By Erin Beil & Amy Silbbernagel McCaffree

We have a geological blessing in the Inland Northwest; a nice selection of hot springs. If gettin’ nekkid in the woods is not your style, or if you’d just like a laid back and pampered experience there are some great resorts to choose from to help you fight the February chills.

Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort – Ainsworth, BC. Romantic Aspect: Nestled in the Purcell Mountain Range with sweeping views of Kootenay Lake. // Hot Spring Water: The mineral springs come from the area systems at 117 F degrees, and cooled to 114 F before entering the pool. Soaking Prices: Single Entry; Adult – $7.50, Senior – $6.50, Student – $6.50, Child (3 to 12 yrs) – $5.50 // Rates: (Double Occupancy); (Fri-Sat) Non-View $128, View-$123, Kitchenette-$138. (Sun-Thurs) Non-View $93, View $103, Kitchenette $118. // Area Attractions: Whitewater ski/snowboard Resort, Mountain Adventures, Boat charters, Cat/Heli skiing, Columbia Gardens Winery. // Directions: Passports not required for Canada entry until 2007. Take Division/US-2. Stay straight to go onto WA-31, which becomes Provincial Route 6. Turn right to stay on Provincial Route 6, which will become Provincial Route 3A. Continue to follow Provincial Route 3A, turning slight right onto Provincial Route 31. Stay on this, and then turn onto Provincial Route 31A. // Time: 4 hrs. // Info: (250) 229-4212. www.hotnaturally.com

Alameda Hot Springs Resort – Hot Springs, MT. Romantic Aspect: Beautiful scenery, peaceful area, cabin cozy atmosphere, small town hospitality, personal touches, and private soaking tubs. // Spa: Natural mud baths and therapeutic massage by appointment. // Hot Spring Water: Mineral hot spring private soaking pools, second best healing waters of the World! // Soaking Prices: No public soaking. // Rates: (Double Occupancy); Non-Soaking room $50, Private Soaking room $75. // Area Attractions: Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake, Big Mountain Resort, Backcountry skiing, Snowmobiling. // Directions: From I-90 East, take the MT-135 exit towards St. Regis (Exit 33). Turn left onto MT-135. Turn Left onto MT-200. Turn right onto MT-28. Turn left onto Hot Springs Rd/MT-77. This will turn into Broadway Avenue. Turn right onto Spring Street. // Time: 3 hrs. // Info: (406) 741-2283.

Bonneville Hot Springs Resort – North Bonneville, WA. Romantic Aspect: Soaking can be done from either the European-style Day Spa, or in private mineral water hot tub. // Spa: Both men’s and women’s European-style spa services; soaking baths, body wraps and massages. // Hot Springs Water: Water comes out of the ground at 97 degrees and heated. Also used in spa treatments. // Soaking Prices: No public soaking. // Rates: (Double Occupancy); Hot Tub Room (non-view)-$125, Luxury Suite (view)-$155, Deluxe Rooms (private soaking, up to 4 guests, view) – $300. Room and Spa packages available. // Area Attractions: Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Multnomah Falls, Full Sail Brewery. // Directions: From I-90 west, take US-395 to Ritzville/Pasco (Exit 220). Merge onto I-182 W/US-12. Take US-395 via exit 12A. Stay on US-395 and then merge onto I-82 E. Merge onto I-84 W. towards Portland. Take US-30 (Exit 44), the ramp becomes US-30. Turn right onto Bridge Of The Gods. Turn left onto WA-14. Turn left onto Talema, which becomes an unnamed road. Turn slight right. // Time: 4.5 hrs. // Info: (509) 427-7767. www.bonnevilleresort.com

