The Ultimate 8 day Idaho Hot springs Itinerary

Apr 30, 2024 | 0 comments

Lately, we’ve been really focused on discovering what’s in our backyard but, despite being directly below us, exploring the hot springs in Idaho had never even crossed my mind.

However, when we recently made a plan to visit Jackson Hole Ski Resort, we started mapping our route using Google Maps and started seeing hot spring after hot spring pop up along our way.

The hot springs of Idaho are not only beautiful, they are absolutely everywhere!

Canadream Road trip through Idaho. Cat Friendly!
It’s Dicey’s turn to drive

If you know me, you know hot springs are my absolute favourite thing in the world (check out some of the other hot springs we’ve been to in Oregon!). There was no way I was passing up the opportunity to check these places out, and to be honest, the hot spring portion of our trip was easily the highlight!

In order to pull off the Idaho itinerary we’d put together, we knew that using an RV would be an absolute no brainer. Not only are some of these places incredibly remote, with nowhere to really stay or eat without driving for hours, but we wanted the convenience of being able to change and shower on the road (because some hot springs don’t smell great, and that’s the truth!).

Canadream RV in front of mountains in Stanley Idaho
Driving out of Stanley, Idaho

What kind of RV is best for an Idaho Road Trip?

We decided to go with the Maxi MHA from CanaDream. It was the perfect size since we wanted to bring our cat, all our ski gear and also feel at home on the road. This motorhome is luxurious featuring enough sleeping space for 4 adults and 2 kids, a kitchen with an extendable dining room and bathroom with a shower big enough for Rob – who is 6’3”!

If you had asked me a few years ago whether I felt like I could drive a 29 foot RV through the mountains, I would have said no way! But driving this motorhome wasn’t difficult at all. It comes equipped with a back-up camera, lane sensors, and is extremely responsive.

This is our second time driving a Canadream of this size, and it has absolutely everything you could need to be self sufficient in the middle of nowhere, especially in the winter!

The winterised Canadreams have 4 extra insulated car batteries to keep the heat and power going in extreme cold, as well as a generator generator and propane tank for heating/cooking. It even comes with chains in case you get stuck in the snow!

Canadream RV in front of Grand Tetons
Canadream is perfect for winter road trips!

8 Day Idaho Hot Springs Road Trip Itinerary

Here is the Idaho hot springs itinerary we followed, but there were SO MANY hot springs we didn’t have time for along the way that you can check out, in addition to the ones mentioned. I do love doing my research though, and I’m pretty confident in saying that the ones we chose are winners.

 Without further ado, here is our Idaho Hot Springs itinerary:
 (Note: This trip was taken between March 28 – April 5 which is considered off-season for many places)

I should also note that we started this trip from Calgary (by the way, Calgary’s CanaDream is located right by the International Airport, if you’re flying in for this adventure!), and we ended in Calgary.

 Day 1

Pick up CanaDream RV from the Calgary depot

This process normally takes between 30-45 minutes because it includes a full walk-through of the motorhome and a chance to ask any questions. Because this was our 3rd time renting from CanaDream the orientation was quick but loading all our gear and getting Dicey settled took up the majority of our time. We don’t tend to travel light on road trips, especially when we’re packing our ski gear!

Cross the border in your RV at Carway Crossing from Alberta to Montana:

I was anticipating this to be quite a lengthy process to cross from Canada to the US because I had no idea how closely border security scrutinises RVs – especially with a cat coming with us!

Crossing from Canada to the US land border with a cat

We had all Dicey’s vaccination and rabies paperwork (mandatory for dogs, as listed on the government website) ready to go but they didn’t ask for any of it. It turns out that there are really no checks for domestic cats when crossing the land border!

Having said that, it’s a very good idea to make sure your cat is chipped, tattooed and also has a rabies vaccine/tag on his collar in case he gets lost!

After a quick stop inside the office to obtain Rob’s I-84 form (he still has a UK passport), we were good to go!

Camp in Glacier National Park

There are a few free basic campgrounds to stop at along the way, but the safest bet seemed like Glacier (which wasn’t really fully open yet at this time of year).

For our first night, we drove several hours through the evening until we made it to Glacier National Park. We set off at about 4pm from Calgary, so most of the first evening was spent driving in the dark. We drove down into Montana and then headed west into the mountains.

Lake MacDonald in Montana
Wintery views at Glacier NP

Eventually we arrived at Glacier NP, and headed to the Apgar Campground .

