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Home: Idaho Hot Springs: Buckhorn Hot Springs
  Public Hot Springs

Buckhorn Hot Springs in Idaho


Boise & Payette National Forests Overall Rating: B+
4,900 ft Water Temperature: 105 to 115
Warm Lake/Yellow Pine Area Usage Level: Low (Semi-Moderate seasonal use)
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06.03.06: The lone pool


06.03.06: View down Buckhorn Creek


06.03.06: Lots of algae goobers, it looks like Trail Creek underneath


06.03.06: High creek water conditions


06.12.04: The main attraction


08.14.04: Sweet stand-up shower


08.14.04: Buckhorn Creek (near hot springs)


06.12.04: Overhead view


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[ View 06.03.06 Buckhorn Hot Springs Video Clips ]
 

General Description
A gradually inclined 5 mile hike (1,000+ feet in elevation gain) on an overgrown, old forest road to hard to find, meadow and forest bordered hot springs in the Payette National Forest near Buckhorn Creek.

Pool Condition
Hot water from the source flows down part of a hill into a hollowed-out lodge pole pine and then into a rock walled pool with a sandy and rocky bottom. Another source outflows into a raised wood gutter that acts as a stand-up shower and boasts near perfect temperatures.
Dates Visited: Trash Levels: Bug Levels:
06.03.06 extreme low
08.16.04 low moderate
08.14.04 low moderate
06.12.04 & 06.13.04 low low-moderate

Water Clarity:
Clear when pools used semi-frequently, loaded with algae (easily cleaned out) otherwise

Visibility:
low

Odor(s):
Slight Sulfur

Wildlife Sighted: Deer, Elk, Monarch Butterflies (tons) & Bats (tons)

Seasonal Information
Accessible all year - note Warm Lake HWY traveling during winter will require a 4x4 to get though safely. Winter trail travel will require snowshoes.

Camping
There's 2 large campsites, more than likely setup by hunters, that are located next to the main trail (the trail leading down to the hot springs emanates from the 2 campsites). Plus, there is a smaller, but very plush campsite on the border of the meadow roughly 50 yards from the pool on an island cut by Buckhorn Creek. There is also plenty of Boise and Payette National Forest camping nearby.

Trip Reports, Accessibility and Usage Updates

06.03.06
Buckhorn was tough to reach on this trip because of the last blast of spring runoff. The hike up was beautiful, chock full of vibrant butterflies. The trail was rutted out near stream crossings and sharp inclines thanks to trail bike and mountain bike enthusiasts. The outfitter/hunter camps were a nightmare. Someone was just up here and left quite a mess indeed... I was furious. There was crap everywhere! Almost all of it was primarily concentrated at the main outfitter camp. I notified the National Forest Law Enforcement, Jeff Higgley, of the situation upon returning. I found out that he'd already been working on it. That's why I like Jeff, he's a good steward of the land and a great example of how you would hope all public land personnel would be.

I also found out that they have been having an increasing problem with the majority of hunters and anglers. It was about the same kind of thing I run into all of the time - most impact the environment in irreversible ways - like trying to drive their 'rig' in as far as possible. God forbid they leave a light footprint and actually hike in without motorized assistance. We agreed that his father and my grandfather would be rolling in their graves (as both were hunters and anglers that respected the land) in regard to hunters and anglers of this day. I've seen coked-up hunting parties, drunk hunters driving around on ORVs at 3am shooting off their shotguns in the air, backpacking campsites trashed with angler garbage, signs/doors/fee boxes shot up by hunters and more. Respect the land or leave.

After dropping down to Buckhorn Creek and fording on a fallen tree to the meadow campsite I was greeted by views of a submerged meadow. Runoff was raging, and as such was covering the majority of the meadow in fast moving water. After much exploration another fallen tree was found upstream that provided passage across to the hot springs. Note: after making the crossing, I decided that it wasn't such a great idea to go after Bucky during runoff - too risky, one slip off the tree and the chances surviving the frigid, strong currents would be slim.

