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Home: Idaho Hot Springs: Trail Creek Hot Springs
  Public Hot Springs

Trail Creek Hot Springs in Idaho

Season: All Type H (short but steep hike)
Boise National Forest Overall Rating: A
5,900 ft Water Temperature: both pools are adjustable
Warm Lake/Yellow Pine Area Usage Level: EXTREME
  Avg. pH: 8+

Picture Viewer

TC Looking Down

pH 8

10.14.07: Hello again

10.14.07: Scenic soak

10.14.07: Wow...

10.14.07: Stellar soak indeed

10.14.07: The above ground source and pool 1 (of 2)

10.14.07: SG

10.14.07: HSG

11.26.06: One of the best winter soaks

11.26.06: Shiny plumbing upgrade

06.04.06: Upper pool surviving spring runoff

06.04.06: Lower pool not surviving spring runoff

03.12.06: What a view

11.20.05: How sweet it is

11.20.05: Getting ready for a stellar soak

11.20.05: Yours truly

11.20.05: The improved pool #1 - wider, deeper, hotter...

11.20.05: Nice mortar reinforcement and plumbing work

11.20.05: Pool #2 - improved plumbing and cleaned up

11.20.05: New intake / outtake caps

11.20.05: Sunrise

10.28.03: New improvements to pool #1

11.11.02: The view from the main pool

11.11.02: Main Attraction

09.06.02: The 1st pool you'll come across

09.06.02: Just beyond the 1st... Pool #2

09.06.02: Pool #2

Up | Down | Top | Bottom

[ View 3 Early July and Mid Sept 2012 Trail Creek Hot Springs Video Clips ]
[ View 06.22-06.23 2011 Trail Creek Hot Springs Video Clip ]
[ View July 2010 Trail Creek Hot Springs Video Clip ]
[ View 05.01.09 Trail Creek Hot Springs Video Clip ]
[ View 12.16.07 Trail Creek Hot Springs Video Clip ]
[ View 10.14.07 Trail Creek Hot Springs Video Clip ]
[ View 11.26.06 Trail Creek Hot Springs Video Clip ]
[ View 06.04.06 Trail Creek Hot Springs Video Clip ]
[ View 03.12.06 Trail Creek Hot Springs Video Clip ]

General Description
A well-known and used hot springs northeast of Cascade Idaho. The pools are a short, but steep hike from the highway pullout.

Pool Condition
The smaller pool of the two is now the largest pool as of 11.20.05. The depth of the pool is approx. 3 ft and width 10 ft; making it suitable for a 10-pack of soakers. This pool is the first thing you see once you make it down the path from the pullout and cross the river via man-made bridge (as of 03.12.06). It is now rocked walled and reinforced with mortar featuring a rock and sand bottom. Hot water slides down a colorful algae laden rocks into the pool from above while cold water comes in from Trail Creek (adjust the temp. by moving rocks). Note: this pool can become stranded by late summer and may need a small intake hose to help transport cold creek water into the pool.

The next pool you will come across just past the 1st is also mortar and rock walled. It can accommodate approx. 6 happy soakers and is about 8ft wide and 2.5 feet deep. Hot water enters the pool from below through the sandy bottom and bubbles up. It also enters the pool though a white plastic pvc pipe that is fed from the source above the 1st pool. Cold water from the creek is brought in via dual intake pipes located in the lower portion of the pool closest to the most upstream point of the creek. Adjust the temperature by turning a valve located on the pvc pipe near the source.

