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Home: Idaho Hot Springs: Bear Valley Hot Springs
  Public Hot Springs

Bear Valley Hot Springs in Idaho

Boise National Forest / Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, South Half Overall Rating: A+
6,360 ft Water Temperature: Varies per pool per time of day
NW of Lowman, near Stanley Usage Level: Moderate-Heavy

Bear Valley Hot Springs Pictures (click to enlarge)

07.25.05: Morning Steam

07.25.05: Beautiful riverside soaking

07.26.05: Hot Creek

07.25.05: Big Hole is 1mi and a river ford past the hot springs

09.01.03: Carving that marks the descending trail to the HS

08.31.03: Bear Valley Creek near the Blue Bunch Trailhead

08.30.03: Source #1 Overhead

08.30.03: Source #1: Pool #1

08.31.03: Source #2

08.31.03: Source #2: Hot creek that feeds the pools

08.31.03: Source #2: Pool #1

08.31.03: Roger & Oksana in Source #2: Pool #1

08.21.02 - Source #2, Pool #1

08.21.02 - Source #2, Pool #3

08.20.02 - Source #1, Pools #1 and 2

08.19.02 - Which one to soak in?

08.20.02 - The trail to BV HS

08.1999 - Pools on the slope below source #1 and above our campsite.
Picture courtesy Brandon Lambert Homepage

General Description
Take your pick from a string of stellar soaking pools of all shapes and sizes at the end of a moderate hike and river ford - Most are rock lined with gravel, rock and/or sand bottoms.
Dates Visited: Trash Levels: Bug Levels:
07.24.05 - 07.26.05 no trash (!) moderate-heavy
Red Spider Mites
08.29.03 - 09.01.03 light light
08.19.02 - 08.21.02 moderate light-moderate
08.1999 no trash (!) light-moderate

Water Clarity:
Crystal Clear


1st Source: Slight Sulfer
2nd-3rd Sources: None

Wildlife Sighted: Deer, Elk, Fox, Grouse & Snakes (Black Bear & Mountain Lion Evidence) - excellent birding opportunities with Osprey and Bald Eagle in the area along with many others

Seasonal Notes
Winter forest service road and highway 21 road closures prohibit access to this hot springs trailhead until mid to late May. Spring runoff prevents access for 2 of the 3 routes (hikes) to the HS which require a river ford until mid to late July. Fording during spring runoff is dangerous because of the strong underwater currents. The 3rd route (un-maintained and unofficial angler path) is steep, barred with many down trees and the most elevated part of the route that traverses over rock can be as slick as ice when wet. It is .5mi less than the main route and does not require a creek ford.

Camping Notes
There is ample camping at the hot springs; please use existing sites only! During my 07.2005 visit I discovered a new site right next to the 1st source created by some uneducated or uncaring soakers! This is protected wilderness area; you must camp at least 200ft away from any water source or passageway. There are many excellent primitive sites with large fire-rings along with other amazing sites along the trail: please use these sites, it is not necessary to create new campsites in the already heavily impacted area. Most soakers opt to camp at the Trailhead campground and day hike in.


Spring runoff was raging, so I attempted the secondary trail in. This worked well until about .5 miles in. At this point, large portions of the trail were submerged because of runoff. The majority of these portions were also located in marshy regions. Which translates into a muddy, quicksand like trek while being attacked by legions of bugs. I didn't last long. I attempted to pack out in summer 07, but alas, just like 06 - the whole area was closed due to wildfires.

Our pack trip was abruptly halted when we arrived at the Blue Bunch pack bridge to see a huge gate across the bridge signed 'CLOSED' amongst plenty of other signage to the same accord. The expansion of the Boundary Fire had led to the closure of the trail to Bear Valley hot springs at the trailhead. Note, you can still drive down the forest road to the Blue Bunch Pack Bridge and even camp at Fir Creek campground, but all of the trails leading into the Frank from this area are closed and have been since Aug. 9th.

07.24.05 - 07.26.05
It was great to return to Bear Valley after 2 years and find no trash upon arrival. We had the place to ourselves at night and experienced a steady stream of daytime traffic - some friendly and some not. This large influx of day hiker traffic is probably due in part to Backpacker magazine recently featuring Bear Valley. However, they used the wrong picture for the article (Lower Loon Hot Springs was the actual pic used), directions were lackluster and there was no mention of red spider mites. The Boise National Forest also hands out free publications promoting this hot springs as well - funny how their map looks just like that of Evie Littion's Hiking Hot Springs (2nd Ed.) as do the descriptions.

I was not ecstatic to find out that my buddies, the red spider mites, were still around. Despite careful soaking I still came away with a few bites which multiplied after returning (as usual). They even got on a couple of my friends that didn't even go on this trip!

