Bonneville is an actual National Forest
Campground, the hot springs are a short hike north of the camping
area. Other NF
camping sites/areas are also available nearby.
Trip Reports, Accessibility and Usage
I'll never forget what it felt like to drop down that last wedge of
trail just as the monolithic, steaming geothermal mass known as
Bonneville Hot Springs revealed itself for the first time.
Bonneville is a special treat, especially this time of the year. The
cold, brisk spring air is usually in the 30s this early, which means
the large expanse of hot water will churn out steam reminiscent of
geyser giants in Yellowstone. Add to that the unique light radiating
from the rising sun and you have a very mystical-ish environment.
It's like venturing into another world, that is, before the air
warms and sun fully crests the treeline horizon.
Bonnie this time of the year has inadvertently become a tradition. I
didn't realize it until today, but I've been returning this place
during early spring for years. Despite heavy traffic at nearby
Skinnydipper, Hot Springs CG, Pine Flats and extreme usage at
Kirkham Hot Springs, Bonneville was left alone. For a bit.
patchy snow and ice on the trail, clearly the time for snowshoes and
skies has come and gone. The entrance and gate to the campground of
the same name remain closed until May 20, when the campground
officially opens. For me, the extra mileage just ensures the journey
is that much more worth it. That's actually a good rule-of-thumb to
live by. The trailhead to Bonneville is located at the north end of
really excited about not finding ANY trash! Not having to enact my
typical pre-soak, trash bagging routine is always a huge plus. Watch
the video for the deets. On the trail, I encountered 3 young ladies
from Boise State who were on a hot springs sojourn for their last
day of spring break. I remember those days fondly, as most of my
spring breaks as a student were spent trudging through the snow and
sun ISO stellar soaks. That's how real Idahoians do spring break, ha
ha. They were really nice, I was a bit worried about the two that
had flip flops on. I noticed they were equipped with the BNF flyer
the visitor centers and ranger stations have been handing out for
noticed that they were from Kootenai County. Which, ironically, is
where I too came from prior to making Boise my home to attend Boise
State (and how I came to discover hot springs, but that is another
story). Up north we've got a lot of big, HUGE lakes. Any one of
which make Lucky Peak resemble a puddle. However, the north severely
lacks geothermal wonderment, except for those few hot springs
located in the Clearwater National Forest and Selway-Bitterroot
Wilderness. Idaho really does have it all, backcountry-wise.
time my vehicle was in sight on the return hike two more cars had
pulled into the small pullout in front of the campground gate. Even
though the day started in the 30s, it was nearing 70 out after I
tossed the pack in the back of the truck. I have been pleasantly
surprised how nice and considerate soak seekers have been of late. I
hope this trend continues, as the growth-rate for the human Jackhole
sub-species seems to always be on the rise.
immensely enjoyed the hike in, soak and hike out at Bonneville.
Maybe one crisp, early spring morning, it is you that I'll quietly
hike past whilst wandering down your own path to geothermal
then, happy trails!
At the start of every Spring I like to hike out to Bonneville Hot
Springs in the Boise National Forest. The campground of the same
name is still snowbound, and remains closed while the hot springs
are somewhat accessible. It's just in time to beat Spring runoff,
when snow melt from the mountains will surge through the creeks and
rivers, submerging and obliterating any man-made soaking pools. This
is one of the only times you can experience such an incredible place
for oneself. I come because it's the perfect time of the year to
renew my relationship with nature.
hike out, after a glorious soak mind you, I passed a crazy guy with
a tiny backpack on and aqua socks who was followed by a lady in
sweats. It's actually still winter out here. I hope you guys made it
The super-soaker is back in action after being repaired by multiple volunteer groups.
This was exactly what I needed. The campground entrance was gated,
which elongated the hike to the hot springs, which I welcomed. It
was a beautiful day. The snow was hard enough to walk on, making an
icy sidewalk that reached all the way to the geothermal complex. I
am sad to report that the king soaking pool is somewhat dismembered.
