Just because Old Man Winter has a stranglehold on the weather right now doesn't mean you have to wait until May to feel warm again. Wouldn't a nice soak in a hot tub feel great right about now? If you don't own a hot tub yourself or don't want to risk climbing the fence in the cold, dark night to slip into your neighbor's tub, there are some great hot springs within a two-hour drive of Boise that can kill the chill.
Skinnydipper--Touted as one of the best hot springs in Idaho, these pools are not particularly easy to get to. Off of Banks to Lowman Road (South Fork of the Payette River), you have to park on the side of the highway and hike up a steep, rocky hillside. The trail can be especially tricky during the winter months. If you make it, the upper pools are piping hot and the scenery is well worth the trip.
Kirkham--Just past Lowman on Highway 21, these roadside springs are easy to get to and very relaxing. Just a short hike from the publicly managed Kirkham campground, these springs run right into the crystal blue waters of the Payette River.
Gold Fork--If you find yourself in the McCall-Donnelly-Cascade neck of the woods, Gold Fork Hot Springs makes for a worthy visit. Bring cash since these springs are privately owned and properly built-out. Get more information at goldforkhotsprings.com.
Baumgartner--Also adjacent to a publicly managed campground, Baumgartner hot springs is great place to sit back and take it all in. Being 11 miles past Featherville, access may be tricky depending on the weather.
Bonneville--Also just north of Lowman, Bonneville is an awesome spot if you enjoy hiking. These springs are about a quarter-mile hike/snowshoe from the Bonneville campground and have a "soak shack" that guests can enjoy.
Pine Flats--Another Highway 21 hot spot, Pine Flats hot springs are best enjoyed during the summer and fall months, since the river blows out the lower pools during the early spring. Just a few miles before Lowman off of Banks to Lowman Road, these springs are a short hike from the scenic Pine Flats campground.
Garden Valley/Moondipper/Pine Burl/Silver Creek Plunge--The Garden Valley area has many excellent hot springs, both improved and unimproved.
With all of these hotspots, don't let the desire to soak your self override your common sense. Check conditions before heading into the mountains and keep in mind that some Forest Service roads are closed during snow season. Be prepared for any number of scenarios, including but not limited to the following: nude hot-tubbers, nude hot-tubber-loving mountain animals, Johnny Law (if you become a nude hot-tubber), and piping-hot water temps (dip your toes before you dive in).
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