Changes to note:
A downed large tree has crumbled the fire pit and bisects the flat camp site on the Eastern side of the hot springs complexes. The beach area further East of the downed tree has turned into a human flower farm - yeeech! Come on guys! Crap at least 200ft away!

An overzealous hunter has built a structure near the top of the first source so that he may sit comfortably while shooting animals grazing on the algae at the hot springs - wow that's some sportsman. This area is in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness; it is illegal to build structures in it!

A very positive change to note however - (despite the human flower farm) there was no other trash in the hot springs area. Further downstream though is another story. Quite a bit of trash was found in a fire pit downstream of the hot springs at an (yes again) Angler camp. Burnt hooks, fishing wire, tin cans, preservative packs and more were among the trash found. I'm soooo sick of finding Angler trash... my guess is that the 'flower farm' is more than likely Angler related as well.

Despite the pesky mites and trashy Anglers, this trip was excellent. The pools felt great and the scenery was nothing short of spectacular.
Rating: A

08.29.03 - 09.01.03
5 stars all the way! Something interesting to note however; Source #1 (of 2) seems to be getting warmer over the years... at least, that is what my research indicates. The only pools suitable for soaking are the ones nested into the riverbank of Bear Valley Creek, all the others are too HOT! Don't distress though! The pools of Source #2 are as stellar as they ever have been. Our group (Billie, Dan, Sara, Dizzy and myself) had the pleasure of meeting several nice people on this trip. Especially Roger and Oksana (and Buster), a young married couple that just moved from Michigan to live in SLC, Utah. Bear Valley was the second hot springs Roger had ever been to, and if I remember correctly, this was Oksana's first. We enjoyed an evening soak together and swapped information about sweet places to go all while under a thick blanket of stars... it's always nice to meet good people.

All the rocks around all pools below Source #2 had Red Spider Mite inhabitants - luckily I escaped this time with only a handful of bites while others in my group were not nearly as lucky... avoid sitting and putting clothing/towels on the rocks whenever you can.
Rating A+
08.19.02 - 08.21.02
Returning to the one that started it all was all that and more. Everything was great about this backpacking, camping and hot springing trip. The weather was toasty the first day with temps nearing 90, while the second day provided a little relief from the heat with temps around the 70s and the third day brought about temps in the 50s and 60s capped off by a massive thunderstorm/hail storm that caught us during the hike back to the trailhead parking area. We were taking the 3rd route back that requires a double creek ford and got hit with the rain in the middle of the first ford and then biting hail and sleet while in the middle of the final ford. It might not sound like fun to you, but I love that kind of stuff. The challenge and beauty of the whole experience made a lasting impression on me.
BV has changed somewhat since my last visit 3 years ago. BV Creek was low, too low to provide the dry channel that meets up with the second source with cold water. That would explain the absence of the long, deep soakers slightly below where hot would have meet cold. The first source has a noticeable sulfur smell that lingers in the air, while the second source is seemingly odorless.
We had one visitor the first day who day hiked in, sat for 20 min and left. Then, 30 min after midnight the second day a group of 8-10 hikers tromped into camp with flashlights blazing and dogs barking. They slept in until 10 (we had already been soaking for hours... heh), packed up and took off... without soaking!? That was odd.
Despite the spiders/mites (see below) that feasted on us the first night, the whole trip was a 5 star event.

The first night of our stay tiny Red Spider Mites (barley visible with the naked eye) swarmed the rock walls of the pools nearest to Bear Valley creek and bit everyone in our group, I was bitten the most (by far). The spiders (or mites I suppose) were no larger than a pin head and were only visible to our eyes during the daylight. BE CAREFUL, I am currently researching the nature of these creatures.
Rating A+
Mid 08.1999
This was the trip that sparked my whole interest in Idaho hot springs. The river ford across Bear Valley Creek was tricky as was finding good footing in the swift moving water. We came after dark fall, mainly because I locked my keys in my truck at the trailhead/pack bridge. Luckily, a couple was camping in their RV nearby and had a coat hanger handy, which my friend (Brandon) was able to use to pick the lock. I was quite unsuccessful in my efforts, guess thief is another profession I can write off my list. We set up camp upon arrival close in proximity to 4 pools located on the slope below the source. Those pools alone made it all worthwhile, but imagine our surprise when we awoke to find even more pools just beyond our campsite! Some even big enough to house a large group of soakers.
Rating A+

Average Rating: A+


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Public hot springs are not bathing facilities and do not have 'plumbing' like that of commercial, improved hot springs. Soap and shampoo (including biodegradable soap and shampoo) do not completely breakdown naturally. This pollutes our water systems (ingested by fish, animals, humans) at or near the source. This is also illegal in most wilderness and public lands areas.

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