(Just a note that we came in the off-season meaning the actual campground was closed but camping was still permitted at the picnic area for free – although it came with no power or hookups, it did have a toilet with toilet paper and the added bonus of waking up next to spectacular Lake MacDonald! – which we totally didn’t plan at all) .

In case you were wondering Lake MacDonald is the Lake with all the colourful pebbles!

Where to stay: Apgar Campground, Glacier National Park, Montana
 Approximate driving time: 4 hours 45 minutes
 Toilets: Yes
 Hookups: No
 Cost: Free

Glacier national park with a Canadream RV
The entrance sign to Glacier National Park

Day 2

Coffee by Lake MacDonald

While the views were breathtaking, the remainder of Glacier NP was closed due to it being off-season so we didn’t stick around too long. But thanks to our Canadream coming with a Nespresso machine, we were now absolutely caffeinated to the eyeballs and ready for a day of driving and adventures in Montana/Idaho.

colourful rocks in Lake MacDonald, Glacier National Park
Lake MacDonald, Glacier NP

Breakfast in Kalispell, MT

Drive time: approx 45 minutes.

With some driving under our belt, we headed into Kalispell for some breakfast. It was actually surprisingly easy to find a sidestreet to park our large RV on, and then we walked to The Knead Café.

100% recommend going here. We knew we were officially in the US because Louise’s burrito was the biggest burrito I’ve ever seen.

Picking up RV supplies in Kalispell, MT:

We decided to check out Costco on the other side of the border. As Costco lovers, we’re always curious what Costcos in other countries have to offer, and we also needed to stock up on groceries as we weren’t sure what exactly we could bring over the border (usually meat, fruits and vegetables are denied).

Our RV had a fridge and freezer, and a microwave, so being super lazy, we grabbed a bunch of frozen yakisoba noodles, some uncrustables for snacks and a bunch of other amazing tasty treats.

Visit the CSKT Bison Range

Approximate drive time from Kalispell: 1 hr 30 min

We never pass up the opportunity to see bison, especially as they’re so rare at home. This was a huge bison range where over 400 of them roam! It used to be run by the Fish and Wildlife service, but in 2019 ownership was returned to the Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation.

We took our RV down the dirt tracks to see a few bison in the distance, as well as a few other deer and elk. I can see this track being a little tricky for an RV on wetter days, but on this particular day we did fine and Dicey had a great time checking out the Bison!

CSKT Bison Range montana
CSKT Bison Range in MT

 Where to stay on Night 2

We stayed in at the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Missoula, MT (1 hour drive away).

We were a little skeptical about parking here at first but located at the back of this Cracker Barrel is designated RV parking and many fellow RVers had given it a glowing review. Ask the manager at Cracker Barrel to be safe.

  • Toilets: No, unless you have dinner at the Cracker Barrel
  •  Hookups: No, it’s just a parking lot
  •  Cost: FREE

Day 3

Day 3 was the day we were finally crossing over the border and hitting those hot springs in Idaho! First stop was Jerry Johnson Hot Springs in the middle of a very windy forest road. If you’re in a large RV like us, you will really struggle to keep up with the speed limit, so budget some extra time compared to whatever google tells you!

Jerry Johnson Hot Springs

Approx 1 hour and 30 minutes away from Missoula, MT

GPS location: Click here for pin

I would definitely classify this as more of a warm spring as the pools mix with the frigid river water. There were numerous pools, though, so perhaps there were warmer ones than the one we were in. Who doesn’t love a good, hot waterfall though? We had to hike in to find these pools, which took us about 30 minutes each way.

Parking lot: FYI if you type in “Jerry Johnson Hot Springs” on Google Maps the pin is on the actual hot springs themselves but the parking lot is actually along the side of the road. You’ll know you’re there when you pull up next to a suspension bridge with a clearly marked trail.

Top tip for this hot spring is that if the path down to the spring looks sketchy and too steep, there is probably an easier way down. Keep hunting!

 Hiking distance: 1 mile/ 1.6km one way

Jerry Johnson Hot Springs
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, ID

PM – Drive to Cascade, ID

Total drive time (4 hr 30 min): another big driving day but the great thing about the RV is that we could pull over, take naps, have some food, or just call it a day and find a nearby campground.

We didn’t find it nearly as exhausting as a normal road trip because we were already in our hotel, not rushing to make it to one!

