Idaho Hot Springs Loop
The Idaho Hot Springs Loop is another route envisioned by the Adventure Cycling Company. Having done two of their mountain bike routes this year, I can say that I am VERY pleased with their work, and would recommend both to anyone wishing to conduct their own self supported mountain bike tour. You can get your maps here for the Idaho Hot Springs Loop. If you are on a budget and already have a GPS, you can just purchase their digital data file for a very reasonable price. This is what I did – however, we also had the benefit of our riding companions having the paper map, which was very nice.
All of the original route was rideable, however, there was a big landslide on National Forest 227 (the road between Ketchum and Featherville) two years ago. Last winter, there was another land slide, and it is expected that this road will remain abandoned. The section of difficulty is fairly short, but also quite time consuming – especially with a loaded touring bike. I have included pictures of the two obstructions below. The landslide / damaged areas are West of the Bowns Campground. One time consuming portion begins here: 43.58360° N 114.99210° W and ends here: 43.58430° N 114.98632° W – it took us about 20 minutes to cover this 0.25 mile section. The next time consuming portion begins here: 43.58605° N 114.97092° W and ends here: 43.58464° N 114.96949° W – it took us 12 minutes to cover this 0.1 mile section. The third and final slow section begins here: 43.60550° N 114.90475° W and ends here: 43.60654° N 114.88174° W – it took us about 15 minutes to travel this 0.35 mile segment. It is worth noting that someone had recently chopped a path in the willows (and that the water was low enough in the river) to make this feasible. If the water is high, you may find yourself spending a lot more time bushwhacking above the river.
Before venturing into this section, we found a GPS track on Strava that would take us around the obstructions. That track was for the Skeleton Creek trail. After studying the track, it appeared that there was a lot of elevation change, and single track (which may be a good thing, depending on your style). Looking at the time it took people to get across either route, I became convinced that we would be much faster taking the original route as opposed to the skeleton creek – even if the water were high. You can contact me directly if you’d like a GPS track of the Skeleton Creek reroute.
Besides that one difficult section, the remainder of the route was fantastic. The maps promise 41 hot springs, however they are not all soakable. Many are just places where hot water comes out of the rocks, with no discernible pool to sit in. Others are at the river, and may or may not be useable, depending on the flow. Here is my list of top 10 springs that I would return to, going counter-clockwise along the route from Boise:
1) Loftus (Great quality pool with waterfall effect. Somewhat shallow)
2) Pries (if you’re just one person)
3) Worswick (shallow in places, but many options of where to go. Pretty setting).
4) Frenchman’s Bend/Warfield (looked nice, but we did not investigate because there were a lot of people there).
5) Mountain Village Resort (only applies if you are staying at the hotel).
6) Penny/New Penny (New Penny is easy to get to, and shallow). Penny is down a big cliff. We did not investigate.
7) Mile 16 (Probably the best spring on the route. A little too hot for me (measured 110F with my GPS)).
8) Gold Fork (Looked nice; you have to pay to enter).
9) Boiling Springs (One of the prettiest settings. Good Springs. You can even rent a cabin right next to the springs!)
10) Rocky Canyon (looked interesting; we did not soak – it’s across the river, and has terraced pools).
We did not visit any of the springs that were off route (except for Molly Springs, which we would not recommend). Also, we did not do the full route in it’s entirety: we rode pavement between Idaho City and North Fork Boise River Road. Other than that, we remained true to the route designed by adventure cycling.