There's hope, but serious work will be needed to patch up the rock
walls. The soak shack was in good repair, as was the round-the-bend
I had to break the chain; the last 2 times I've been here were both
in April. No more. January proved to be the perfect time visit
Bonneville Hot Springs. We could have snow shoed or cross country
skied into the hot springs, but boots were our selected mode of
transportation. Luckily there's almost always a well-packed trail .
In the past, the entrance to the campground was plowed just enough
for a couple vehicles to park. This time the only place to park was
at the Warm Springs Trailhead parking area shortly before the
Bonneville campground entrance, which is also an alternative route
to the hot springs.
The hike out was brisk,
air temperatures were in the low 20s, but the blue sky and snow
covered forests more than made up for it. We passed a couple on skis
and snowshoes on the way in, and arrived in time to greet a sole
soaker and his dog on their way out. The big news of this visit was
most definately the rebuilding of the large pool. The south side of
the pool had been dug out more, and a new rock holding wall replaced
the old, leaky rock pile wall. The result? Excellent. I've never
seen the pool look and feel better. Temps were around 104 in the
large pool and 105 in the soak shack. The other pools around the
bend clocked in around 103. Sweet.
What a trip! I feel a little sad that is has been 4 years since I've
been back here to qualify for a soak. The campground is still closed
and gated, but there was a sign posted on the gate stating that it
would open on April 15th... hmmm today is the 20th. My best guess is
that it will take the snow another couple weeks to melt, plus time
for the forest service crews to come in and prep the grounds - so
the campground should be open in May sometime.
It was a very scenic
hike through the snow while basking in the warm glow of the sun.
Spring is just beginning here. We passed a friendly guy on the hike
to the hot springs. He opted to not soak, citing large amounts of
silt as the reason. Our soaking party discovered quite the opposite.
The soak shack, mega-pool and waterfall pool were all in great
soaking condition. There was silt in the mega-pool, but there was
also a good sized silt-free zone - optimal for soaking.
This is the best time of
the year to visit Bonneville. Warmer months bring in a steady stream
of campers, and by the end of the summer expect ORVs and other
vehicle traffic to kick up enough dust to coat the inside of your
tent or camping device. During the core of winter Bonneville sees a
steady stream of Nordic and snowshoe recreational enthusiasts. It is
only during this time of the year, while the snow is melting and the
ground features a smattering of bare spots, can you soak in solitude
and truly enjoy this hot springs haven.
We did just that.
The main pool was a little cool even despite some minor attempts to block some of the cold creek water. The attempts were minor because we made the mistake of getting in before testing the temperature and were subsequently freezing while climbing around and shifting rocks. It wasn't too bad right next to the pipe. The rustic shack with the single tub was good to go, but had the distinct look of being un-used for quite some time. The campground
of the same name off Highway 21 was closed, which just made for a nice
hike through the snow. According to Evie Litton's Book "Hiking Hot
Springs in the Pacific Northwest" there is another pool located
just below the source large enough for 2 that we missed. We did notice
submerged pools in the creek that might have potential during the right time
We soaked all by ourselves for about 15 minutes before being joined by a
friendly FS Stream Surveyor lady. Kudos to her for carting the dirty
diaper out along with other trash. We filled all of our extra plastic
bags with garbage and believe it or not even got dirty looks from a
couple groups of people approaching the pool while doing so. Shame
shame! They had GUILTY written all over their faces.
Despite hwy 21 being closed from Grandjean to Stanley (Banner Summit
Area) this place was jam packed! There were
approx. 10 cars in the parking area and another couple parked just
off the site of the road. This place was snowshoe city!
The campground was closed/gated, there was one grocery grabber
leaving and another either unloading or loading up composed of a
couple cute snowboarder girls around 11:30am.
A moderate amount of people were camping and soaking.
The campground and hot springs were closed because the National
Forest crews were busy reconditioning the roads.
Wow! Even in mid-May this place was packed! Textile city! A quick look at
all of the people was enough to spur us on to another soaking destination.
Full campground = full soaking pools.