Dates Visited: Trash Levels: Bug Levels:
Mid-Sept 2012 Multiple Visits NONE!! none
07.02.12 low light
06.22.11 & 06.23.11 low (!) heavy
July 2010 multiple visits low (!) moderate-EXTREME
07.14.09 moderate EXTREME
05.01.09 EXTREME none
12.16.07 low none
10.14.07 moderate light
11.26.06 EXTREME none
06.04.06 moderate none
03.12.06 very low none
11.20.05 very low none
03.27.05 moderate none
12.19.04 low none
08.18.04 low-moderate light-moderate
07.19.04 moderate none
10.28.03 low none
11.25.02 low none
11.11.02 low none
09.15.02 low-moderate none
09.06.02 low none

Water Clarity:
Crystal Clear


None Noticed

Wildlife Sighted: Deer, Fox and Moose

Seasonal Notes
The lower pool submerges during spring runoff, but the upper pool evades because of tall mortar reinforced walls, which are high enough to resist the seasonally rampant creek. Sometimes during winter a 4x4 vehicle is required to traverse the last leg of the Warm Lake Highway... especially for accessing the pullout area. The Warm Lake HWY on occasion is subject to closure during severe winter weather.

Camping Notes
There is ample, level campsites with fire rings slightly above the springs and below the pullout. Be prepared to share if it's even the slightest bit warm outside. Other Boise National Forest camping areas and campground are nearby, as is Warm Lake and a variety of other hot springs.

Trip Reports

Mid September 2012 - Multiple Visits
Superb! No trash, amazing soaks, friendly people. Couldn't ask for anything more.
Rating A+

06.22.11 & 06.23.11
No trash! The upper pool was in great shape while the lower pool was submerged by Trail Creek's spring runoff.

On the 22nd, we ran into a local Church Camp with 10-15 younger girls and 3-4 staff that were allowing the girls to wash their hair with shampoo directly in the pool!! You could see the murky water emanate from the pool and go straight into the river. *sigh* My soaking partner dropped some kind knowledge on the girls while a couple of the adult staff looked on. After hearing about how any kind of shampoo (yes, even biodegradable) doesn't breakdown in the river and creates a fungus that is harmful for the fish and subsequent humans and animals that eat the fish - true story - the girls seemed resigned to not use shampoo in a stream or hot springs again.

To be honest, when I started out years ago I thought that bio-soap must be AOK. Until a favorite former Payette National Forest Ranger (thanks Jeff! the Payette misses you!) schooled me. All in all, this situation was a win win. Hopefully, that church camp, which has been visiting Trail Creek multiple times each year for years, will treat nature with a little more respect. On another note, I sincerely doubt that the parents of the young ladies would appreciate their children being shuttled around in the back of a pickup truck, completely unsecured, while traveling along a notorious dangerous mountain highway.

We shared TC with Aaron on a separate visit, a friendly avid hot springer that was a lot of fun to swap stories with and meet. We all bolted once a huge family with many children came down and pushed us along. Three people was just about right for Trail Creek's only usable pool, but 6-8 more mostly wild young children was a bust for us old school soakers. There should be some measure of etiquette when there is only one pool to soak in instead of hoping to get the others to leave because of the 'our group is larger than yours' type of mentality. Regardless, the people were friendly and we had already enjoyed a nice long soak. I was very happy about the general lack of trash around the pools, surrounding area and parking pullout. Well done fellow soakers, well done.
Rating B+

What a mess! See the video... sadly, this was the worst condition I've ever seen this area in.
Rating D-

I can't believe it has been almost 1 year since I was last here. Both of Trail Creek's pools are in excellent condition; deeper, new siphon hoses, wood palette and adjustable temperatures. I was actually shocked to arrive and find the pullout empty. That could be because the Warm Lake Highway is under construction and the number of pullouts has vastly multiplied.

A quiet soak was enjoyed until a bunch of hunters pulled-in. They left their rig running, climbed down the trail, after their attempt at hiding behind trees and spying failed, and made their way down the trail to the pools. After milling about for a spell, walking past trash that I later would dispose of, they finally left. They probably spent a few bucks in gas on their little adventure.

