As avid adventurers, Idaho has been a long-time favorite adventure and road trip destination for us. Yet despite the long periods we’ve spent exploring Idaho’s Sawtooth Range, McCall, North Idaho, and the Tetons, it’s taken us 5 years to visit the popular tourist destination of Lava Hot Springs.
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We visited Lava Hot Springs this last July of 2020 and believe it or not, it may have been the most fun we had the whole summer☀️
While I loved all the hiking, climbing, and biking we did this summer, there was something really special about our 2 days at Lava Hot Springs. It was fun for everyone in our family and as cheesy as it sounds, it was an opportunity for all of us to bond over inner tubes and water slides.
On top of it, the amazing, relaxing hot pools were the perfect way to top off the laughing and adrenaline of floating down the river in giant inner tubes.
Lava Hot Springs proves to be a popular pitstop during Yellowstone and Glacier NP Road Trips—worth considering if en route.
Lava Hot Springs is one of the best summer destinations your family could visit and this Lava Hot Springs travel guide is here to help you make the most of your trip.
Lava Hot Springs is located in the southeast corner of Idaho just minutes from the I-15. Lava Hot Springs is 35 minutes southeast of Pocatello, 1 hour 15 minutes southeast of Idaho Falls, 2 hours 45 minutes southwest of Jackson Hole, and 2 hours north of Salt Lake City.
For just the hot pools (one time entry):
Monday through Thursday: $7.50 for 3-11 or 60+ and $8.00 for 12-59
Friday through Sunday and Holidays: $9.50 for 3-11 or 60+ and $10.00 for 12-59
Kids 2 and under are $3.00
For just the water park:
Monday through Thursday: $9.50 for 3-11 years, or $10.00 for 12 and older
Friday through Sunday and Holidays: $11.00 for 3-11 years, or $12.00 for 12 and older
Kids 2 and under are $3.00
For both the hot pools & water park combo:
Monday through Thursday: $16.00 for ages 3 and older
Friday through Sunday and Holidays: $20.00 for 3 and older
Kids 2 and under are always $6.00
Wednesday Family Pass options:
Hot Pools only: $26.00 for up to 4 people, $6.00 for each additional person (up to 6)
Water Park only: $35.00 for up to 4 people, $7.50 for each additional person (up to 6)
Family Combination Pass: $55.00 for up to 4 people, $12.00 for each additional person (up to 6)
Hot Pools: 8 am-11 pm
Olympic Pool (Water Park): 11 am-8 pm
While there are many spots to rent inner tubes in Lava Hot Springs, I think the easiest place to rent from is Portneuf Rapids because it is located next to the river exit point, has a shuttle service, and is right next to the water park.
Koa West is the best location since it is next door to the Water Park. However, if you want something more affordable and quieter, Mary’s Place is really nice too.
Things to Know about Visiting Lava Hot Springs in Summer
If you have a chance to play at Lava Hot Springs this summer, here are a few tips:
- Everything in Lava Hot Springs is close together and easy to walk between. The entire town is only a few blocks and there’s a grocery store, lots of restaurants, and plenty of hotels to stay at right in the center of it all.
- Lava Hot Springs is budget friendly! We’ve included costs for each thing to do in the following sections. Camping is $60/night on average and accommodation is $100/night on average.
- Traveling as a family? Try and visit on a Wednesday. On Wednesdays, it’s $43.00 for up to 4 people to visit both the waterpark and the hot pools. ($10.00 for each additional family member).
- The water park can get quite crowded in the middle of the day, especially on the weekends. We got there right when it opened and played for a few hours, took a lunch break back at the RV, and then went back from 5-8 pm when there were almost no lines.
Why You Should Visit Lava Hot Springs
“What’s so great about Lava Hot Springs?” is a question that ran through my mind when people told me about this summer destination. I mean, sure it’s a hot spring, but knowing what the surrounding area near Lava Hot Springs looked like, I imagined it being unspectacular.
Lava Hot Springs isn’t just a hot spring, it’s a full-fledged summer fun town. With an outdoor water park, a river to float down, lovely grassy areas to soak up the sun, and of course, a hot spring, Lava is full of good old-fashioned summer adventure and it has something for the whole family.
What to Do in Lava Hot Springs
The Hot Pools
Lava’s actual Hot Spring is world-famous for its healing powers. Normally I find hot springs that aren’t found in nature to be disappointing, however, I enjoyed these.
The Lava Hot Pools are small, modern, and clean with shades covering the pools from the hot sun. There are multiple different pools of different temperatures and signs marking how warm each one is.
