Lava Hot Springs first became a destination on our travel list after we had researched aboutonsenin Japan. Both have the same basic principal: bathing in naturally warm, mineral water for health benefits; however, there is one large difference. In a traditional hot spring in the U.S. you are to remain clothed, that is to say, in a swim suit. In Japan, depending on the place you go, you soak naked. For that reason, Japanese hot springs are usually segregated by gender.
There’s a plethora of hot springs in the United States, each one claiming something unique, but the Lava Hot Springs in Idaho is by far our favorite. Not only does it have a very large natural pool filled with stones and steps to lay out on, but on the other side of their property is a kid and elderly friendly set of pools that are artificially heated to a much cooler degree.
The side with the cooler pools has awnings to protect against the hot sun in the spring and fall seasons whereas the natural side is completely open. As you see below, the space is comfortable for even the crowded winter times and includes amenities like benches and tables, and there’s even a gazebo on the hill with a garden for the summer months.
There is a large, extremely hard to miss sign when you enter and another attraction to your right that is primarily open during the summer months. Though it’s a tiny two-horse town, there countryside is pretty, and they offer more than just a few things to do in the summer, if you find yourself in the area at that time. We’ve been in the summer but personally enjoy it most in the winter.
Here are a few pictures of what you’ll see upon entering the town and the hot springs, in order (located at the far left end of the sign entrance).
If you’d like to visit or see what this place is all about, visit their sitehere.They do allow food and drink and have a few things on-site, so this is a perfect place to spend all day.
There are a few trade stores, but this is the only grocery store in the entire city and has a small but useful selection of items.
One of maybe three or four places to stay on-site and they fill up fast!
Parking is all up and down the street, however, in front of this small playground there are a few marked slots for comfortable parking, and it’s nearer to the entrance.
You have to walk down a small hill that is completely paved but can still be a little icy, and the entrance is a little door off to the left. If you’re there during a busy time, expect the line to be out the door.
Make sure to bring lots of change as they have one drinking fountain but many soda machines and at the office; they offer towels, ice cream, etc. The lockers as well are coin operated so if you don’t want to lug your stuff around, and most times you can’t during peak season, you’ll want your quarters.
In addition to the hot springs themselves, this place also has an amazing (but small) space for massages. Their prices are reasonable considering how exclusive this place is in the middle of seemingly nowhere, and their masseuse are fantastic. We have tried their couples massage in the name of science and give it a 10/10. They’re reservation based normally, though during the off-season you can typically find an open slot if you walk in.
ProTip: The hot springs is a tiny town and reservations fill up usually 3 months in advance, but Pocatello is only 20 or so minutes away with better rates, more things to do, and food to eat. If you don’t mind the drive (it’s fairly pretty) then we recommend staying there.
Have you been here before? If so, show us your pictures in the comments on the main lifestyle page.