Winter Recreation

Idaho is a hot springs hotspot. Here’s how to enjoy a relaxing soak in the winter

Burgdorf Hot Springs can be accessed by snowmobile in the winter — on your own or by tour.
Burgdorf Hot Springs can be accessed by snowmobile in the winter — on your own or by tour. Courtesy of Brundage Mountain Resort

We awoke to light, falling snow in McCall, and I don’t think it stopped snowing all day — perfect conditions for a snowmobile ride to Burgdorf Hot Springs.

Burgdorf is one of Idaho’s beloved classic hot springs — it’s very rustic, which is a big part of its charm, it’s situated in a high-mountain setting across from 8,000-foot Bear Pete Mountain and, best of all, it has a large hot springs pool with natural geothermal water that’ll keep you warm no matter what the temperature outside.

I had a big gaggle of Stuebner family peeps in town for my mom’s birthday, and many of them never had been on a snowmobile before. The outfitter provided sleds for all of my family, plus I drove a two-person sled to cart my mom to Burgdorf at a speed that was comfortable for her.

The outfitter provided snowmobile suits and full-face snowmobile helmets with plastic visors, and that made it easy to see where we were going — despite the continuous snow falling — creating a pleasant, soft riding experience to Burgdorf. The trail is usually groomed on a regular basis to make the riding experience smooth and enjoyable for all.

It’s 25 miles to Burgdorf, and that takes about 45 minutes at a leisurely pace. Bring your swimsuit and towels in a backpack, change in the boys or girls room, and dip into that luscious hot water. Can you say, “Ahhhhhhhhh!”

The temperatures typically range from 100 to 102 degrees in the main pool, and there are hotter pools in the 110-plus range for people who really like to roast. Cost is $8 for adults and $5 for children.

Brundage Mountain Resort is now offering the same guided tours to Burgdorf ($295 per person). They bring your lunch and serve it after your soaking experience. The Brundage guides also might take more experienced riders for a little powder-sledding on your way up or down the mountain. Who cares if you get stuck? The guides will help dig you out!

Cheap Thrills also will rent sleds to experienced riders in McCall, and you can do the snowmobile tour on your own. They provide snowmobile suits and helmets as well. Cheap Thrills prices the Burgdorf trip for a half-day rental; cost is $130/person. I would recommend you do the full-day rental just so you can cruise around in the backcountry while you’re up there to maximize the day.

Idaho is blessed when it comes to hot springs. We have more hot springs than most states in the U.S. I saw this cool interactive map produced by NOAA that shows the distribution of hot springs in the western U.S., and Idaho’s a major hotspot.

Here are some other hot springs that you should visit in Southwest Idaho, touching on both commercial and primitive springs:

Gold Fork Hot Springs: Nestled in the forested mountains southwest of Donnelly, Gold Fork is a favorite for locals and Treasure Valley skiers and snowmobilers who might be coming or going from Valley County. It’s kid-friendly and senior-friendly. The changing rooms are tiny in the cramped yurt headquarters for the springs, but the pools are wonderful. Cost is $10 for adults and $5 for kids.

You can drive directly to Gold Fork via the Davis Creek Road (turnoff on Idaho 55 is signed, south of Donnelly), but be aware that the narrow, winding road can get snowy and icy, so a 4WD vehicle is highly recommended.

Gold Fork has a main pool that’s kept above 100 degrees, a hotter pool closer to the natural springs and then a series of gravity-fed stepped pools below the main pool that are slightly cooler. You can bring your own alcoholic beverages to enjoy pool-side at Gold Fork, but no glass is allowed.

goldfork
Gold Fork Hot Springs is open year-round but closed on Tuesdays. Discover McCall Courtesy

Trail Creek Hot Springs: This is a primitive hot springs on the way to Warm Lake, east of Cascade. The road is plowed in the winter. There’s a large pullout on the right side of the road after you go over Big Creek Summit. Park in the pullout and walk down to the pools from there. Good boots or snowshoes may be necessary. Look for the steam!

Trail Creek’s pools are rock-lined but they’re not very big, so don’t bring a large group there. Clothing is optional. The water is nice and hot, and the setting is beautiful.

Bring your backcountry skis or snowshoes and go for a self-guided outing at Big Creek Summit, and then hit the hot springs afterward.

The Springs in Idaho City: This is a high-quality addition to the hot springs experience in Southwest Idaho. The pool is commercial, and advance reservations are required, but you can get pampered there. They offer 30-minute massages by professionals, and you also can order drinks and food pool-side — that’s a unique feature that’s not available at any other hot springs in Idaho.

The cost is $17 for adults and $45 for private pools (open to ages 18 and older).

Plan an outing in the Boise National Forest above Idaho City for the day, and reserve a spot at The Springs to soothe your soul on the way home. The Springs has developed an overnight lodging option as well at the Inn the Pines. You can arrange for a soak-and-stay package to save a little money.

Kirkham Hot Springs near Lowman: Kirkham is one of the most accessible primitive hot springs in Southwest Idaho. You can drive there directly via the Banks-to-Lowman Road and Idaho 21, but don’t expect to have the pools to yourselves. Because of the accessibility, there is almost always someone else there enjoying a hot soak.

The pools at Kirkham are next to the South Fork of the Payette River, which makes it easy to do a cold plunge after you’ve gotten nice and toasty. There are different pools at different temperatures to enjoy. Bring a swimsuit and a towel.

At certain times of the winter, it’s possible to see quite a few deer and elk next to the Banks-to-Lowman Road as part of your drive to Kirkham. That’s always a bonus!

Bonneville Hot Springs: Bonneville is a little farther afield than Kirkham, but it might be worth traveling the extra distance to cut down on how many people you see there. We often double up on a backcountry ski trip to Copper Mountain, and hit Bonneville on the way home.

The hot springs is located inside Bonneville Campground, about 20 miles east of Lowman on Idaho 21. The campground is closed during the winter, so you have to walk a little less than a mile into the hot springs from the highway. Suits are optional here. The main pool is usually about 101 degrees, and there’s a little bath house where the water is a little hotter. That’s my only complaint about Bonneville, I wish the water was a little hotter.

For more information on Idaho hot springs in general, go to this comprehensive web site: www.idahohotsprings.com. You’ll find directions, photos and video about many of the best hot springs in Idaho.

Steve Stuebner is a longtime Idaho outdoors writer.

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