Shortly after the hunters left a couple from Minnesota arrived, followed by yet another couple from Boise and finally a guy who just hung out in his truck. The brief, uninterrupted soak was stellar, but too much traffic for my liking.
Rating A-

If I could put a title on this visit it would be "The Best of One World and the Worst of Another". The 2 pools are in the best condition I've ever seen them in, and I've never seen more trash here before. Both pools feature plumbing upgrades with the uppermost pool sporting a shiny valve; allowing for cold water intake control I.E. temperature control. The top pool clocked in between 105 and 107, the lower pool 109 to 112. Both pools have been dug further out, have had mortar reinforcement/repairs and have new/upgraded plumbing. I would have rated this soak A+ all the way but the surge in trash alarmed me; glass and can beer containers were sticking out of Trail Creek, beer and pop cans were smashed and tucked under rocks in the creek, little tea candles were all over the place, cig buts everywhere and even trash in the pool... nice. I know this place sees a lot of traffic, but the usual soaker around here is fairly environmentally conscience. These places are so rare, polluting them with trash is disrespectful to the environment, wildlife and other hot springers. Please pick up all trash you come across wherever you go.
Rating A-

The lower pool was submerged upon arrival and the creek overrun with fast moving water, which made it difficult to find a way across to the intact upper pool. Be careful during spring runoff, the water is freezing and is moving fast. The upper pool was a stellar soak as usual, my biggest beef was all of the trash. All in all not a bad trip, wait until the creek calms a bit before fording - dangerous stuff!
Rating A

The roads were in pretty good condition save for the last few snow covered miles before the hot springs pullout. We arrived to find a Nissan Pathfinder and an older Alaskan Malamute in the pullout. Hmmm. Friend or foe? When we advanced toward the trail he started growling at us. I didn't figure out what was going on until moving closer to the trail... he was protecting his master and his master's lady friend. Both of which were in a snow cave shelter. Great idea to camp right next to the trail at a popular roadside hot springs when you have a protective dog... I mean, really! They could have at least called him in. I don't know if they heard him growling or not (he was near the cave when doing so), but I know for sure they heard the truck pull up and doors shut. I was glad I didn't have my dog with me; it would have been fun trying to hike to the hot springs with her while we may or may have not gotten hassled by the other dog...

The soaking was killer! And, the icing on the cake was the lack of trash. Both pools were in great shape, and a smart soaker(s) had put up a guide rope to ease the slippery decent to the hot springs from the pullout above. There is a new man-made bridge over Trail Creek, and the 1st pools has received additional improvements since my last visit. Here's a tip: check the temperature before you soak. Before we left I checked out the cave shelter - despite being too close to the trail it was well-designed, textbook all the way. They picked up all of their trash except for a burnt-down tea candle.
Rating A+

It was a slow drive in thanks to thick fog and semi-slick roads, but well worth it. The Warm Lake Highway was in pretty good shape save for a few sections of road coated in crusty snow and slick ice. After parking, we slid down the icy path from the pullout to the hot springs - I nearly forgot to stop before the creek because of what caught my eye. The old rock pool (#1) had been upgraded... it is now much larger; width and pool depth have substantially increased along with the water temperature. Cold water intake and outtake valves and plumbing allow for a controllable, variable soaking temperature much like the design of the 2nd pool. Both pools were HOT upon arrival, between 114 and 116 respectively. We adjusted a couple valves and eventually tempered the tepid water to a perfect 104. After that it was relax time. The only trash found was someone's discarded thermal top.
Rating A+

Whew! The highest point on the Warm Lake Highway between Cascade and Trail Creek nearly did us in! There was roughly 30 miles of so of snow covered road with at least 6in on the ground and counting - no plows either thanks to it being Easter today. This was also one of the few times I neglected to bring tire chains. Obviously, we made it through, but it was a bit sketchy. Once in the pullout, we literally slid down the hill to the hot springs. The 1st pool we came across was in disrepair; the water cold, walls leaky and goobers aplenty. The 2nd, larger pool was also in disrepair. It was only half full of approximately 95 water with all of the intake/outtake pipes plugged. It seemed the mortar reinforced pool was leaking. I truly hope this is a result of it not being used for awhile and not the opposite as this hot springs sees more than its fair share of visitors. For the first time at Trail Creek a soak was not to be had.
Rating X

