Last summer, Emily and I went camping outside of Crouch, Idaho. A coworker had told me that there were several designated campgrounds, though they usually filled up quickly. However, she pointed out, there were an overabundance of places to camp along the dirt road outside of town. There were in fact several camping spots that weren’t “designated,” but rolling into the campsites after work on a Friday, pickins’ were slim. We managed to find a spot in a campground (right next to the toilets), though in retrospect, next time we will leave on a Thursday to snag a spot next to the river.
What does this have to do with attempting to find Rocky Canyon Hot Springs? Well, as it turns out, Rocky Canyon is off the very same dirt road we had ventured on earlier that summer. On our summer camping trip, we hiked further back into the mountains to a small hot pool off the river, so I knew hot springs were somewhere in the vicinity, I just didn’t know where. Armed with this piece of knowledge (and the help of Google Maps), Emily and I solicited some of our friends, and we drove up to Crouch to do a little hot springing.
I had read about Rocky Canyon Hot Springs on multiple sites, but there didn’t seem to be any recent posts or updates on the status of these hot springs. Are they accessible in the winter? How do you get there? Do you really have to cross a river? Are they even still there? We had a backup plan, in the event that we were unable to find the hot springs, and it’s probably a good thing because, well, we didn’t make it to the hot springs.
To get to Rocky Canyon from Boise, take Highway 55 up to the Banks/Lowman Road and take a right on Highway 17 (also known as the Banks/Lowman Road). Continue on 17 until you see the sign to turn left to Crouch (also known as S. Middlefork Road). You’ll then follow S. Middlefork Road for about 10 miles and the hot springs are on your left. Case in point, multiple sites point out that once you arrive at the parking spot for the hot springs, you then need to cross the Payette, as the hot springs are on the opposite side of the parking area. This was what I was most looking forward to (who wouldn’t want to say they forged a river to get to hot springs?) and my disappointment was palpable when we were unable to make it on the road to Rocky Canyon.
There were four of us in our Tacoma, and our two friends caravanned behind us in their super sick camping van. My friend had asked me before if 4-wheel drive was necessary to reach the hot springs, and I assumed they weren’t, as their van would not make it on any icy roads. We drove about five miles on S. Middlefork Road before coming to a giant snow barrier in the middle of the road, blocking our path. One would assume this meant do not continue forward, but the truck had other ideas (it was totally all the truck). I threw it into 4-wheel drive and hit the gas and we gunned across the giant snow mound to the other side (I maybe channeled the final scene from Thelma & Louise where they go careening off the cliff to their deaths—complete with the fierce warrior yell). The road on the other side of that snow wall was a solid sheet of ice and snow, and as the truck fishtailed back and forth across the road, I could see the sweat dripping off my passenger’s faces. Apparently their sense of adventure ends with potentially sliding off the road in our truck into the icy depths of the Middlefork of the Payette. We made it about half a mile on the road before we (everyone else) decided to turn around, lest we get stuck and then have to explain that we (I) disregarded the giant snow wall.
Luckily, Terrace Lakes Resort in Crouch offered a consolation hot pool (to the tune of $10/person) right down the road, and we seem to be hitting these public pool/hot springs areas quite well, as we had the entire pool to ourselves for a little over an hour. It was so much fun hanging out with all our friends and relaxing in the heated pools (and drinking copious amounts of Powderhaus Brewing beer)! I definitely recommend Terrace Lakes for a backup hot pool, though it can get a bit busy (it was PACKED with kids and adults by about 3:00 p.m.), however, you can bring your own alcohol in, and alcohol always helps with obnoxious children.
My birthday is coming up in March, and we have decided to attempt Rocky Canyon again when the snow has hopefully melted and the road is less of a hazard. Stay tuned!