Boulder Hot Springs Inn and Spa – Boulder, MT. Romantic Aspect: Backed by the Deerlodge National Forest, the rooms are Bed and Breakfast style, and offer a five star cuisine menu. // Spa: Massages, healthy outdoor exercise, and nutritious food are made to accommodate each guest. // Hot Springs Water: Pure geothermal mineral water that comes out of the earth at 140-175 degrees, is used to heat the entire building, then cooled for outdoor swimming pool, steam rooms, and showers. No chemicals are used. // Soaking Prices: No public soaking. // Rates: (Double Occupancy) Bed and Breakfast Rooms-$120 to $140, Guest rooms (breakfast not included)-$75. // Area Activities: Hiking, Fishing, General exploration. // Directions: From I-90 E, Take the I-15 N (Exit 129) to Helena/Great Falls. Exit from I-15 at the Boulder Exit. Drive through the town of Boulder, the hot springs is 3 miles south of Boulder on HWY-69. Watch for signs and the large mission style gray building with a red roof on the right side of the Highway. // Time: 5 hrs. // Info: (406) 225-4339.

Lolo Hot Springs – Lolo, MT. Romantic Aspect: Located on the Lewis and Clark Trail, cozy cabins and vast land make for silent nights and days full of exploring. // Spa: Not available. // Hot Springs Water: Comes directly from Earth with geothermal temperatures averaging 103 degrees. // Soaking Prices: No Public Soaking. // Rates: Cabin Rates: $75 for Double occupancy, $90 for three occupants, $105 for four occupants. // Area Activities: Snowmobiling, Snowshoeing. // Directions: From I-90 E, take the Reserve St Exit (Exit 101) to Hamilton (I-90-BL)/ (US-93 S). Turn right at N Reserve St. Continue on S Reserve St. Turn right at Brooks St. Take another right at US-12. // Time: 3.5 hrs. // Info: (406) 273-2290. www.boulderhotsprings.com

Lost Trail Hot Spring Resort – Sula, MT. Romantic Aspect: These “rustic looking” cabins have all modern amenities, equipped with a flawless view, and natural flowing hot springs just outside the door. // Spa: Not available. // Hot Springs Water: The hot spring is natural and chemical-free with water temperatures averaging 92-94 degrees, covered by a dome in the winter. // Soaking Prices: Children under 2 $1.00, Children (2 through 12) $4.00, Adult (13 through 59) $6.00, Senior (60 plus) $5.00. Soaking free with lodging // Rates: Private Cabins start at $65. Lodge rooms start at $55. // Area Attractions: Lost Trail Ski Area, Snowshoeing, Cross-country skiing. // Directions: From I-90 E take the Reserve St Exit (Exit 101) to Hamilton (US-93 S). Turn right at N Reserve St. Continue on S Reserve St, then turn right at Brooks St. Continue on US-93 onto Railroad Ave. Go north on 1st St, continue south on 1st St. Continue on US-93, then onto Main St. Take a right at Medicine Springs Road. // Time: 5 hrs. // Info: (406) 821-3574. www.losttrailhotsprings.com

Potosi Hot Springs Resort – Pony, MT. Romantic Aspect: Secluded in the Beaverhead National Forest, the four luxury creek-side cabins and two hot springs is set on two miles of private water. Organic cuisine provided for guests. // Spa: Treatments include acupuncture, massage therapy, Tai Chi, and yoga. // Springs Water: Soaking pool averages 100-104 degrees, one pool outside, the other inside a pine house. // Soaking Prices: No Public Soaking. // Rates: (Sun. – Thurs.) $200/night, $350 with all meals, (Fri. and Sat.) $225/night, $375 with all meals. // Area Attractions: Hiking, Cross-country skiing, Snowshoeing, Backcountry skiing. // Directions: From I-90 E, Take MT-359 Cardwell/Boulder Exit (Exit 256). Turn right onto MT-2. Turn left onto MT-2; turn slight right onto US-287. Turn right on Pony Rd, this will become Madison St. Turn right onto Jefferson St. // Time: 5.5 hrs. // Info: (406) 685-3330. www.potosiresort.com

Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort – Paradise, MT. Romantic Aspect: The log beds and desks in both the hidden cabins and lodge are designed for cozy mountain comfort, offering multiple soaking pools. // Spa: Not Available. // Springs Water: These pools are chemical free and have constantly flowing spring water that gets cleaned every other night. // Soaking Prices: No Public Soaking. // Rates: Lodge $99/night Cabin $119/night. // Area Attractions: National Bison Range, Flathead Lake, Lookout Pass Ski Resort. // Directions: From I-90 E, take the MT-135 Exit towards St. Regis (Exit 33). Turn left onto MT-135. Turn left again onto MT-200. Turn right onto 3rd St. Turn left onto Central Ave. // Time: 2.5 hrs. // Info: (406) 826-3150. www.quinnshotsprings.com

Symes Hot Springs Hotel – Hot Springs, MT. Romantic Aspect: The hotel has a cozy atmosphere with live music every Friday and Saturday night, a Grill and Cantina, espresso bar, and a bathhouse soak and steam room available by the hour. // Spa: Treatments include pressure point massage, stone therapy, facials and various styles of body wraps. // Springs Water: The hot, outdoor mineral flow-through pools, high in mineral content, are non-chemical and separated by a relaxing waterfall. Temperatures average 102-107 degrees. // Soaking Prices: (Single Entry) Adult $7, Children/Seniors $5. // Rates: Rooms range from $48 to $117 depending on the amenities you want in the room, such as a private soaking tub. // Area Attractions: Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake, Big Mountain Resort, Backcountry skiing, Snowmobiling. // Directions: From I-90 East, take the MT-135 Exit towards St. Regis (Exit 33). Turn left onto MT-135. Turn Left onto MT-200. Turn right onto MT-28. Turn left onto Hot Springs Rd/MT-77. This will turn into Broadway Avenue. Turn left on Spring Street, turn right onto Main St. Turn left onto Wall St. // Time: 3 hrs. // Info: (888) 305-3106. // www.symeshotsprings.com

 

Natural, outdoor, non-commercial hot springs are located on public land, usually in national forests and parks. As described by Evie Litton, author of Hiking Hot Springs in the Pacific Northwest (whose 4th edition was published in 2005), they are “primitive soaking pools . . . improvised, strictly by volunteer labor, to collect the flow of any spring equipped with roughly the right temperature, output, and location.” So, for no more than the price of gas, Inland Northwest hot springs can offer a unique outdoor adventure with your Valentine. Although typically enjoyed in the fall, some hot springs can be accessed in the winter using cross-country skis or snowshoes on the trails, and a number are less than mile from a road or highway.

In the old days, “hotpotters” studied geothermal maps and found the locations by trial-and-error. Now, it’s not so laborious. Sufficient research on destinations and a USGS help locate the more remote spots. As always, leave-no-trace principles apply. In addition to Litton’s book, online resources include www.soak.net and www.idahohotsprings.com-the latter established by Josh Laughtland, who grew up in Post Falls and now resides in Boise.

Hot springs are quality rated using a number of factors, including: pool condition-water clarity, pool size/depth, mineral content and odor; water temperature (between 100-106 degrees is ideal) and visibility; seclusion factor or view/scenery; usage/traffic (and sometimes trash level); and swimwear custom or “skinnydippability” (as Litton calls it). However, due to variations in human use and environmental changes, users should expect a different condition each time. In general, hot springs are enjoyed au naturel, although it’s expected that nudity outside and around the pool not occur, depending on the other users present. Guide resources state when swimwear is required or necessary to keep close by. If you do wear a swimsuit, Laughtland advises on his web site to dedicate a suit specifically for hot springing, because, “a swimsuit washed with detergent carries that detergent into the hot springs every time you soak.” Interesting safety tips are offered in Marjorie Gersh-Young’s book, Hot Springs & Hot Pools of the Northwest: Jayson Loam’s Original Guide (www.hotpools.com), “If structures are built over hot springs, natural gasses can build up, with an obvious smell, and cause dizziness if you stay too long within the structure . . . Don’t put your head in the water, because of the many forms of bacteria in the hot water.”

