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Home: Idaho Hot Springs: Vulcan Hot Springs
  Public Hot Springs

Vulcan Hot Springs in Idaho

Season: All* Type: H (hike)
Boise National Forest Overall Rating: C
5,600 ft Water Temperature: 103+
Warm Lake Area Usage Level: Extreme
  pH: 7+

Picture Viewer

Mid-Sept. 2012 Overview of the once-great pool

Mid-Sept. 2012 The source never ceases to amaze

06.19.10 Wildfire and greedy soakers caved-in the pool

06.19.10 Wildfire and greedy soakers caved-in the pool

04.29.07: Friendship renewal, hot springs have a way of doing that

04.29.07: Lookin good

04.29.07: A lighter shade of brown

04.29.07: Interesting algae formation near the source

04.29.07: The old trailhead bridge


04.29.07: What lies beneath?

10.01.05: Love it or leave it

10.01.05: Nice day for a hot soak

10.01.05: Huge!

10.01.05: Tough to beat

06.10.02: Best soaking ops

06.10.02: The 1st one you'll see

06.10.02: What a source!

06.10.02: The bridge at the trailhead

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[ View 06.19.10 Vulcan Hot Spring Video Clip ]
[ View 04.29.07 Video of Vulcan Hot Springs ]

General Description
At the end of a short hike through the Boise National Forest you will find one of Idaho's most unique hot springs. There is so much flow at Vulcan that the US Department of Energy has been salivating over it's geothermal potential for years. I've heard many a rumor that uncle Sam wants to develop the Vulcan complex into a geothermal power plant. Let's hope that doesn't happen!

Vulcan Hot Springs used to have a couple different soaking options. Now there is primarily one. There are others, but because of the design of the main pool, difficulty awaits for the opportunist soaker. The main pool pool is huge. Without a doubt the largest in Idaho. Almost too large if you ask me, I'm worried that there is too much slow moving water. And yes, Red Spider Mites AKA Chiggers are active at this hot springs, but in low amounts. Just keep your clothing and towel away from the hot springs area.

2016 Update! There is currently one small pool available for soaking with potential for so much more...

Dates Visited: Trash Levels: Bug Levels:
Mid-Sept. 2012 low low
06.19.10 low low
07.15.09 low EXTREME!
04.29.07 moderate moderate
10.01.05 low none
06.10.02 low extreme

Water Clarity:


Moderate Sulfur

Wildlife Sighted: Deer, Moose & Elk

Seasonal Notes
Accessible all year - dirt forest access road is not plowed during winter; access on horseback or snowshoe.

Camping Notes
There is plenty of Boise National Forest camping nearby along with some great primitive sites near the trailhead. Trailhead camping features a pit toilet, around 5 to 10 nice primitive sites, tons of trash, legions of ATVs and is extremely popular. Avoiding the crowds here means coming during the off season. I.E. not summer. Note: the entire surrounding area and all along FSR 474 South have been closed to public use in 2008 and 2009 due to wildfire restoration. Check with the Boise National Forest before heading into the area.

As of June 2010, the pit toilet and primitive campground have been removed by the forest service due to wildfire restoration efforts. A new pit toilet is in-place on the opposite side of the road from the old toilet and trailhead to Vulcan. There are currently only a couple small pullouts available for parking. The trailhead sign to Vulcan is not visible from the road.

Nearby Attractions

Trip Reports, Accessibility and Usage Updates

Mid-Sept. 2012
*sigh* I still love visiting this area (I loved soaking in Vulcan more). Sadly, the days of enjoying a long hot soak in one of Idaho's largest hot springs pools are gone. All of the primitive camping sites near the trailhead are gone, replaced by RV and toy-hauler parking spots next to the newish outhouse across the road from the trailhead. There are no longer options for tent camping as the FS has clearly tailored this area for toy-haulers and RVs. The closest primitive camping sites are further down 474 south (1-2 miles).
Rating C

Nothing new to report in regard to a soakable pool. Clearly, attempts (emphasis on attempts) have been made. It is hard to believe that one of Idaho's largest natural pools once existed here.
Rating C

The main pool is currently caved-in, and filled to the brim with sludge and slit due to a wildfire that ripped through this area a couple years ago. I suspect greedy soakers making attempts at enlarging the pool also had an affect. The log damn is still in place, and with some serious elbow grease this pool could be back in action.

No more trailhead primitive camping and a new pit toilet! Due to wildfire restoration efforts, the forest service has constructed a new pit toilet on the opposite side of the road from the trailhead to Vulcan. Primitive camping and spacious parking - all gone.

A couple of mines accessible from the same access road have re-opened, where miner campgrounds are less than a mile from the Vulcan trailhead. Extra vehicle traffic coupled with moderate road construction made for a long, dusty journey.

