Idaho has the most usable hot springs in the entire US: 130 springs out of the state’s 340 are “soakable.”

Yes, it’s warm down there underground. The state apparently sits above a massive hot spot that fuels not only this but the springs and geysers of Yellowstone National Park.

So, locals have their pick from rustic pools that are run like swimming holes of the 1950s to private (sneak in spots) to elaborate places that have been visited for well over a century.

In winter, many rent a snowmobile and thrash their way around … something that could be risky if you don’t know where you’re going or how to get there.

Snowmobiling to Burgdorf Hot Springs near McCall, ID. Photo: Mark Schneider.

A new option is the guided snowmobile trek out of Brundage Mountain ski resort through Brundage Snowmobile Adventures ($295 per person per day).

My friends and I met our guide, climbed aboard 800 cc Skidoos and took off.

That machine could climb a wall. It took a bit to figure it out, but soon enough, we were motoring along, cutting into a forest thick with pine, fir and Tamarack.

It was snowing lightly, giving the landscape an ethereal glow. We traveling through a Christmas card during the snowiest winter in 30 years.

The trail took us up foothills, where we stopped at an overlook, then down, finally, to an old pioneer trail. I got my machine up to 50mph on an open stretch, but kept wondering what would happen if I got bounced off.

Thirty-five miles after leaving Brundage, we turned into Burgdorf Hot Springs.

This place is a legend, owned by a local family and operating since 1865. It’s rustic, but has amenities. You can rent a cabin overnight for $40 per person, and there’s a simple cafe for food.

In winter,  Burgdorf Hot Springs looks like a Hallmark scene. Rustic cabins sit picturesquely scattered around the rolling property and in the middle is the spring … a large, rectangular pool with gravel bottom and two smaller, VERY hot pools.

Inside the main building, caretaker Caroline Huntley chatted about the springs’ history… how Fred Burgdorf built a simple hotel in the l800s and people would come by horseback to stay and soak.

In summer, you arrive by car, but in winter, the only way in is by snowmobile.

We removed our travel duds and hit the water.

Main pool at Burgdorf Hot Springs during a light snowfall.

The main pool is a soothing 100 degrees. The two small pools at the end hit 108 degrees or so; good for maybe five minutes while peering through icicles at the snowy landscape.

Lose as a noodle, we climbed back into our snowmobile suits, took off and returned to Brundage.

As one last adventure on the final stretch of road, four skiers and a snowboarder came freefalling down the mountainside, cutting between trees through powder and entered the road before us.

We waved as we sped past. A few minutes later we were back at the resort’s main lodge.

 

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