Idaho Cold Plunges and Hot Springs

Idaho Cold Plunges and Hot Springs

It was an idea from the bikepacking world. Our non-motorized riding ancestors developed the Idaho Hot Spring Mountain Bike Route,  consisting of mountain bike trails and forest service roads to create a 500-mile loop around a concentrated area of geothermal activity in northern Idaho.

Since the route is for bicycles,  I wondered if I could create something similar for dual sports. A motorcycle would offer some downsides and upsides—we couldn’t ride the single-track mountain bike trails, but we could simply pass them on twisty asphalt roads, getting a better variety of dirt and pavement.

The Sawtooth Mountain range looming in the background is a good reminder to have your bike and gear well sorted. It is remote out here, with fuel and services few and far between.

I went to our local coffee shop, ordered my usual, and pulled up Google Maps. What I came up with was a five-day route stopping at a different hot spring each day. It was an easy sell to my friend Cameron because… Well, who wouldn’t want to ride motorcycles to hot springs and camp along the way?

This time, we brought a third person with us—Nathan. He is the Paul Bunyan of Canada. This 6-foot-6-inch redhead, hailing from Vancouver, became friends with Cameron at an Australian airport. They kept in contact over the years, always dreaming of doing a moto trip together. The time has now come and we are loitering in front of our hotel in Boise, ID, trying to collectively install Mosko Moto bags on our three sexy bikes: a KTM 890 Adventure R, a Husqvarna Norden 901, and a Honda Africa Twin.

Worswick Hot Springs

Having spent way too much time wrangling the bags and then pairing headsets, we quickly race around the grocery store getting food for our camp dinner. The pretty city of Boise doesn’t take long to disappear in our mirrors as the roads are fast and empty. Soon, we are on the highway aiming toward Sawtooth National Forest with Worswick Hot Springs as the destination for the day.  Asphalt soon turns to gravel, which the lack of rain has left ultra dusty. A faded sign at a split says four more miles to the springs.

Motorcycles & Gear

2022 Husqvarna Norden 901
2022 KTM 890 Adventure R
2022 Honda Africa Twin DCT

Helmet: Klim TK1200
Jacket: Tourmaster Advanced Jacket
Pants: Moose Racing Pants
Gloves: Racer
Luggage: Mosko Moto
Comm System: Cardo Scala Rider

We make the final turn around the corner and there she is!  It looks like a scene from The Lord of the Rings. From the hills arounds us flows down a long, narrow field.  Hot water is bubbling from multiple pools and tentacles of their individual streams merge together, flowing down to the bottom of the field where people have stacked rocks to form small pools about 12 inches deep. There are three (or four, depending on how you count them) pools of different shapes and temperatures. We check them all out with the classic finger test before Nathan suggests the unthinkable. Why don’t we not get in these pools and ride back down to the cold snowmelt river and jump in there first? Not to be shown up by a Canadian, I agree to his silly plan and we ride the bikes down for a quick polar plunge.

It was miserable at the time, but the shock wore off and it does make you feel invigorated. It also made the hot springs right after that much more enjoyable. Or, it did until we realized there were tiny, red leech-looking critters enjoying the pool as well.

We had to bear the cold of crossing Big Creek Summit to get to our favorite hot spring on the last day of the trip. Totally worth it!

How should we react in this situation? On one hand, these are man-made pools and people obviously come here, so the “leeches” can’t be bad for you. On the other hand, I don’t want leeches on me. Nathan and I decide to double back and do another cold plunge and wash off with some soap, but Cameron decides to “risk” it. Who can say which was the right choice?

We started a fire to cook sausage in a pan and boil some pasta. It was a simple meal, but it tasted like fine dining. With bellies full, stomachs hurting from laughing, and leeches now out of our minds, I couldn’t think of a better ending for the first day.