Road Tripping in Idaho

March 2021

Idaho had been on our radar ever since we heard that it had the highest number of soakable hot springs in the US. Bountiful backcountry ski terrain, gorgeous mountain views, and famously blue skies. Our first experience in Idaho was certainly one for the books.

Violet and I are both major fans of natural hot springs, so our primary goal was to explore Idaho’s hidden thermal treasures. Relaxing with a nice soak, however, is so much more gratifying after a good workout. Backcountry skiing was the perfect activity to complement our hot spring itinerary, so we planned our entire trip around skiing and soaking.

The Skiing

Probably the most famous spot to go ski touring in Idaho is Galena Summit, the mountain pass between Sun Valley and Stanley. You can literally stop your car at any of the pull-outs on the highway, and you’ve got sprawling, mellow backcountry terrain in every direction, waiting to be explored. The views were incredible, the skies insanely blue, and the snow ripe for a spring corn harvest.

Big mountains, tiny human. Touring around the Sawtooth Range.

Chilling out in the van after a long day of skiing. Happy with the views, happy with the company, happy with the sunshine, but mostly just happy to take those boots off.


The van is the perfect mobile base camp to savor post-adventure relaxation.

Stanley, Idaho. A sleepy little town with one of the most epic alpine backdrops I’ve ever seen.

This was the scene of one of our most memorable moments on the trip.  One morning, we woke up early, and drove to this viewpoint near Stanley, for sunrise.

The air outside was a frigid 15 degrees F. We cranked the heater, made some coffee, and watched the sunrise from the comfort of our bed. We had planned to get an early start and go skiing, but we ended up just parked there for a couple hours, gawking at the views, reading our books, and feeling grateful for this life.

The Soaking

Just minutes away from the town of Stanley was our favorite hot spring of the trip. Right off the highway, beside the Salmon River is a big cast iron cauldron, big enough for a couple humans. There’s a PVC pipe that you can use to divert the scalding spring water into, or out of the cauldron, to control the temperature. Brilliant.

We had a good routine down. Park for the night at a campground just minutes from this hot spring. Wake up, soak, then ski all day, and return for a midnight soak. Idaho was definitely delivering the goods.

This drone shot really captures the setting of this hot spring. In the background are the Sawtooth Mountains just outside Stanley. Driving down this highway, you’ll encounter numerous plumes of steam – they’re all soakable hot springs.

This was another of our favorite hot spring experiences. The spring water cascades down the hillside, forming a steaming hot shower and several pools to soak in, right by the river.

The surreal feeling when half your body is burning from the spring water, and the other half is freezing from the river water.