The following are non-commercial hot springs destinations within a 4-5 hour drive from Spokane or Coeur d’Alene.

Idaho
Weir Creek and Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. Both are accessible year-round and located about 4.5 hours from Spokane off Highway 12 between Lewiston, Idaho, and Lolo Pass, Montana-along the Lochsa River in the Clearwater National Forest. “Weir Creek ranks very high with the romance factor. The hot springs pool is perfect for two and is nestled on a small cliff in an old growth forest-the view from the pool is incredible. The water temperatures are perfect and the pool and trail are both in great condition-crystal clear water without goobers or algae,” says Laughtland. Jerry Johnson Hot Springs is a two-mile round-trip hike in from the road, with an official campground at the trailhead. There are also official campground options near Weir, plus some “primitive sites at the trailhead, along the trail and slightly past Weir hot springs,” Laughtland shares. Those not interested in such a rustic romantic overnight can continue east 62 miles northeast to Missoula.

Laughtland also recommends Stanley Hot Springs near Lowell, ID, in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, but this requires a “somewhat substantial hike to fairly decent soaks.” Litton’s book describes it as a moderate, 11-mile round-trip hike. // How To Get There: Weir Creek HS – From Kamiah, take U.S. Highway 12 about 28 miles east to Lowell and continue 45 miles. Park in a pullout along the Lochsa River just east of milepost 142. Follow a slippery path up the west bank of the creek to reach the pool. The springs are named on the national forest map.

Jerry Johnson HS – Just a little further off Hwy 12, about 55 miles NE of Lowell (or 1.5 miles SW of Powell Junction) to Warm Springs Pack Bridge, which spans the Lochsa River 0.5 mile west of milepost 152. The springs are named on the national forest map but omitted on the wilderness quad. Cross the pack bridge to the sign for Warm Springs Creek Trail. Follow the path a short mile upvalley to the springs.

Stanley HS – (To the trailhead) Take U.S. Hwy 12 from Kamiah to Lowell and continue 26 miles to Wilderness Gateway Campground. Go past Loops A and B, and the amphitheater, to the Trail 211 parking area. The springs are marked only on the USGS quad. (excerpted from Hiking Hot Springs in the Pacific Northwest, Evie Litton).

Eastern Washington

Scenic Hot Springs is the closest backcountry hotsprings to Spokane (a 4-hour drive), but Laughtland states that it’s recently been shutdown. Wind River Hot Springs (St. Martins on the Wind) is the only one accessible year-round-located near the Columbia Gorge off Highway 84.

How To Get There: Take I-84 to State Route 14 (5 miles east of Stevenson). Take Berge Road 1 mile north, then go left on Indian Cabin Road. The road twists between the legs of a power pole tower, then turns to gravel and follows the powerline down to the river. The road-end parking lot, 2.5 miles from the highway is privately owned. (Small fee applies.) Stay overnight at the county campground in Home Valley, WA, or continue west on I-84 to Portland. (excerptedfrom Hiking Hot Springs in the Pacific Northwest, Evie Litton).

British Columbia, Canada

Following are some of those described in Litton’s book for the Kootenay Region.

West Kootenays – From Nakusp, B.C. (be sure to stop at the Travel Infocentre), take Highway 23 north, accessible in winter.

St. Leon Hot Springs – in Arrow Forest District; only .25 mile from the trailhead.

Halfway River Hot Springs – Upper Arrow Lake; campsites available.

East Kootenays – From Cranbrook, B.C., take Highway 95A north (subject to winter road closures)

Dewar Creek Hot Springs – in the Purcell Wilderness; 12 mile round-trip hike; springs are at 4,800′ elevation; “extremely skinnydippable”, according to Litton’s book.