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Home: Idaho Hot Springs: Jerry Johnson Hot Springs
  Public Hot Springs

Jerry Johnson Hot Springs in Idaho


Season: All Type: H (hike)
Clearwater National Forest Overall Rating: A-
Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Water Temperature: Varies per pool per source
3,200 ft Usage Level: Extreme
Near Lolo, MT pH: ?

Jerry Johnson Hot Springs Map


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Jerry Johnson Hot Springs Pictures

Cloud Soakers

Jerry Johnson #1

Rocky Johnson

Warm Springs Bridge

JJ Signage

Best One

Jerry Johnson #3

Lochsa River

Jerry and Lochsa


07.29.06: Source 1, Pool 1


07.29.06: Source 1, Waterfall fed


07.29.06: Source 2, Pool 2


07.29.06: Trailhead bridge


07.29.06: Signage


05.16.03: The trailhead sign


05.16.03: The hike begins with a river crossing via pack bridge


05.16.03: Lush soaking environment


05.16.03: The waterfall fed pools are submerged this time of year


05.16.03: Scenic soak
 


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[View 07.24.11 Jerry Johnson Video Clip]
[View 06.05.09 Jerry Johnson Video Clip]
[View 08.10.08 / 08.11.08 Jerry Johnson and Weir Creek Hot Springs Video Clip]
[ View 07.29.06 Jerry Johnson Hot Springs Video Clips ]

General Description

Jerry Johnson is one of Idaho's most popular natural hot springs, and consists of three hot springs sources, each with their own soaking opportunities. Featuring pools with rock walls, some with sandy clear bottoms and some with silt. The 1st of 3 sources, known as the waterfall pools, are submerged until late summer (end of August), while the other 2 sources have pools that are available for soaking year-round.

Located within the Clearwater National Forest in Central Idaho, the hot springs pools are at the end of a short 1+ mile hike - arranged in sequence starting with the waterfall pools. Years ago it was a favorite of backpackers on their way into/from the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. In the late 90s, the FS initiated nighttime closure and made camping at/near the hot springs illegal in an effort the protect the badly abused hot springs. It remains under nighttime closure today.

During the summer you'll meet people from all over the United States and even world. The rest of the year this hot springs is dominated by the people of Missoula, Montana. In particular, partying college students - most of which are responsible for nighttime closure.

Clothing Optional?

Jerry used to be signed as clothing optional, but in 2009 the signage was removed from the trailhead. Nude is typically the norm here. If you're going au natural be prepared to share a soak with little Timmy and the family. This place gets packed! I've seen it both ways and mixed as well. All I can really say is if you are going to Jerry don't expect to not see naked people.

Seasonal Notes

The waterfall pools from the 1st (of 3) sources are best during late summer... and are submerged during spring runoff. Nighttime closure is currently in effect due to overuse and abuse problems. Open from 6am to 8pm.

Winter can bring snow and very dangerous roads. Consider snowshoes and ALWAYS check road reports prior to departure.

May brings spring runoff and insane riding conditions to the nearby rivers. Every hot springs and camping area is typically slammed during this time.

Camping Notes

There is an official campground of the same name 1 mile from the Warm Springs pack bridge trailhead between Mile Markers 150 and 151, along with many other nearby official campgrounds and primitive further up and down the road. No camping at the hot springs - nighttime closure in effect. It should be noted that there is NO shade at the official JJ CG, which can be a very hot place come July/August.

The current location of Jerry Johnson Campground has only been open since 2006-2008, but has experienced water contamination issues and has been closed the last couple years. The previous location of JJ CG was actually very close to the Warm Springs Trailhead bridge. It was closed due to overuse and abuse related issues and is in a recovery status.

Facilities

No pit toilet or restroom facilities of any kind at trailhead or hot springs. Pack it in - pack it out!

Local Services

East via hwy 12 is the closest gas and food at Lolo Pass/Lolo Hot Springs (20+ miles from Trailhead).

Location

The Trailhead parking lot is known as Warm Springs Pack Bridge and is located between Mile Markers 152 and 153 on the north side of Highway 12 and is approximately 25 miles west of Lolo Pass, or 78 miles east of the Highway 12/13 junction at Kooskia.

After parking, cross highway 12 and the pack bridge over the Lochsa River, stay on the west main trail and continue for about 1 mile to reach the waterfall pools (source 1 of 3). Continue another .5 miles to locate the additional pools which are visible from the main trail. The trail is typically in great shape and has very little elevation loss/gain.

Fees

Currently, there is no fee to park at the Warm Springs Creek pack bridge and access Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. Please pick up all trash and take good care of this special place so it can remain intact and free to access for years to come.