Of course, there were also showers, changing rooms, and lockers. Overall, it’s a super pleasant hot spring pool and in summer, it’s not very crowded. Honestly, the only bad thing is that it’s so hot in the summer you almost don’t need the warm water. I’d recommend going here in the evening or at sunrise during a summer visit.
Bonus: The Hot Pools are open in the wintertime which is probably even more amazing however the other Lava Hot Springs features won’t be a part of your trip.
Lava Hot Pool Rates:
Monday through Thursday
$7.50 for 3-11 or 60+, $8.00 for 12-59, $3.00 for 2 & under
Friday through Sunday and Holidays
$9.50 for 3-11 or 60+, $10.00 for 12-59, $3.00 for 2 & under
Related: 21 Bucket List Things to do in Idaho
The Water Park
While the waterpark here is no Six Flags, the park as a whole is tons of fun. The waterpark contains a 3 tiered diving platform, 2 springboards, 3 big waterslides, 3 small waterslides, and a large pool to play in. An indoor area also contains more fun diving boards and swimming areas.
What I enjoyed was the large grassy area with trees where we could relax if we didn’t want to go in the water.
It’s also nice that you can bring in your food and drinks to enjoy in the grass.
The indoor pool at Lava is open year round but the outdoor pool is only open in the summer.
Monday through Thursday
$9.50 for 3-11 years, or $10.00 for 12 and older, 3.00 for 2 & under
Friday through Sunday and Holidays
$11.00 for 3-11 years, or $12.00 for 12 and older, 3.00 for 2 & under
Related: Best Hikes in Idaho
This is by far my favorite part of visiting Lava Hot Spring. I wasn’t sure what to expect inner tubing here. On one hand, it sounded boring but on the other hand, people had told me that it was intense. It turned out to be so much fun and the perfect amount of adrenaline.
The river tubing isn’t just a free-for (in a good way). Inner tubing is “a thing” here. There is a set route that you follow with platform docks to start your float and an obvious sign marking where to get out.
Group Safety: If you’re tubing in a group, establish a meeting point or communication plan in case anyone gets separated during the journey.
What’s nice is that it’s only a 15-minute walk on the sidewalk to get back to the launch point which to me, felt like a good work-to-reward ratio. When you rent your inner tubes, you also have the option to pay for the shuttle which will eliminate the 15-minute walk in between rides however I’d personally just save the money and take the walk.
The inner tube ride itself is about 15 minutes long. In terms of scariness, it’s not bad if you ride a 4 person tube. The 4-person tubes rarely flip however the 2-person tubes flip most often and 1-person tubes may too.
When you begin your journey there are 3 different platforms to start from. The first one is a small dock and I think the only reason people sometimes start there is to avoid the crowds of the second one. The 2nd one is the common place to start, and the 3rd one is only tackled by the adrenaline junkies who want to go over the big waterfall. Seriously, it’s a legit 10 foot waterfall but what’s crazy is that of the dozen people who we saw do it, not a single one of them flipped.
And one last thing to mention is that the rapids will be bigger earlier in the spring/summer. Take that into account if you’re nervous.
Inner Tube Rates:
There are tons of inner tube rentals in town and rates vary by place that you rent from. We used the one across the street from the waterpark and were happy with the price/service.
Here’s an example rate card from the inner tube rental service we used. We found 2 hours to be the perfect amount of time to spend tubing.
Rentals are also only available from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Best Campgrounds in Lava Hot Springs
Truly, the best and most popular way to visit Lava Hot Springs is via camper. There are so many great campgrounds nestled into the lush valley and while there are some hotels, the campgrounds here are far more scenic and it tops off the whole experience.
If you visit in a camper, I’d recommend staying at Mary’s Place or the KOA West.
We stayed at this Mary’s Place Campground because it was a bit cheaper than the KOA, it had nice tree coverage, and we could still walk to the waterpark, hot pools, and town. There are free showers and bathrooms however they weren’t super nice but the sites have full hookups. While it was a 5-minute walk to town, we liked that it was a bit more secluded here.
If you don’t mind the expense, the KOA West is the best campground to stay at in Lava. It’s located right across the street from the water park, the inner tube rentals, and a couple blocks from the Hot Pools. It’s also forested, riverside, and like all KOAs, has nice amenities.
Portneuf Bend and Lava Campground are 2 other options however they aren’t within walking distance of all the things to do. These are however cheaper options and aren’t a problem if you can drop your trailer and drive with a car.
Best Hotels in Lava Hot SpringsBooking.com
- Best Hikes in Idaho
- 21 Bucket List Things to do in Idaho
- Reasons to Visit Grand Targhee Resort in the Summer
- Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier National Park Road Trip
- 1 Day Yellowstone Itinerary
Did this help you plan your trip to Lava Hot Springs? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to pin this to your Idaho Pinterest boards.