Woman in beanie and swimsuit sitting in a natural hot spring in Idaho.


Best Natural Hot Springs Near Stanley, Idaho

Idaho is one of the most underrated spots in ALL of the United States! One of Idaho’s most prominent features is the number of amazing hot springs that sit within its boundaries. So when my husband said “lets plan a trip to Idaho”, I was immediately in!

With approximately 130 hot springs that are “soakable”, Idaho comes in #1 out of any other state and is one of the best places in the world to experience a natural hot spring. I knew this was going to be a top priority on our trip, and I specifically wanted to see NATURAL hot springs; I didn’t want to visit any commercial or man-made hot springs like we have done in other places like Alaska and Wyoming.

Top Natural Idaho Hot Springs

The BEST central location for your Idaho hot springs road trip is Stanley! Stanley, Idaho is about 2 hours and 45 min outside of Boise and is a quaint little town located near some of the best natural hot springs in the state.

If you are wondering why I keep using the word “natural”, let me explain! All hot springs are heated by geothermal heat (heat from the Earth’s interior). However, there is a big difference between natural versus man-made hot springs.

Man-made hot springs still use the hot water from natural springs BUT the water is usually collected in tubs or pools. A lot of the times the water temperature is regulated and disinfected plus changing rooms, accommodations, and snacks are often provided. For this reason, most of the time these hot springs require an entrance fee.

Natural hot springs feature no man-made improvements and are often ‘off the beaten path’. Since the water temperature isn’t regulated then it can sometimes be boiling hot, so beware. The water is also contained in a natural catchment or pool.

Goldbug (Elk Bend) Hot Springs

Woman in beanie and swimsuit sitting in a natural hot spring in Idaho.

Trail Overview:

🥾 3.6 miles round trip according to Alltrails but was more like 4.5

🏔 958 ft elevation gain

⛺️ there were many GREAT looking camping spots located along the trail

💩 facilities are located at the trailhead

Goldbug Hot Springs was by far the most amazing hot spring that we found in Idaho! It is about an hour and 45 minutes outside of Stanley and was extremely easy to find. One thing we loved about this trail was that it was not super busy. However, I can see it getting busier during peak times so I do recommend getting there as early as possible.

This natural hot spring is a huge WATERFALL that cascades down the mountain! I mean, how cool is that? The water pools up in multiple locations that make it very easy to spread out. The temperature of the hot spring was also the most comfortable of all the hot springs that we visited. It was well mixed and got warmer the higher you went.

One thing to note about this hike is that it starts on private property, so be respectful. There is a gate that you will pass through to establish when you are no longer on private property. The trail also starts with a few switchbacks so be prepared. We went during late March and there was still snowpack so we had to use our microspikes on the switchbacks.

There is a rock scramble towards the hot spring that can be confusing if you are not paying close attention. Make sure to download the Alltrails map so that you can be sure not to get lost!

Sunbeam Hot Springs

Woman in beanie and swimsuit sitting in a natural hot spring in Idaho.

Sunbeam Hot Springs is located just a few minutes outside of Stanley, Idaho and is super easy to get to because it is right off of I-75. We also thought this spot was super cool because it was on the Salmon River.

If you walk down and go to the right then you will find multiple natural hot spring pools to soak in. However, we did end up picking a pool that was close to the river so we kept having to mix the water up to keep it at comfortable temperature. With the hot water coming from the springs and then the EXTREMELY cold water coming from the river, it was hard to get it perfect.

However, if you got off to the left then you will find two large “tubs” that you can actually fill up to give you the perfect temperature. There is a hose that you can use that comes from the hot spring and then there is a bucket that you can use to get the river water.

Man in beanie and jacket filling up a natural hot spring box in Idaho.

Yes, this was A LOT of work! However, it was a much more comfortable experience. So if you plan to hang out here awhile then I would definitely say it is worth the extra effort. If you are only planning to stay for a little bit then I would say that it’s definitely not worth it.

Kirkham Hot Springs

Woman in beanie and swimsuit sitting in a natural hot spring in Idaho.

Kirkham Hot Springs is located 1 hour and 45 minutes outside of Stanley, near Boise, Idaho. It is located within the Boise National Forest and is extremely accessible, making it more busy than some of the others. BUT man is it worth it! I would recommend going on a weekday and going as early as possible to beat the crowds.

This natural hot springs is a HUGE waterfall that cascades down the mountain! There are so many pools to choose from and the water temperature is perfect in ALL of them. You can choose one of the more secluded ones on top of the mountain or walk down to the ones directly under the waterfall. There are even some close to the parking area that don’t require hardly any walking.

While we were here, it started snowing and we watched mule deer on the mountain across the road. It was a magical experience. Kirkham Hot Springs is MUST on your Idaho road trip!

Cove Hot Springs

Cove hot spring in Idaho sign with snow around it.

Cove Hot Springs is also located only a few minutes outside of Stanley, Idaho. We stumbled across this one on our way to scope out other hot springs on our list. And there was no one else here so it is definitely not super popular.

I can honestly see why this one isn’t that popular though. There was only one major pool and the temperature was almost unbearably hot! However, it was absolutely GORGEOUS! And such a short walk from the parking area.

So if you are looking for a true hidden gem then this is it! I would recommend visiting during winter or closer to the snow melt because I believe this would make the water a bit more bearable.

Best Time of Year to Visit Idaho Hot Springs

Woman in beanie and swimsuit sitting in a natural hot spring in Idaho.

So… When should you visit these natural Idaho Hot Springs? Honestly, I would say any time of year would offer its own truly amazing experience.

However, in my opinion, spring is the BEST! This is because the weather is not too hot and it’s not too cold. The roads are usually open for the season but you still might catch a glimpse of snow on the mountains.

We visited in late March and this wasn’t the most ideal. The road between Boise and Stanley, Idaho is prone to avalanches during this time of year with the snow starting to soften. So it ended up being closed multiple days during our 1 week trip.

Landscape photo of hot spring waterfall over rocks in Idaho.

I would also say that due to soaking in “hot” springs, that summer would also not be ideal. It would probably get a little too hot and be easy to dehydrate. Honestly, I got a little overheated a few time in MARCH!

Fall might also not be a bad time to visit Idaho’s hot springs but I feel like it could be a bit unpredictable weather. And I could also see it getting a bit crowded!

Idaho Hot Springs Map

Here is my map of these Idaho Hot Springs: Link to map!

Please remember to follow ♻️ LEAVE NO TRACE ♻️ principles when recreating!




I'm a micro-wedding and elopement photographer in Upstate, South Carolina. My style is documentary—I love capturing the in-between, unposed moments between you and your love. I strive to know you and capture you at your most authentic.