Way back in May we took a weekend trip southeast and landed at Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. If memory serves me right (be warned, it usually doesn’t), this was a last-minute, let’s-get- out-of-town trip that ended up being incredibly fun. We had heard about the hot springs from some friends last summer and were anxious to check them out. There are several hot springs scattered along the Idaho/Montana border and we hope to visit them all.
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs are popular and easily accessible. Don’t be too turned off by the possibility of other visitors, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Because Kyle was preparing for his motorcycle trip to Alaska, we took several shorter trips on the bike (including this one) and I really grew to love it this year. I’ve always enjoyed riding on the bike, but this trip changed my outlook on longer rides. I felt so much more immersed in our surroundings and could smell the forest and river as we passed. Much more memorable than being in a car, especially because we were able to hop onto the forest roads and take a back way.
When to Visit
Hot springs are fun any time of year. However, because of the ease of access, Jerry Johnson seems to be particularly popular in the winter. The trail is well worn and relatively flat aside from a few spots, so snowshoeing back would be great – although, getting out of the springs in the snow might be a different story. If you’re brave enough to try it, please let me know how it goes.
We took I-90 down toward Missoula and connected to US-12 which took us through Lolo Pass and along the Lochsa River. This was only my second time driving along the Lochsa, and boy is it a beautiful drive. We took Dry Creek Road as a fun off-road adventure (highly recommend it) and set up camp about two miles east from the springs (to our dismay, there’s no camping allowed at the actual hot springs). The trailhead is directly off the highway, with a parking area across the street. You cross the river via a really sweet bridge and come to a fork. The hot springs are to the right and are just about a mile up the trail. There are several pools to choose from, a couple are tucked away up the hill. You can see more photos and information on AllTrails.
BE WARNED – This is a clothing optional area, be prepared to see some naked people, I promise, you won’t die. I issue this warning because there was a family that brought their kids and seemed pretty troubled by it. I always assume that there will be naked people at hot springs, I expected to be the weird one in a bathing suit, the minority, but that wasn’t the case.
Why you should go
Aside from the gorgeous drive and cozy hot springs, there’s a lot of wildlife viewing opportunities, river rafting, camping, hiking and some great lodges with yummy food. I always enjoy seeing a new part of Idaho that I haven’t seen before, and this definitely fit the bill there.