Nearby

  • Continue following the trail past the hot springs into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and countless backpacking opportunities, starting with a seasonal waterfall.

  • Lolo Hot Springs

  • Lolo Pass Interpretative Center

  • Lowell, Idaho

  • Kooskia, Idaho

  • Missoula, Montana

  • Wilderness Gateway Campground (largest in Idaho)

  • Lochsa River

  • Clearwater River

  • Weir Creek Hot Springs

  • Stanley Hot Springs

Trip Reports
 

Dates Visited: Trash Levels: Bug Levels:
07.24.11 EXTREME Moderate
06.05.09 Low (!!) Low
08.11.08 Moderate Moderate
07.29.06 Low-Moderate High
05.16.03 Moderate High

Water Clarity:
Clear

Visibility:
Moderate

Odor(s):
None

Wildlife Sighted: Deer and elk

Jerry Johnson Hot Springs Trip Reports

07.24.11
Special note: Jerry Johnson is Idaho's most popular hot springs - and as such, is heavily abused. Please pack out all trash and don't bring glass. This hot springs is already under nighttime closure. If we don't take care of Jerry, we risk losing the right to visit completely. Overnight, illegal campers beware, the Forest Service will catch and fine you. They routinely send out patrols after dark ISO violators.

On Sunday, July 24th 2011, we arrived bright and early at the Warm Springs Pack Bridge in the Clearwater National Forest, AKA the trailhead for the brief jaunt to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. The parking area was half-full of overnight campers, and there was even a Rainbow bus with a handful of folks sleeping in their bags underneath.

The 'Buffalo Tribe' was heading back home, but had to detour around Oregon. Apparently, one of their tribe has an Oregon warrant. After crossing the pack bridge we were treated to the same sight over and over again. Jackhole overnight campers... sound asleep amongst their piles of trash, camping illegally, in areas desperately in need of recovering from years of abuse. A new jackhole sub-type was discovered here as well... the meth jackhole.

Long story short, we documented the illegals and lectured a bunch of kids drinking Boone's that had strewn trash in a perfect circle around their little 'hot tub'. The little jerks took off running with our backs turned and left their trash, of course. We finally found a good soak, which was eventually shared with a photography class from MSU in Missoula, MT and a few other random people that wandered in. All good people, and all in all a great soak.

Aside from the jackholes, the soak was stellar and the people we chatted with were very friendly. We passed a handful of rangers on our way out, on their way in (to drop the hammer). I enjoy backpacking and camping near hot springs too, but when unique places like this are heavily damaged, hot springers need to respect that damage by not adding to it.

The first source was still submerged, no surprise here given the insane late spring runoff this season. The second and third sources were good to go.
Rating B-
 

06.05.09


JJ Signage
The lower sign no longer exists

It has been awhile since visiting, what I like to call, the highway 12 region. Three stellar soaks, all accessible off the same highway. Sadly, Weir Creek was overrun with soakers. Not that I mind the company of fellow hot springers, but Weir Creek can only hold so many. Which lead to the logical conclusion - Jerry Johnson. I would have spent the whole week at Stanley Hot Springs, but fording Boulder Creek was out of the question. Interesting to note; the trailhead to Stanley Hot Springs was actually posted clothing optional. While the signage that has been up at Jerry that states the hot springs and trail are both clothing optional has ... evaporated. From what I've read, all National Forest in Idaho is in fact clothing optional unless otherwise posted. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway, visiting Jerry was an enjoyable reunion.

 Jerry Johnson Hot Springs
Source 2

I've never actually soaked at the second source pool before. This time, the temperature was just right. The soak was indeed stellar. Visiting early yielded to having the entire complex of hot springs to oneself for a handful of hours. Not bad, considering the waterfall pools at the first source were submerged.

 JJ

All in all, Jerry was a great soak. I think the main reason why I has such a good time was that I didn't have to cart hardly any trash out (!). Remarkable, considering the nature of this particular soak.
Rating A

08.11.08
The Clearwater National Forest and Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness is a longtime Idaho favorite for natural, primitive hot springs. Located in north-central Idaho and primarily accessible off State Highway 12, this is the state's lushest region in regard to hot springs hiking and backpacking trips.

I favor this region partially because of the associated diversity of travelers. Sure, there are locals, mostly from across the border in Montana... Missoula is close by with a hearty population of ready and able hot springers. What I've found to be unique is meeting people from not only around the country, but from other countries. All have been, in my experience, friendly, outdoor enthusiasts that possess a pure love the for the wilderness. Most seem to be escaping city life, or just life in general... taking refuge in one of nature's finest. I've been offered to share a meal, campfire and/or beer in this area more times than I can remember.

