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
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.
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
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
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.
and trashy Anglers, this trip was excellent. The pools felt great
and the scenery was nothing short of spectacular.
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.
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.
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.