Goldbug Hot Springs in Idaho is truly one of the most magical hot springs I have ever come across. This location is something straight out of a dream. After hiking up the side of a mountain, you’ll arrive at a series of cliffside natural hot springs that are fed by a nearby creek and spread out into sprawling falls of water.
Read on to discover how to get to Goldbug Hot Springs, learn about the hike, when the best time to go is, what to expect, and more.
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Facts about Goldbug Hot Springs:
Craving a peaceful outdoor getaway, away from the city? Goldbug is truly in a remote location away from it all, in a hike-in-only location that is thirty miles from the nearest town of Salmon, Idaho.
Your outdoor spa awaits, complete with dramatic mountain views and a natural infinity pool.
Hot Spring Temperature: 113 °F (45 °C), but the water temperature of each pool will vary depending on the time of the year, amount of precipitation, etc.
Hot Spring Floor: The hot springs have a gravel bottom and are dammed by large borders.
How do you get to Goldbug Hot Springs?
Goldbug Hot Springs is located near Elk Bend, Idaho. It is 30 minutes from Salmon, Idaho and 43 minutes from Challis, Idaho.
See below for a map of the location of the parking lot and trailhead:
The Hike to Goldbug Hot Springs:
The hike to Goldbug Hot Springs is considered medium/difficult in many hiking guides, but I found this hike very easy and don’t believe it deserves that rating. Here are the details:
Length: Two miles one way / four miles return
Elevation: 1350 feet gained / 411 metres
The turnoff is close to mile marker 282 on highway 93, South of Salmon, Idaho and north of Challis, Idaho. Follow a short dirt road heading East that ends at the trailhead. You’ll come across wooden fences and a sign indicating you are in the right location.
There are restrooms (outhouses) just a short wander past the trailhead sign. (Consider putting your bathing suit on under your hiking clothes to make changing a breeze once you arrive at the hot springs)
Note: You will see homes along the dirt road and trailhead – don’t let this confuse or deter you; you’re in the right location!
What to Expect: The well-travelled hiking trail up to Goldbug Hot Springs is easy to follow. If you look up towards the mountain range, find the “V” shape cut into the ridge – the pools are located close to the point of the “V”, and you can use this location as motivation during your hike!
The first section of the hike is private property, and but you are welcome to traverse it. After you pass a gate, you’ll be hiking on national forest land. The hike begins on the side of a hill and quickly switchbacks up and over, and then drops down to land that resembles desert.
It climbs steadily for the first 10 minutes, then remains mostly flat for the next 20 minutes or so, and finally begins to climb much more steeply as you arrive closer to the waterfalls and hot spring pools. After you pass this flat land, you’ll wander through trees, and the elevation will begin again.
Near the end of the hike, you will start climbing up rock boulders and, eventually, over wooden box steps just before you reach the hot springs. In this area, watch to your left and admire the mossy, waterfall-covered oasis. Once you are past this section, the last leg of the hike takes you over the box steps and to a small wooden bridge. Get ready to feast your eyes on the beautiful hot springs, and the water that cascades over the cliffs and creates 15-foot waterfalls. There are multiple pools for you to explore! The further away you go from the top pool, the cooler the water will be.
When is the best time to visit Goldbug Hot Springs?
Summer: Temperatures in the summer may climb into the high 80’s and the climate then is very dry; pack extra water if you’re visiting in the summer! This is likely also the time the springs receive the most foot traffic.
Winter: In the winter, temperatures can dip into the single digits or below. However, the heavy snowpack is the concern. Due to Goldbug’s high elevation, the snow can become a major burden and may stop many people from hiking. Come prepared with winter gear if you’re attempting to visit Goldbug in the winter months. We brought snowshoes with us during our December 2019 visit, but found we didn’t need to use them as the trail was well packed down. However, ice cleats definitely helped, especially on the way down!
Spring: The spring is an appealing time to visit Goldbug, with near perfect weather. However, the melting snow can make the trail muddy and slippery. The water is at its highest level in the spring, and also cooler, due to the meltwater.
