Lava Hot Springs: Things to do + where to stay
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!

As avid adventurers, Idaho has been a long time favorite adventure and road trip destination for us. Yet despite the long periods of time 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.

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 is also a surprisingly popular stop on a Yellowstone and Glacier NP Road Trip and I would definitely recommend stopping here if it’s along your route.

Related: Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier National Park Road Trip

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.

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 5-8pm when there were almost no lines at all.

Why You Should Visit Lava Hot Springs

“What’s so great about Lava Hot Springs?” is a question that definitely 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 ol 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 really enjoyed these ones.

Lava Hot Pools
Lava Hot Pools area

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 was.

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
$5.50 for 3-11 or 60+, $6.00 for 12-59.

Friday through Sunday and Holidays
$7.50 for 3-11 or 60+, $8.00 for 12-59.

Click here to see individual combo passes and winter rates.

Related: 21 Bucket List Things to do in Idaho

The Water Park

Lava Hot Springs summer outdoor water park
Summer at Lava Hot Springs 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 spring boards, 3 big waterslides, 3 small waterslides, and a large pool to play in. There’s also an indoor area that contains more fun diving boards and swimming areas.

Lava Waterpark diving platforms
Jiraiya jumping off the diving platforms at the Waterpark

What I really 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 own 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.

Summer rates:

Monday through Thursday
$7.00 for 3-11 years, or $7.50 for 12 and older.

Friday through Sunday and Holidays
$7.00 for 3-11 years, or $7.50 for 12 and older.

Click here to see winter rates.

Related: Best Hikes in Idaho

River Tubing

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 really intense. It turned out to be so much fun and the perfect amount of adrenaline.

Inner tubing Lava Hot Springs
Fun times inner tubing down the Portneuf River in Lava Hot Springs

The river tubing isn’t just a free for all (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.

Lave Hot Springs inner tube take off point
Lave Hot Springs inner tube take off point

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.

Inner Tubing Lava Hot Springs
Walking along the river to get to the takeoff point in Lava Hot Springs

The inner tube ride itself is about 15 minutes long. In terms of scariness, it’s really not bad in you ride a 4 person tube.  The 4-person tubes almost never 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 ended up using the one across the street from the waterpark and were really happy with the price/service.

Here’s an example rate card from the inner tube rental service we used. Personally, we found 2 hours to be the perfect amount of time to spend tubing.

Lava Hot Spring inner tube rentals
Example rate card for the inner tube rental service we used

Rentals are also only available from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Click here for more FAQ.

Where to Stay 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 really 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 definitely 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.

If you’re not a camper, some good hotel options include Riverside Hot Springs Inn good for couples, The Alpaca Inn which is great for families, or Lava Hideout Cabins for an entire place to yourself.

Booking.com

Related:

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.

Lava Hot Springs: Things to do + where to stay
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!