Another classic Idaho Hot Spring. And an incredible one at that! Boat Box Hot Springs is truly magical, and if you’re lucky enough to snag a parking spot, I think you’ll agree. This place is definitely trickier to experience due to location, parking and size of hot spring, but I’m going to break all of that down in this guide and tell you exactly how I was able to get time here alone.
Driving along the frosty river from Stanley was breathtaking. The trees hugged the bank and a low fog mixed with the steam was incredibly dreamy. I really think snow makes everything more beautiful, even though I hate being cold.
Land Acknowledgement: Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla, Lemhi-Shoshone and Shoshone-Bannock. Find what Native Land you are visiting by using the app Native Land! I encourage you to read the history and culture of the Indigenous people who’s land you are visiting! Consider visiting nearby cultural centers and seeking out other ways to financially support Indigenous People.
- Know Before You Go: Hot Springs Etiquette
- Visiting Boat Box Hot Springs in Idaho: Overview
- What to Expect at Boat Box Hot Springs:
- Best Time of Year to Visit:
- Managing the Temperature of the Pools
- Nudity? Wildlife? Capacity? Water Quality? Bathrooms?
- Directions to Boat Box Hot Springs
- Where to Stay When Visiting Boat Box Hot Springs?
- Things to do Nearby:
- Packing List
- My Camera Gear:
Photos in Collaboration with Johnathon DeSoto
Know Before You Go: Hot Springs Etiquette
Let’s start by reviewing Hot Spring etiquette. Even if you’ve been to a few hot springs, you might learn something that can help keep these hot springs around longer for everyone to enjoy! Hot Springs are often in fragile ecosystems so knowing this information is extremely important to protect the environment.
Read my Hot Springs Etiquette Guide HERE. Let me know if anything needs to be added, or other hot spring etiquette tips you’ve learned over the years!
- Leave No Trace: includes packing out all food waste (fruit peels, nut shells, etc.) and toilet paper
- No Glass
- Don’t use any products – not even biodegradable soaps, Sunscreen, etc. And do NOT urinate in the pools. (What goes in a pool, stays in a pool).
- Clothing Optional
- Be cautious of trash/glass (wear protective footwear down to the pools)
- Be polite to other people and keep your noise to a normal level.
It’s a good move to bring gloves and a trash bag to every hot spring. You never know if there will be trash or hazardous glass that should be removed for your enjoyment and the enjoyment of others.
Note: This hot spring is volunteer run and managed. Please be respectful.
Visiting Boat Box Hot Springs in Idaho: Overview
Boat Box Hot Springs is a year-round outdoor adventure made up of 1 man-made pool. A plastic pipe feeds water from the nearby source into the pool.
- Temperature is between 100°F and 110°F (43°C) – Always test the water first!!
- No Hike in is Required. It is a short walk from the Parking Area.
- Open Year Round
- Dogs allowed on leash, but NOT in the pools.
- No Bathroom available
- No Fee
What to Expect at Boat Box Hot Springs:
Best Time of Year to Visit:
BOAT BOX HOT SPRINGS WINTER EXPERIENCE
The time of year you should go depends so much on the type of experience you want. My priority was to visit with the highest chance of NO other people being there, and I’m happy to say I was successful.
Our visit was in January of 2023 on a Monday morning. It was about 10 degrees F outside, but with the pools being over 100°F , I was just fine. If you’re looking to go with as little people as possible – weekdays and mornings are your best bet and also visiting off season in the winter.
Winter Con: There is definitely a risk that one or both roads to get to Stanley and Sunbeam Hot Springs are closed or unmanageable for your vehicle. I’ll discuss this in more detail below in the Directions section.
Summer is the most popular season, with Fall right behind that. I’ve seen the trip reports where people are packed in like sardines at every hot spring in Idaho. If you are going in the Summer, prepare to go EARLY, like an hour before sunrise to secure parking and pool access. And with this one, be prepared to circle back frequently as there is only room for 2 cars MAX if both cars are small and park nicely.
I’ve heard people will start waiting in a queue here. I personally would have a hard time enjoying this knowing people are waiting.
Managing the Temperature of the Pools
The hot spring is a metal round pool that was actually a recycled ocean buoy! And the water was probably close or hotter than 110°F. It was HOT especially on my frozen feet. A bucket should be somewhere around the hot spring (unless someone removed it).
We used the bucket to dump about 7 buckets of snow and river water into the pool to cool it down to a good temperature in addition to removing the plastic pipe of hot water.
When arriving at the pool, I’d recommend removing the white plastic pipe that funnels the water into the pool from the hot spring source. It will start to naturally cool down on its own in the winter time. Don’t worry if the pipe comes unattached. It is easy to place it back into the hot spring source when you’re ready to go.
Be sure to replace the PVC pipe and bucket when you are finished enjoying the hot springs. If I ever visit in the Summer, I would love to jump into the river to cool down!
Occasionally the pools may be emptied for hygienic reasons! You also have the option to drain the pool if it is dirty. Just know it can take a bit of time to fill the pool back up.