This area was the last place I backpacked with a lifelong friend and backpacking partner before he was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. I can always feel his presence around here. It was an amazing last trip... complete with a visit from Stanley's Hot Springs Moose. I've got video, it'll go up... soon I promise. :) I will forever miss our annual backpacking hot springs expeditions.

Jerry Johnson Hot Springs was a sight for sore eyes if there ever was one. Even the dirt feels different beneath your feet here. The ground is soft, and crunches slowly under the weight of each footfall. The moist air helps keep the trail dust down and bare legs relatively clean. The hike through the Clearwater National Forest is too short. Early in the morning it is has a medieval like appeal at sunrise, when fragments of light pierce the wooded veil like flashlight beams on a starless night.

Idaho's southern forests in comparison (save for the southeast) are dry. Aside from the mighty Ponderosa Pines, the trees don't always blot out the sky. Easy to bushwhack, forget about it up north. More snakes, less berries. About the same amount of wolves and black bears, but less grizzlies. There's none in the south, and a handful supposedly up north. Nothing to worry about though, the majority of wilderness animals in Idaho have not been exposed to trash. Another good reason to keep a clean camp and pack out everything.

There are 3 sources at Jerry Johnson. The first I had never soaked in until this particular trip; the waterfall-fed pools. Only one pool was prime for soaking, and was well worth it I might add. The 2nd source's primary pool was too cool, clocking in at 98, and the 3rd source's only pool was a perfect 103. It was qualified, and enjoyed immensely.

East of Jerry Johnson Hot Springs lies a Forest Service operated outfitter camp, typically stocked with a few horses. In the trailhead parking lot was a Forest Service pickup, but it was unclear if it was from the outfitter or a decoy left behind as a reminder of nighttime closure. The previous evening this place was slammed at dusk with 8-10 vehicles and FS personnel. Regardless, a quiet soak was enjoyed early the next morning.

I even made up a Selway-Bitterroot rap, which I unfortunately was singing out loud before encountering a grinning, chuckle-suppressing young lady with a camera just a few feet ahead during the hike out. I remember her in particular because of the vehicle she drove. It was jam-packed with provisions, caked in dirt and a long way from home.... scratched into the mud on the back window read "Free Bird". No wonder her smile was so big.
Rating A

07.29.06
Three years later I returned to JJ in hopes of qualifying the waterfall pools... well... almost! I was able to withstand a few minutes with my back to the hot waterfall before heading on to qualify pools from the remaining two sources. My friend and I broke camp at 4am and were at the hot springs no later than 5am. Within 10 minutes of our arrival the crowds started to trickle in. Even though JJ is only a 1 mile flat hike, nudity is the norm here. I was surprised that there was no signs warning would be soakers of oncoming nudity - as most roadside or near roadside hot soaks do.

There was a blend of locals from Missoula, MT and travelers at JJ. The new JJ official campground is now open, and is the only campground along highway 12 without shade. This time of the year shade is most definitely a requirement. I had a great time enjoying the pools and some light banter with fellow soakers... three years has been too long.
Rating A

05.16.03
We got up early, determined to beat everyone out to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs... and it worked! We had all of those beautiful pools to ourselves from 6am to 9am (when we left and still no visitors). Sadly, the waterfall pools were submerged due to spring runoff. The scenic old growth forest, Elk and other 2 sources with accompanying pools more than made up for it.

The weather was hot and humid during the day followed by powerful 20 minute thunder and lightning storms at night. They were awesome! There were plenty of large flying (carpenter) ants, and bug juice didn't have much effect. After it finally cooled off at night it wasn't long before they disappeared. Although, I seemed to keep finding them inside my truck days after leaving the area.

This is the 2nd most frequented HS I have ever visited (see the Traffic Update about the afternoon before below), Scenic HS in Washington being the 1st. Heavy usage and amounts of trash almost always walk hand in hand. However, JJ HS had a little less garbage than I had expected. Any trash is too much, especially when found floating in the pools.

The nighttime closure (open from 6am to 8pm) is primarily due to Missoula, MT college students using the springs as a regular party grounds; which left the area severely trashed as a result. I enjoyed my visit here; it's hard to go wrong with 3 sources feeding multiple pools. Please also note that May is the primary float season in this area (expect heavy traffic).
Rating B+

Average Rating: A-

Traffic Updates

05.15.03
A huge load of cars and trucks (enough to fill up the large parking area) were parked at the trailhead to Warm Springs Creek Trail around 4pm.

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PUBLIC BATHING NOTICE

No Soap, Shampoo or BIO-Soap/Shampoo Allowed in Hot Springs! Avoid Being Fined!

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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