We left Salmon, Idaho for Wilder, Idaho on the evening of Sunday, October 23rd. Winter was starting to sneak up on us and we knew it was time to hit the road to start heading south. After organizing the last of our belongings into storage (and taking one more spin on the motorbikes), we planned our departure.
We knew we didn't want to drive at night, but we also knew we wanted to get our trip started, so we headed down Hwy 93 to one of our favorite hot springs to kick off what would become a week of hot spring hopping.
[Just as a quick side note, its really easy to plan and build and never leave. If you find yourself hoping to go for a large, long, or undetermined trip, the first step can be the hardest step to take. This is the second trip where we have left nearly at sundown, and only made it 15 or so miles. You don't have to go far that first day, but going is important, because the trip can only start to gain momentum after it has begun.]
Gold Bug Hot Springs
The trailhead to Gold Bug Hot Springs is found down a dirt road about 30 miles south of Salmon on Hwy 93. Follow the rules, and obey whatever signs are posted at the trailhead, as the springs require passage through private land, and it would be a pity if the privilege of soaking was taken away from the public.
The trail is about 2 miles long, with some steep going at the end, but only enough to get your heart going right before a soak. There are a handful of pools, some deeper and cooler than others. There is camping on the trail if you are so inclined, and two restrooms, one at the trail head and one about halfway.
[Note: Photos of the hot springs are from a previous trip in the Spring. Seeing as this trip we hiked up in the dark, no photos were had, only glorious star-lit soaks.]
Elkhorn Hot Springs
In Stanley, Idaho, about a mile west of the little town's center, there is an unassuming parking pull-off on a gentle corner of the highway. Just beneath the road is a cast iron cauldron being fed with hot springs water that falls down a long PVC pipe. That's all you need to know. It's magical. Go find it.
Sacajawea Hot Springs
A nice man gave us a hot tip on some springs and a good free camp spot when we were fueling up in Stanley. He pointed us towards Sacajawea hot springs in the Sawtooth National Forest, and he wasn't wrong. Long story short: make your way toward Grandjean, ID by following the South Fork of the Payette river up a dirt road for about 5 miles and you'll see a steaming mass of water flowing from the hillside.
The springs are HOT and need river water to cool them to a usable temperature. There were maybe half a dozen pre-made pools, but we needed to do some work to change the flow of river water into the pools. Be prepared to move some rocks around.
Kirkman Hot Springs
Kirkman hot springs is highly visible off the Highway near Lowman, ID. There is an auto bridge over the river that leads to a campground and a day use parking area, both of which want your money. There are a few pools right by the parking area, an interpretive trail describing some of the science of the springs, and a lower area with a few deeper pools and some water falls. Real nice!
It seems like the day use fee is for parking, so I assume you could park on the highway in the sizable pull-off by the bridge and just walk across. I don't think that you should do this, as the fees pay for upkeep of our nation's gems. Paying a few dollars keeps the pit toilets open and pumped out, the pavement drivable for those of you in highway going cars, and the stairways in safe shape.
And hey, Kirkman hot springs users, QUIT YOUR LITTERING! The parking lot had an inexcusable amount of debris left around, and we picked up cans, bottles, plastic trash, and broken glass down by the pools. Be nice!
We made it out of the hot springs mecca and to Wilder ID, just in time to do some needed maintenance on Little Foot's beating heart. We'll do a full blog entry on maintenance schedules later on, as its becoming a bigger part of our life on the road that we initially thought.