One of the three bridges en-route on the hike to Vulcan was recently replaced along with new trailhead and trail junction signage. The stark contrast of the blackened forest verses the crisp, fresh green undergrowth was a sight to behold.

A section of the trail between bridge one and two was completely submerged (see video clip), and made for a tricky crossing to reach the second bridge. On the hike to Vulcan I encountered a large family of horseback riders and two groups of couples. It got me thinking there was a stellar soak at the end of the trail...

I was wrong. The primary soak at Vulcan was completely caved-in, chock-full of silt and sludge. However, the log dam was still in-place. Regardless of if the cave-in was a result from greedy soakers digging out the sandy sides of the pool or wildfire, or both - there is a great potential here. Vulcan will live again. It may take some serious work, but I am fairly confident the pool can be resurrected.

Also worth noting, one of the lodges on nearby Warm Lake converted to a biker bar. As such, there was an abnormal amount of motorbikes ripping through curvaceous forest roads. Enough to bring out the fuzz, which I've never seen out here once in the last decade. It's bad enough already with folks and their big rigs on these tiny streets, please be careful regardless of your mode of transport.

I encountered lost street bikers on dirt forest roads miles away from Warm Lake a couple times all the while a rainstorm lurked in the distance. It only takes a couple minutes for these roads to turn to mush. To be clear, Warm Lake is accessible via pavement all the way.
Rating X

Yep. All camping areas, primitive and official, are still closed all along FSR 474 South - same as last, year due to wildfire restoration. I'm not complaining, about that. It's just that it would have been nice, like last year, if the forest service road had been posted from the start. This would have saved a drive down a road under heavy construction (this time). I navigated dry ruts, huge rocks, around (barley) tire killer holes and then finally through a bunch of mud just to discover that there was no camping anywhere. Why send people down a road (that is under construction mind you) that leads to an entire area closed down for restoration? Oh, well.
Rating X

I don't know how, but our soaking party somehow managed to get Vulcan to ourselves on a busy Sunday afternoon. We hiked in as two groups were on their way out. We soaked, got out, ate a snack and headed back. On our way we passed two more groups on their way in. The second group was dragging along the fixins for some serious drinking. I had a sinking feeling when passing this last group that there would be a tremendous mess left behind.

The size of the main pool has been increased again, lowering the temperature to 103. The soak was pretty good. I didn't say 'stellar' because I have a feeling that the main pool is too big, meaning the flow is too slow. I have recently been given additional hot springs measurement criteria that will shed some light on this. Next time I visit I will post the new results. Thank you Rick!

I came away with only 1 Red Spider Mite / Chigger bite. Out of my soaking companions, only one came away with bites, and only a couple at that. Once again, all 3 of us filled our extra bags with trash. This was quite the regular routine on this trip. Everywhere we went we were filling up bags with trash. On drive out I felt a quiet, sad feeling hit me as the realization that half my truck was full of trash set in.

Very nice indeed. Instead of 2 or 3 smaller soaking opportunities that often yielded mixed results we discovered that there is now 1, and it delivers! The large, log-dammed pool was a perfect 103; excellent for toasty prolonged soaking. On our way in we passed a couple and their dogs (running wild off-leash) and a group of 3 on a 4-wheeler that just barley fit on the trail - all on their way back out. Everyone was cordial, and we found out that they were the ones camping near the trailhead. I was primarily stoked that we were able to enjoy Vulcan properly before the late afternoon storm picked up steam and chased us off.

The upper pool below the source was super toasty, while the middle pool was a bit cooler. Slight amount of goobers, tons of what I call a strain of government engineered super-mosquitoes (you've been warned... bring your bug juice or learn the hard way like I did) and no notice of trash made this somewhat worthwhile. The mosquitoes really did me in. Other than that though, AOK. The meadow just before the pull out was loaded with a huge grouping of Elk, a definite plus to the whole trip. On our way to the pools we past a lady with 8 kids! And, on our way out we past a couple scouting for a good HS for their family to soak in.

Temperature Readings
Upper pool: 109, creek wide pool: 98

Rating C+

Average Rating: B+

Traffic Updates

08.04.06 & 08.05.06
Just about every possible primitive site or place to park and camp at the trailhead was taken, only one, small space was left and no vehicles were in the TH parking area. On the 5th, there was actually about 3 open primitive sites and 4 vehicles in the TH parking.

There was a huge get-together of some sort going on just west of the trailhead. There was a small fleet of RVs, ORVs and at least 40 or so people, and you can bet they made good use of the hot springs. That's a little too many folks to share a soak with; so I left.

Word is that this weekend some off-duty BLM staffers are throwing a huge $50/head rager at the same location - exclusive invite only, and oh yes, kegs of beer. -That's just great, no additional comments from me because I'll just end up getting myself in trouble.


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