Jerry Johnson Hot Springs
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Jerry Johnson Hot Springs

We’ve always been drawn to water and that includes hot springs. We couldn’t resist taking a day adventure to find some natural hot springs in the area. Who doesn’t enjoy a good soak in natural hot springs? Well, we can happily say we thoroughly enjoyed Jerry Johnson Hot Springs.

While parked in Hamilton, Montana, we decided a visit to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs in Idaho was a must do. These are popular with the locals with only being about 1 and 1/2 hours from Missoula. This is a day use only area!

There are campgrounds in the area and even a nice little lodge. Plenty of forest service roads so there may even be dispersed camping around. You’d have to explore that avenue on your own. That’s part of the adventure, right?

How to find Jerry Johnson Hot Springs

Drive west on route 12 from the intersection with 93 in Lolo. You’ll summit Lolo pass with a forest service visitor center and bathrooms. From there it is about 23 miles to the Warm Springs Trailhead. You’ll see a parking area on your right hand side with a dumpster and a vault toilet.

After crossing the Lochsa river on a suspension bridge, you’ll take a right onto trail 49. Hike for about a mile or so through beautiful cedar forest on a very well used trail. The first pool is down a steep bank to the river. If this doesn’t suit your tastes them move on to the next ones. The next several pools are in a flat area alongside the river. The largest pool has a boulder in it which is pretty easy to spot.

Go past these and there is a decent size pool all by itself which about 8-10 people cans fit in it. This last pool overlooks a meadow and is really quite serene.

Try out the different pools until you find a temperature that’s right for you. Be prepared to soak with strangers. Some might even be without clothing! Spend the day relaxing and taking in the beautiful scenery, then pack it all up and head out the same way you came in.

Our experience

We had read that the hot springs were flooded out in late winter of 2017. We stopped at the forest service office to confirm they were usable. The springs have definitely returned from whatever flood happened and we were not disappointed with our experience.

While they may not be the same as they used to be prior to the flood, they are natural. Isn’t that part of nature to change and evolve?

In any case, we went on a weekday. It was quiet and peaceful. While we did see several people on the trail, we sat in the hot springs all by our lonesome for well over an hour! It was an absolutely lovely way to spend an afternoon/evening.

We have heard that these hot springs are heavily trafficked, so we recommend visiting mid-week or early morning to avoid any crowds.

We also enjoyed seeing a new bird for us – an evening grosbeak male and female. Keep your eyes open to wildlife.

Remember to bring water! When soaking in hot springs you don’t realize how dehydrated you can get. Pack more than you think you’ll need. You can enjoy these hot springs au natural or with a suit. That’s up to you.

On a serious note

This area is heavily used resulting in abuse of the land. There is a problem with trash, broken glass, and clothing left behind. For this reason, it is a day use only. Please help protect and keep this area clean! Respect the land and leave it for others to enjoy in the future.