Tucked insides central Idaho is a mystical destination: Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. To get there, you have to go through Lolo pass. The drive itself is absolutely breathtaking.
I think what makes it special is the snow.
The winding drive up and down the mountain is dangerous if the roads aren’t clear, but we found it was well maintained.
You drive right on the edge of the mountain, along a river. It twists and turns as you go up, up, up. Eventually at an elevation of 5,233 feet. This pass is in the Bitterroot Range of the Northern Rocky Mountains. It’s on the boarder between Montana and Idaho. (Fun fact for you history buffs–Lewis and Clark took this route in 1805!)
From Missoula, MT, it took us 1.5 hours to get to the trail that is Jerry Johnson. It’s a little tricky to find when you GPS it, so drive slowly as you come to it. There’s a parking lot across from the bridge where you can park. We missed this parking lot…ended up parking a bit down the road and just walked to the bridge. The bridge crosses the rushing river–be sure to stop and get a picture–it’s a pretty cool suspension bridge.
once you cross the bridge, go right and follow the trail. It follows the river. It’s relatively easy to hike, but if it’s snowing/cold out, I’d suggest hiking boots. The trail gets slick and narrow at points.
Because we arrived so late in the day, we had to rush. If I could do it over, I’d want to get there early–go all morning and afternoon. The trail has a couple of hot springs/pools. We decided to just do the first one (it was starting to get dark) which is a waterfall into the river.
We didn’t know exactly where to look for the springs, but we guessed it was near where the steam was coming from (lol).
We brought some Bozone with us–a locally brewed beer–to drink while in the spring.
This was the view of the river while sitting under the hot spring.
It was absolutely freeing river water meeting with HOT hot spring water. Finding the right spot to sit in was a little tricky.
We imagine it’s easier in spring or fall, but the ambiance of winter falling down around you is worth it.
If you’re anywhere near Missoula, MT I urge you to check it out. I’m on a mission to get back there ASAP! It’s also inspired me to find more hot springs.