To reach these beautiful hot springs, I drove south on Highway 93 from Missoula, Montana. This part of the road offers nice views of the Bitterroot Mountains. These mountains better known as the Bitterroot Range are a subrange of the Rocky Mountains and they are named after the bitterroot, a small pink flower that is the state flower of Montana.
Lost Trail Pass Montana - Idaho border
The border between Montana and Idaho is home of Lost Trail Powder Mountain, a family owned ski resort very popular on the area that is only open Thursdays through Sundays.
Lost Trail Powder Mountain
After reaching Salmon, you need to keep driving south on Highway 93. Near milepost 282, turn left on a short gravel road ending at the trailhead parking area.
Turn left if you are coming from Salmon
For the locals this place is better know as Warm Spring or Elk Bend (the name of the nearby community). Along the road you will find references of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806), for people not familiar with American history, this was the first United States overland expedition to the Pacific coast and back
Trailhead - Elev: 1337m N 44-53.768' W 113-57.800'
A trailhead bridge (the first of four) spans Warm Spring Creek. The first 0.5 miles crosses private land and switchbacks uphill gaining elevation very quickly. On the open slope you will pass a gate onto BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land.
There are some places in the state where geothermal water is hot enough to generate electricity but the most common applications are direct uses such as crop drying, fish farming, agriculture and space heating.
Back to the hike, on BLM land the trail drops across a second bridge where you can see cottonwoods and willows. Cottonwoods are widely grown for timber production along wet river banks, where their exceptional growth rate provides a large crop of wood within just 10-30 years.
This part of the hike is quite flat and you can have some views of your final destination. In summer this short hike can be quite demanding because of the dry environment. Summers in Idaho can be hot, although extended periods over 100 °F (38 °C) or the maximum temperature are rare. This is tempered by the low relative humidity during summer months and also by the cooler evenings, since for most of the state, the highest diurnal difference in temperature is often in the summer
The red circle shows where the hot springs are located
The maritime influence (even though the state is located 300 miles away from the Pacific Ocean) is specially felt in the winter when cloud cover, humidity, and precipitation are at its highest point Conversely, this influence has a moderating effect in the winter where temperatures are not as low as would be expected for a state with a mostly elevated altitude.
If you need to poo, there is a bio-toilet close to the abandoned cabin. The trail goes next to the creek which is shaded with cottonwoods and willows. The slopes are dotted with pinyon and juniper. I was able to see juniper berries still attached to the branches, all juniper species grow berries, but some are considered too bitter to eat -- before you ask, no, I didn't eat them --.
Idaho is the only state that was likely named as the result of a hoax. In the early 1860s, when the United States Congress was considering organizing a new territory in the Rocky Mountains, eccentric lobbyist George M. Willing suggested the name "Idaho," which he claimed was derived from a Shoshone language term meaning "the sun comes from the mountains" or "gem of the mountains." Willing later claimed that he had made up the name himself. Congress ultimately decided to name the area Colorado Territory when it was created in February 1861.
The path crosses a third bridge near the canyon's mounth then zigzags up the wall. The last 0.5 mile is very steep and slippery and can be icy in winter.
Very soon you will have the first views of hot springs. Idaho's geothermal hot springs were a favorite gathering place for Native Americans who believed the waters had special healing powers.
The first pools