The pool was loaded up with algae, although I didn't recognize any horse fly larva that I've heard rumors about. The stand-up shower was better than I remembered... hotter too. Nothing like a hot geo-shower overlooking a sunken meadow and raging creek during a warm spring afternoon.
Rating B-

08.16.04
Not much new to report since we were here just 2 days ago (see below briefing). The shower was great after miles of hiking and nightly rain and thunder storms. A curious deer spent some time observing us between storms in the meadow bordering the hot springs. This time we camped in one of the hunter camps near the trail. Plenty of biting horse and deer flies during the breaks between the rain.

08.14.04
My friend and I stopped here on our first night of a 4-day backpacking trip to Buckhorn Lake. It looked like my other friend and I might have been the last ones here back in June (see briefing below) judging by how the area looked (sweet!). On our way up we came across a couple of mountain bikers ISO Buckhorn Hot Springs. They actually passed us, waited near junctions and then followed and past us again until we caught up with them on their way back down. He had given up and she wanted to continue with us, in the end they both gave up despite help offered by my friend and I. The pool had not been used for some time, probably because the cold creek nearby was dry that split off of the West Fork Buckhorn Creek. That cold water is desperately needed to temper the hot pool. The shower however, was in excellent shape. It was a nice reprieve from all the cold rain.
Rating A

06.12.04 & 06.13.04
We were worried when arrived at the trailhead parking lot Friday night, it was packed! 5 out of 7 vehicles were from Canada, and nearly everyone was fishing over the bridge save for the people from the 2 other vehicles. We camped .25 miles south of the bridge in a campsite slightly off the main FSR. We actually found a rusty animal snare that looked like it was from the 20s. My friend almost stepped in it when he was exploring the area. Oh yes, the snare was set and probably would have broken his foot or ankle.

We parked at the trailhead in the morning and found only 1 vehicle left from the night before. Just before leaving our campsite we talked with a couple rangers about the hot springs and hike. They told us that not too many people hike the trail, and that the majority use trail bikes as transportation to and from Buckhorn Lake and do not know of or how to find the hot springs. Naturally, we were stoked to hear that.

It was a brutal hike, especially with air temps in the high 80s. It didn't help that we took a wrong turn at the second trail junction just under a mile from the trailhead. 3 miles later, after climbing shortly under 1000 feet, we finally realized our error and subsequently backtracked to our junction. We then took the correct trail up the mountain another 1000 feet for just over 5 miles to some outfitter campsites. The campsites contained shelves built into tress, large fire pits, log seats with backs, horse ties, a cooler full of propane bottles and other crap, a couple tarps, a large plastic bucket and some other stuff.

From the campsites we took a tiny trail down to Buckhorn Creek and crossed on fallen timber to another campsite situated on an island cut by the same creek. Just 50 yards or so upstream were the 4 hot springs sources, a stand-up shower and a 12x8x2.5 ft pool... loaded with algae goobers (that were easily removed via bucket).

Navigation was tricky. The GPS coordinates I picked up online were all off, USGS had miss-marked the hot springs and one of the guide books I had also listed incorrect directions. They all seemed to lead to something .5 miles past the real deal.

It should be noted that the trail to Buckhorn Lake used to be a Forest Service Road. However, the aftermath of the Clear Creek Fire left the road buried under tons of rocks and mud. The Forest Service has since replaced the road with a trail.

The pool was hot! Luckily I brought my trusty collapsible bucket and there was another bucket in one of the outfitter campsites that helped cool off the pool enough for some serious soaking. Ironically, the whole time we were there we wished we had brought some plastic hoses/tubes/pipe to bring in cold water from the creek, moments before we left my friend found a pile of hoses behind a tree near the pool.

My favorite buddies, the Red Spider Mites, were sadly present at this hot springs. Although in much lower numbers than the other afflicted hot springs like Bear Valley. I left with only 3 or 4 bites, not too bad.

We passed a few trail bikes to and from Buckhorn, and while we were camped we could hear the bikes buzzing to and from the nearby lake. All things considered, Buckhorn was still pretty dang awesome.
Rating A

Average Rating: B+

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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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