Heading north of Fairfield, ID into the Sawtooth National Forest is a beautiful sight.
On the way to Skillern Hot Springs, the view will offer Solder Mountian Ski Area, Elk Ridge, Smokey Bar Store, and Big Smokey Creek. The entire drive through the national forest is stunning.
Skillern Hot Springs is a 6 mile hike, round trip. We harnessed our puppy, checked the trail map out, and headed down the path. The trail follows a beautiful clear river – glowing with slippery rocks below the surface. After walking about two miles on the fairly simple dirt path, there was a fork in the road. This sign says ‘High Trail,’ ‘Low Trail.’ The arrows point one way or another, so we decided to take the high trail. This was a steep climb, making us stop twice to give our four month old puppy some water. The High Trail makes for some awesome cardio!
At first, the hot springs were not clearly visible to us. We then noticed hot water dripping down a large boulder, colored in reds and oranges. These drips lead to pockets of water below the boulder, right next to the river.
I continued to follow the boulder around its bend – carefully navigating the slippery rocks. This lead me to an awesome little bathtub-shaped hot spring on the edge of the boulder! The steam was rolling off the side of the rocks creating a beautiful glow from the sun.
We stayed for a while, soaking in the warmth, but soon realized our pup did not appreciate the hot water on his paws.
Heading back, we knew we wanted to try the ‘Low Trail’ instead of the demanding ‘High Trail,’ since we had just run out of water. Following the low trail doesn’t demand as much cardio, but requires crossing the river four times! The first time crossing was a bit painful. I went barefoot – thinking the smooth rocks would feel nice. Instead, they froze my whole body. Trekking across with my boots protected my feet from the slippery rocks below the next three times. We had to carry our four month old puppy to make sure he didn’t get swept away from the current. It definitely is not for the faint of heart, or someone who can’t handle the freezing, alpine water.
This hike requires lots of water, endurance, and perseverance, but is worth every minute. Coming from South Dakota, I had never experienced hot springs before moving to Southern Idaho. They are such an awesome concept to me, and I am shocked by every steaming stream and puddle.
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