 Extra stops: Trail Creek Hot Springs

If you have time, you might also want to check out Trail Creek Hot Springs. We decided to take it easy and stick with the one hot spring on our way to Arrowhead RV Park, but it’s about 37 minutes from there.

Seriously, these hot springs are absolutely everywhere in Idaho!

Where to stay on night 3

  • Arrowhead RV Park (37 min away from Trail Creek Hot Springs)
  • Hookups: Yes
  • Toilets/showers: yes
  •  Cost: $60 USD/night

 Day  4

Breakfast at Gramma’s Restaurant, Cascade

According to our hosts at the RV Campground, this is the best place in town for breakfast by far and we were pretty pleased with the recommendation. It’s everything you might expect from a local small town diner in the middle of Idaho; super friendly staff, great service and the biscuits and gravy here were phenomenal!

Grammy's restaurant Cascade, Idaho
Biscuits and gravy at Grammy’s

if you haven’t refuelled yet, now would be a good time to grab some gas. You’re about to hit the wilderness with very few amenities for the next few hours.

Pine Flats Hot Springs

Drive time from Cascade: approx 1 hr 15 min

Hot. Spring. Waterfall. While this hot spring involved a steep & short hike (roughly 10 minutes from the road) into a rocky canyon, it was well worth it for the views. There were multiple pools but the one we wanted was a smaller pool which can comfortably fit 2 which had a cascading hot waterfall splashing down on it.

It does get quite busy later on in the day, so I would definitely recommend getting there early. The pools are small so you might find yourself waiting if you get there too late. This is a really nice spot to watch the sun rise, and visiting in April was actually fairly mild, even though there was still snow on the higher peaks. If you’re coming early, I’d recommend bringing some bear spray along.

Pine Flats Hot Springs
Pine Flats Hot springs waterfall

 Kirkham Hot Springs (15 min away from Pine Flats)

Just a little further along the road is a far more commercialised hot spring called Kirkham Hot Springs. It has picnic tables and a parking area and the couple of times we went were much busier than the other spots we went to. With that being said, it was probably one of the bigger and more beautiful natural springs with incredible valley views.

Once again, there was a hot spring waterfall, which is unmissable, but also a couple of smaller pools around the corner where you could chill. These pools were a great temperature, and would still be nice even on colder days.

Kirkham Hot Springs
Hot Springs waterfall at Kirkham Hotsprings, ID

Where to stay on Day 4

  • Haven Hot Springs RV + Camping, or
  • Deadwood Campground

    Both these campgrounds are located very close to Pine Flats and Kirkham along the road. There are a few motels as well. There were no restaurants nearby that we saw so we were grateful for our earlier Costco run as we had a well stocked fridge. This is a very remote part of the world, so the RV is definitely the best way to do this route!

Day 5

Morning soak in Pine Flats Hot Springs

Best way to wake up is soaking in a hot spring! It’s also worth it to get these places to yourself. Hot springs are always busiest if you go mid-day so we recommend getting up early or going later in the day. It’s also much cooler, which means you can stay in the hot pools even longer! It does make the walk back to the RV a bit chilly, but in April it was totally manageable.

We also went back to Kirkham in the morning, because why not?

Kirkham Hot Springs
sunrise at Kirkham Hot Springs

Drive to Stanley, ID

Stanley, Idaho is an idyllic little mountain town nestled in the Sawtooth Mountains that is just chockfull of hot springs within driving or walking distance. It’s perhaps one of the most stunning mountain vistas I’ve ever seen, but boy is it in the middle of nowhere!

Valley Creek hot springs - Stanley idaho
Valley Creek Hot Springs, ID

Where to stay: Mountain Village Resort – there is an RV park here, however,  the main reason we booked a stay at this place was because all guests are able to book a 1-hour soak in their private hot springs (pictured below).

There’s room for up to 8 people per time slot so if you’d like the springs to yourself, make sure you book early or right before check-out time like we did. We asked for a late checkout (12pm) and did the hot springs at 11am. It was perfect!

Private hot springs stanley idaho
Mountain Village Resort private hot springs, Stanley ID

Evening soak in Valley Creek Hot Springs

We watched the sunset from this little known natural hot spring located a short walk past the Mountain Village Resort manmade hot spring and it was absolutely magical. Then it’s only a short walk back to the RV Park/Hotel once you’re out!

