Party Goers Rescued from Pine Flats Hot Springs in Idaho


Last Saturday, December 20th, a group of 4 men and 2 women partied it up at Pine Flats Hot Springs in the Boise National Forest, which is located about 1.5 hours north of Boise, Idaho. The source and pools are only about a 0.35 mile hike from the official National Forest campground of the same name.

Pine Flats is a popular summer campground destination and is frequented occasionally during the winter months by locals. The hot springs pools are located in a variety of locations near and around the source, and are typically shallow and too cool for wintertime soaking. Despite being easy to reach, pools located above the river require a steep hike up jagged, loose rocks. These are normally the hottest pools, while the riverside soaks are usually much cooler.

From the way the story reads; the group got tanked, didn't protect their clothes from the elements while soaking and then got disorientated on the hike back. Sadly, I've heard renditions of this same story all too frequently in the past, at least a few times each winter. This group was very fortunate that they all made it out alive.

Just a couple weeks ago I almost got into serious trouble at the very same hot springs. I wasn't drinking, but still somehow managed to fall into the hot springs pool with all of my clothes on. In regard to the news article; there's pretty much only one way in and out of Pine Flats... unless they were able to scale an ice-covered cliff or ford the near-frozen Payette River. My guess is that they missed the path back up to the parking area on the return hike and continued east along the river in Lowman's direction. This is where the river gradually shifts back toward the Banks-Lowman highway. Not so in the other direction.

Long story short; 4 of the group ended up on the Banks-Lowman highway without much clothing on when spotted by a snowplow driver, who in-turn called in the Idaho State Patrol. ISP arrived, tracked down the other two, and brought them back into Boise.

Here's a map of Pine Flats, you can see Lowman to the east. Note where the river moves toward the highway...

I'm really glad that everyone made it out ok. When events like these go bad, hot springs get closed down. Something the story neglects to mention, is that the hot springs pools at Pine Flats are currently NOT warm enough for a soak. I would imagine that they began the hypothermia-like chilling process as soon as they climbed into the pool. I can't stress it enough, reliable (waterproof) water thermometers are a very important tool that should be in every hot springer's arsenal. Optimal soaking conditions exist at 100 to 110 degrees, 102-106 is a great target range. Also, a good rule of thumb when in a hot spring pool: 1 beer = 3.

Read the guide to backcountry hot springs; contains gear list, safety info., etiquette and more...

KTVB actually used a few pictures I've taken of Pine Flats in the story video...

More: view pictures, video clips and past trip reports of Pine Flats Hot Springs

As always, check road reports, weather conditions and be prepared when attempting to visit backcountry hot springs during inclement weather seasons.

Be safe and have fun! Happy Holidays!

[where: Lowman, ID]


Ariel said...

I just cannot believe the stupidity of some people...
They are lucky to be alive.

Hot Springs Guy said...

Found the Statesman's coverage of the story, which includes a bunch of info. not reported on in the KIVI story.

Kevin Shamel said...

Hey, HSG! So cool to find your blog. I used to spend A LOT of time at Pine Flats and Bonneville hot springs. A LOT.

This was in 1989 to 1994 or so.

I can see where partiers can get in trouble there, not even from getting themselves lost.

My friends and I spent many a party in the area.

I tried to take my wife there when we were visiting Boise in 2003, but we got there late (dark dark), the river was high, and she's a city girl--the hard way down to the round the bend was not happening.

I read today in your journal that the water is cooling there. That's such a shame. That waterfall pool has provided many gorgeous views for me. I loved sitting there looking over the river. Hoped to do it at least one more time.

But thanks for all this info! You rock. I love hot springs. I'm lookin' for some good ones here in the Puget Sound area. So far it looks like the Olympics...

Keep it up!

Hot Springs Guy said...

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for the kind words. I hope you make it back out to Pine Flats again as well!

Ahh, the Olympics are a stellar soak indeed, there's also Baker, Gamma, Kennedy and Wind River that I've heard are great WA soaks.

Man, I could talk about hot springs forever! Thanks for the comment.

Happy Soaks!

Justin Boggs said...

Ahh, Pine Flats. The home of some amazing childhood camping trips. It's too bad the best pools got washed out in the floods. My most recent Pine Flats trip is the one best known as when I nearly killed my girl friend.
The river was flooded and the only accessible pool was the one around the bend. Once I determined this I took her over to the big slide to show her why there was no way in hell she wanted to go down there. Well, she did anyway, despite an inordinate fear of not having rock solid traction, and a near phobia any high angle situation.
Anyway, we went down, real slow, came up even slower, took about an hour and a half, her on the verge of a nervous breakdown the entire time. Finally get to the cliff face at the top and start crossing over and get to the point where there is one little leap left before getting on solid ground. I set myself up in a solid place and took her hand to steady her on a long step. We miss timed the move and I ended up pulling her off balance and hanging her of about a 12 foot drop off by one hand. I pulled up over the drop and held her safe while she had her little nervous breakdown and then we hiked back. One hell of a time. Now she trusts me when I say, "I don't know if you want to do this one."
It was a bonding moment, but a good illustration of how fast a familiar situation can quickly go badly when you try it with someone of a different skill level.

HSG said...

Nice! Great story with a good ending. It's amazing how fast it can get crazy out there. I miss the glory days of Pine Flats too.

Thanks again for the comment!

HSG said...

A long time ago a good friend and I took a couple ladies out there late at night after work around 3am. Well, same situation really, except for the hanging off a cliff part. ;) Long story short, they probably never went to another hot springs the rest of their life.

Related Posts with Thumbnails