A resort town in southeastern Idaho draws visitors—but not the crowds—in wintertime.
Tucked into the rolling Portneuf Range in the southeastern part of the Gem State, Lava Hot Springs is one of Idaho’s busiest resort towns—at least in summer. By December, the crowds are long gone, but the tiny town’s family-friendly funkiness remains. Area code is 208.
- Every day, 2.5 million gallons of sulfur-free water, heated deep underground by an ancient volcano, ﬂow through outdoor hot pools owned and run by the state. Usual temps in the gravel-bottomed waters run between 102 and 112 degrees. 430 E. Main St., 776-5221, lavahotsprings.com.
- Find Tibetan prayer ﬂags, unicorn statues, cow skulls, incense, jewelry, and miscellaneous New Age talismans at Purple Moon. 50 E. Main St.
- It’s been over a decade since Riverwalk Thai Food opened its doors, and the cashew chicken still draws rave reviews. 695 E. Main St., 776-5872.
- Learn about the marriage that brought a trapper into the Lemhi tribe—and the town of Lava Hot Springs into existence—at the South Bannock County Historical Center Museum. 110 E. Main St.
- Guests who venture through a secret door at the Lions Gate Manor uncover the Phantom’s Lair. The suite, designed by owner John Clark and his daughter Shalyce, pays tribute to The Phantom of the Opera and features a replica of the phantom’s private theater room. 10376 Dempsey Creek Rd., 776-5118.
- At the annual Fire & Ice Winterfest (the first week of February each year), you can enter a chili cookoff, indulge in wine tasting, brave the Portneuf River in the Polar Bear Float, and sprint down Main Street in a bathing suit and ﬂip-ﬂops. Or just watch. 776-5500.
Photography by Scot Zimmerman
This article was first published in May 2011 and updated in June 2018. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.