Valley creek hot springs stanley idaho
Valley Creek Hot Springs at sunset

 Dinner recommendations:

  • Stanley Supper Club
  • Mountain Village Resort Restaurant (really good burgers)
  • Cook something in the RV!

Day 6

On day 6 we’re heading to Salmon, Idaho (our cat made a special request!).

The route from Stanley to Salmon takes us past a whole handful of springs, and most are within 10-15 minutes of Salmon and visible from the side of the road. It’s not super easy to pull over in a giant RV, particularly as many of the pull ins are used by fishermen, but there are a few decent lay-bys to use along the way.

I’d also recommend doing them all in one go on your way out of town, as turning a 30ft RV around on a narrow road with lots of blind corners is no fun!

Sunbeam Hot Springs

Sunbeam Hot Springs are actually one of my favourite hot springs in Idaho. They’re a couple of barrels and tubs by the river, fed by a hose pipe, but the scene and the temperature was just right. There’s not much space for big groups but we absolutely loved chilling here for a little while on our way out of Stanley.

Along this same short stretch of road, you’ll also find:

  • Boat Box Hot Springs
  • Cove Creek Hot Springs

They’re all along this river, and have similar views, but Sunbeam was probably our favourite.

Sunbeam hot springs idaho
Sunbeam hotsprings near Stanley, ID

After stopping here, we carried on to the town of Salmon and grabbed some lunch. We let Dicey (our cat) check out the Salmon sign, which he was thrilled about, and then we doubled back to go to the next RV site, which is conveniently right at the foot of the next hot spring we were trying to check out!

Once again, I should clarify that this is quite a quiet part of the world and travelling in the off season requires a bit more self sufficiency. Many of the stores and restaurants only open in the summer, so it’s a good idea to come with a stocked fridge and not have to rely on buying too many supplies along the way.

 Where to stay: Elk Bend RV Resort (1 hr 45 min away)

The owner of the resort is super friendly and helpful, and has a hilarious bulldog called “king arthur” that likes to greet guests when they arrive. He gave us lots of tips for the area as well as giving us tips on the hike/finding the trailhead.

Elk Bend RV park near Goldbug hot springs
Elk Bend RV park near Goldbug hotsprings

This RV resort has full hookups (water + electricity), pull-through sites, laundry, and showers however many of the facilities were closed when we arrived due to the fact that it was off-season. However, we still stayed here due to its proximity to the next hot spring on our list.

 Day 7

Goldbug Hot springs

Gold bug hot springs
Goldbug Hot Springs, Idaho

From Elk Bend RV Resort, it’s only a 2 minute drive or 20 minute walk to the trailhead of Goldbug Hot Springs, our absolutely favourite hot spring in Idaho.

The main pool (which is usually the busiest one) is actually shaped like a heart and the views are incredible but there are actually multiple smaller pools of varying temperatures that you rarely see photos of. The water is the perfect temperature, and although we’d heard reports of the trail being icy or muddy in early April, they were bone dry by the time we visited.

Be aware that some of the trail crossed private land, so they request that your voices are kept to normal talking levels while on the private land, you park respectfully and practice leave no trace principles.

The trail to get there is short and steep and we recommend doing it early because we did pass about 15-20 people on our hike out (at around 9am). As with anything, hot springs are less fun when they’re packed.

 Goldbug Hot springs Hike stats

  • Distance: 5.8km / 3.6 mile round trip
  • Elevation gain: 895 ft / 272 meters=
  • Time: approximately 2 hours

Day 8

Carry on to Jackson, Wyoming

From here we carried on to Jackson Hole for the skiing portion of our trip, however, this concludes our blog post on the hot springs of Idaho. Feel free to extend this trip or shorten it however you see fit. The magic of adventuring with an RV is that you can easily visit multiple hot springs in a day since you basically have a travelling hotel room/ change room/ shower at your disposal, OR you can take your time, enjoy the journey and mosey along the road at a leisurely pace.

This time, we preferred to take in the scenery and take things slowly. Although everything looks closeby on the map, travelling anywhere in Idaho seemed to take quite a long time, so definitely budget more time than you think you’ll need!

We want to thank Canadream for supporting our ambitious road trip idea. All thoughts and experiences are our own. 

The Ultimate 8 day Idaho Hot springs Itinerary

Written byRobin

About us

About us

Hi, we’re Rob and Louise! We’re obsessed with travel and love to share our adventures! We’re a UK/Canadian couple that currently lives Banff, Canada.


You May Also Like…


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *