that the string of hot springs along the bank of the Salmon River just northeast of Stanley is on his long list of favorites. Sweeping views of the Sawtooths and the chance to plunge into the cool river afterward make these springs too good to pass up. In particular, Cannady says, Boatman’s Box, situated just past Lower Stanley on the first 25-mile curve downriver on Highway 75, has a “really nice, large tub that is a very good soak.”
Whichever spring we choose to visit, Cannady reminds us to practice these simple but important rules of use: Be discreet, especially along well-traveled roads; don’t use soap or shampoo; don’t carry in glass containers; take out what you bring in; respect nature and its offerings; and try to leave everything in better condition than you found it. As Confucius said, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”
For more information about area hot springs, contact the Sawtooth National Recreation Area at 208.727.5000