Great road and pullout conditions along with no other soakers. We did see a car in the pullout on our way out of the area at dusk. The trial from the pullout down to the pools was quite slick, be very careful! The 1st pool looked like it has received little attention since the summer months and the 2nd pool looked and felt great.
Rating A

We enjoyed a brief afternoon soak on our way out of the area after a backpacking trip. The pools and surrounding area looked well-kept despite showing signs of heavy use. The nearby campsites had recent fires but were clean save for the occasional beer can/cig butt. It was getting hot out so we kept our soak short before continuing on to Cascade. Excellent!
Rating A

We arrived in the evening well after dusk to enjoy a soak in the rarely unoccupied Trail Creek Hot Springs. It only lasted for about a half-hour before a group of drunk teenagers from Boise showed up. They, at least, were friendly. I was angered to find out that they were here because Skinnydipper was now closed at night - they needed a new hot springs to party at. After a few minutes we cut our soak short and headed off. I really doubt that any of them will be sober enough to pick up all of the beer cans/bottles they hauled down.
Rating B+

Just when I thought TC couldn't get any better... the 1st pool is now larger and deeper and the 2nd pool is deeper. Someone has been busy! Excellent soak as usual.
Rating A+

Another fantastic trip to TC! The road was a tad icy, and made me wonder if Warm Springs Highway is even drivable as the winter months progress. This is the only time of the year you can visit TC and enjoy the pool by yourself. The only abnormality about this trip was that a couple live bullets were found on a ledge right next to the pool.
Rating A+

Now this is the way to enjoy November! The pullout showed tracks of other fellow hot springers although none were sighted this trip. 1 cig butt and 1 beer can were found and removed... which is great considering the amount of trash found last time.
Rating A+

This stop wasn't in the game plan, but we changed our mind after driving by Trail Creek's empty pullout off the Warm Lake Highway out of Cascade, ID. It was an awesome, stellar soak. The larger of the two pools is equipped with 2 cold water intake plugs, 1 drain plug, 1 moveable plastic pipe that feeds the pool with hot water (naturally siphoned from the source above the 1st pool) and more hot water is fed through the pool's sandy bottom. You are in full control of your ideal soaking temperature here folks, and changing the temperature only takes a matter of minutes. TC is large, clean and typically sees a lot of action. We awoke in the morning to a steady (but low) amount of traffic to and from the pools starting at 7am.
Rating A+

Way-cool pools located just below a highway. Be prepared to share with others as this HS is frequented often during all times of the year. It's quite rare to see the pullout empty. Regardless, you at least should sit in this once in your lifetime... then continue on down the road and take your pick from many other scenic HS that are much less used than TC HS is. We lucked out (again!) and had this to ourselves (it was early in the am). But, as we were leaving, an RV with a few campers was setting up stake on the plateau just below the pullout and above the pools.
Rating A

Average Rating: A-

Traffic Updates

Lots of visitors day and night... less trash than my last visit though.

No vehicles in the pullout around noon on the way in, 3 large trucks in the pullout on the way out.

Slamma-Jamma! The pullout was almost full!

08.03.06 (PM) & 08.06.06 (AM)
On the 3rd, there was 5 vehicles in the pullout, and on the 6th, there was one camper in the pullout.

On our way back from hiking and soaking in and around Buckhorn Hot Springs we noticed 8 vehicles (!!) in the pullout... plus there looked to be a bunch of people playing volleyball in the pullout as well.... wow! I've never seen that many people here before!

On our way to Buckhorn Trailhead we noticed a car and a truck in the pullout, however the truck was leaving.

On our way out of the area in the mid afternoon there were 5 vehicles in TC's pullout.

There were 7 vehicles in TC's pullout when driving by in the late afternoon. TC usually sees a steady flow of summer visitors, but this was more than expected. It was primarily due to the salmon running on the South Fork Salmon River.

No visitors on our way to Mile 16 HS, 1 couple leaving TC on our way back.


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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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