Jerry Johnson Hot Springs: Photos, Notes & Directions
Jerry Johnson hot springs in Idaho is the go to natural hot spring near Missoula, Montana. We first visited its steaming pools a few weeks before Kelvin (the dog) and I officially moved to Missoula from Breckenridge in the spring of 2014 and as expected, old Jerry Johnson did not disappoint.
Getting There: Directions to Jerry Johnson
- From Missoula, take highway 93 south to Lolo and turn right at highway 12.
- Drive over Lolo Pass and continue west for 22 miles after crossing the Montana Idaho border until you reach mile marker 151.
- Approximately 0.25 miles east of mile marker 151, you’ll find the parking lot located on the right side of the road. You’ll also see a Clearwater National Forest trailhead sign for Warm Springs and a well-built suspension bridge called the Warm Springs Pack Bridge to the left. There is a bathroom in the parking lot so let one loose if you have to.
- Use the Warm Springs Pack bridge across the street to pass over the Lochsa River.
- After crossing the pack bridge, follow Warm Springs Trail #49 and walk southward along the creek for about 1 mile to reach the Jerry Johnson Hot Springs.
- Elevation gain of 150 vertical feet.
You’ll be entering the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. The third largest wilderness in the lower 48 states and one of the ten original wilderness areas to be designated by the United States Congress in the Wilderness Preservation Act of 1964, the Selway-Bitterroot spans two states and 1,340,502 acres of land.
Jerry Johnson Quick Facts
- Idaho hot springs
- Located in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness
- Primitive, natural hot spring pools
- 3 hot springs sources
- 3 separate soaking areas
- Easy 1 mile hike from trailhead
- Just 150 feet in elevation gain
- Named after a prospector who built a cabin near the area in 1983
About Jerry Johnson Hot Springs
Located about 62 miles southwest of Missoula, Montana the Jerry Johnson Hot Springs lie in a scenic valley forested with statuesque old growth cedar and grand fir. Scattered along the banks of a rushing creek, these primitive hot spring pools were named after Prospector Jerry Johnson who built a cabin near the springs in 1893. They are comprised of 3 hot spring sources, each with their own natural soaking pools of varying temperatures.
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs Number One: The Waterfall Pools
As you can see from the following image, I have not taken the time to do these bad boys photographic justice. This is likely due to not yet having soaked in them. In fact, since I’ve only ever glanced at them from the trail, I’m probably not the best person to tout their glory. Despite my lack of intimate familiarity, however, we can be sure of a few things: they exist, their name likely originates from the waterfalls, which we see pouring into their depths, and they are located at the end of a steep side trail alongside Warm Springs Creek approximately 1 mile from the trailhead.
The steep side trail, which veers towards Warm Springs creek, is the mile marker for these first half dozen boulder-lined soaking pools, known as the Waterfall Pools. As you can see in the photo, they are fed by hot waterfalls. These waterfalls can reportedly get a little on the scorching side and some of the pools directly below the waterfalls may be too hot for bathing, so be careful and try not to toss your children into their potentially scalding waters. Since the Waterfall Pools lie alongside the creek at waterline, they can allegedly often be found washed out by spring runoff and are thus best accessed later in the summer season near the end of August. If you’re hankering to give these babies a go, keep a sharp eye out, because while their steamy waters can be visible from the trail, they are also easily missed when unoccupied.
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs Number Two: The Hillside Pools
Approximately one hundred yards up the main trail from the hot waterfalls, you’ll arrive at the the second set of primitive pools fed by a hot spring that emerges from the boulder lined hillside. A series of primitive, rock-lined soaking tubs extend from the hill and down towards Warm Springs Creek, but the main pool of this hillside soaking area is the roomiest and most popular of all the Jerry Johnson hot springs pools. As you move down away from the main pool and towards the icy creek, the water in the pools becomes increasingly cooler.
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs Number Three: The Meadow Pool
To access the third, and final of Jerry Johnson’s hot spring sources, make your way up trail. This last primitive hot spring pool is located in a cedar-lined meadow about 50 yards up from the Hillside Pools. It sits around 100 yards away from the creek and is reported to maintain a relatively steady average temperature of about 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Approximately ten feet across and three feet deep, this soaking hole is shallower and cooler than the main hillside pool. It can also get rather muddy when disturbed so be ready for some dirt.