Nudity? Wildlife? Capacity? Water Quality? Bathrooms?
I wanted to know ALL of this before going. These are NOT hot springs to enjoy nude, just because it is RIGHT off the highway (even more so than Sunbeam Hot Springs). You can see it from the road. If you are here during any time except winter – expect to share this space, but not as much as other hot springs. Boat Box hot spring only has the one pool and VERY limited parking of 1 spot (MAYBE 2 cars if you park really well).
Apparently wildlife sightings are VERY common here. It is right on the Salmon River in the Salmon-Challis National Forest. We saw a bald eagle fly over us a couple times at a hot spring down the road. I’ve read reports of elk, deer, and bear sightings!
There is only the ONE pool. Its a small sized sturdy metal tub made from a recycled ocean buoy. At one point it used to be a wooden box! It is a bigger pool than the one at Sunbeam. And about 3 people could fit if you are comfortable getting up close and personal with each other.
I was surprised by how clear the water was at these Idaho Hot Springs! The steam in the winter is so beautiful and you can see it from the road! I don’t have a very sensitive sense of smell, but boat box hot springs did not have a strong odor. Just be warned the rocks around the pool are slippery from ice in the winter and can be slippery from algae in the summer.
Directions to Boat Box Hot Springs
Where is Boat Box? The Boat Box Hot Springs Directions are not as easy as others because it is not on google maps. It is 3.3 miles outside of Stanley Idaho on Highway 75 going Northeast. When driving out of Stanley, turn left onto Highway 75 and in 3 miles look for a small pull off on the right side of the road along the river. In the summer there may be more parking that we didn’t see, but it seemed like only enough room for one large car or 2 small cars. There was another pull off further down that could be used if you hike up the river bed.
Coordinates are: 44.2451752, -114.8858487. Look for the tub from the road and you should be able to see it along the edge of the river!
What is the Best Route? Winter Driving to Boat Box Hot Springs
In the summer time, you may be traveling to multiple hot springs along Highway 75: Sunbeam, Kirkham, Challis, and Pine Flats hot springs are all nearby. You may be coming from Highway 21 which is very scenic and has loads of hot springs, camping and views.
We chose to take highway 20 to highway 75 because of snow and ice conditions in the winter. But both highway 21 and highway 75 have mountain passes, but because of Sun Valley Ski Resort being on Highway 75, that route is kept clear more consistently. Highway 75 through Sawtooth National Forest was absolutely breathtaking and one of our favorite drives on the trip.
TIP: Use 511.idaho.gov to see real time updates on road conditions. I stalked this website for a week leading up to our trip to make sure the roads would be clear enough for us to drive through.
Parking Information? Fees?
Great news is that there are NO fees or parking passes needed to enjoy Boat Box Hot Springs. Whether or not you get a parking spot will determine if you can visit. The parking lot is a VERY small pull off, and as mentioned before can only fit 1-2 cars. There is another pull off further down that you could park at and hike to, but you would be waiting for the hot spring anyway.
We saw that there was a car parked on our first drive by and so we continued on to Sunbeam Hot Springs where there is more available parking at 5 total pools. On our way back to Stanley, we saw the pull off was open and that’s when we enjoyed our time at Boat Box hot springs! Arrive early, and continue checking back to get a chance at a soak here!
Where to Stay When Visiting Boat Box Hot Springs?
Mountain Village Resort
We stayed at Mountain Village Resort in Stanley Idaho. I think the best part is that it comes with a chance to reserve the hot spring they have on site. I’ll be doing a full review on this place next, so check back for that!
The rooms are very basic, but it is nice that a restaurant is right across the street. They were VERY understanding when we needed a late checkout when our van wouldn’t start, ugh.
Price during Winter: $102 before taxes/fees
Price during Summer: $150 before taxes/fees
If you are going in the warmer months, there are so many incredible campgrounds that I’m wanting to check out!
- Open May-September
- First Come, First Serve
- Open May-September
- First Come, First Serve
If you’re looking for FREE campsites in the area check out my guide:
Things to do Nearby:
Check out my other blog post on Sunbeam Hot Springs:
Here are some essentials for winter season! I wish I would have brought some of these to make this hot spring trip more enjoyable!
- Snow boots! The snow was SO deep to get down to the hot spring
- Blanket – I so wish I had something to stand on when getting undressed and redressed.
- Bathrobe – makes for a quick change and more privacy when changing
- Gloves, Hand warmers
- Warm Hat
My Camera Gear:
For a complete list of what I use to create my blog images, instagram content and youtube content check out this link:
Boat Box hot springs is a classic and very picturesque hot spring that I definitely recommend visiting. I like that it only has the one pool, so that if you do get lucky enough to soak here, chances are you’ll be doing so with just your group. And with it being only 10 minutes away from Stanley, it was easy to get out there first thing in the morning to have it to ourselves in the Winter! I can’t wait to go back in the Summer to experience it in a different way and camp in that area!
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