Autumn: Autumn is truly an ideal time to visit Goldbug Hot Springs. The weather is great for hiking, and the hot springs are a perfect temperature for soaking in. However, this leaves a fairly narrow window for hikers who are seeking the “perfect” Goldbug experience, and the springs are guaranteed to be busy.
Even if you have a crowd enjoying the hot springs with you, the people who hike here tend to be very friendly and considerate, so enjoy meeting hour fellow hot spring enthusiasts!
As always, if you’re looking for prime photography opportunity, consider enjoying the hot springs around the hours surrounding sunrise and sunset. The springs will be their least busy, and the light at its optimum for magical photos.
You’ll want to utilize a wide angle lens to shoot the entire hot springs in one shot.
Also, consider using a polarizing filter to decrease glare in the water reflection.
Where to Stay Near Goldbug Hot Springs:
Accommodation in this area is somewhat limited, but here are some options on where to stay close to Goldbug Hot Springs. Perfect if you want an early or late start to beat the crowds!
LOOKING FOR A HOTEL IN IDAHO?
Hot Spring Etiquette:
Following proper hot spring etiquette and Leave No Trace principles are incredibly important, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for years to come. Thank you for continuing to read and educating yourself on these important principles!
Hot Spring Etiquette:
- Follow Leave No Trace Principles: you can find out more about them here.
- Respect Nudity: Plenty of backcountry hot springs are clothing-optional. Research this before you go and follow the rules accordingly. Be respectful of those who do decide to bathe nude.
- Do Not Bathe: Natural hot springs are both your own personal bathtub. If possible, bathe or shower before entering any geothermal pools to reduce the spread of bacteria. Soaps and shampoos are now allowed in or near hot springs, to do your bathing elsewhere.
- Take Turns: Natural hot springs are usually smaller pools of water and can get congested with people quite easily. Be respectful of others who are sharing this experience with you. A good rule of thumb is to feel comfortable asking others when they anticipate their turn to be done, if there is limited room remaining in a hot spring. Be patient and wait your turn.
- Test The Water: Always test the water before hopping in to make sure it isn’t scalding. Remember, this is a natural hot pool and the temperature is not regulated like a man-made pool.
- No Camping: In the backcountry, do not set up camp right next to a pool and claim it as your own. Rule of thumb is that you should try to set up camp at least 200 yards away. Check the rules of each hot spring location to ensure that camping is allowed.
- Dogs Are Not Allowed: Hot springs are usually too hot for dogs, and not especially healthy for them to drink from. Many strangers will also not appreciate bathing in the same pool as your pup. Each hot springs has its own particular rules, but consider leaving the pooches at home for these trips!
- Drink Plenty of Water: Hot springs can induce heat stroke or fainting spells in those who are dehydrated, especially the hottest springs. Always carry and drink lots of water when enjoying hot springs. If you begin to feel lightheaded or too hot, listen to your body and take a break
What To Bring to Natural Hot Springs:
Bring one with plenty of room to stash towels, change of clothes, water, food, camera, the rest of your gear, etc.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND:
- Osprey Packs Ariel AG 55L Backpack – Women’s
- Mammut Trion Guide 45+7L Backpack
- Deuter Aircontact Lite SL 45+10L Backpack – Women’s
- Gregory Maven 45L Backpack – Women’s
- Arc’teryx Bora AR 50L Backpack – Men’s
- The North Face Cobra 60L Backpack
- Gregory Stout 45L Backpack
- Osprey Packs Eja 48L Backpack – Women’s
Here are some fantastic options to begin with if you’re looking for a new pair of hiking shoes:
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND:
- KEEN Oakridge Hiking Shoe – Women’s
- Merrell Moab FST 2 Hiking Shoe – Women’s
- Merrell Chameleon 7 Stretch Waterproof Hiking Shoe – Men’s
- KEEN Targhee ll Waterproof Hiking Shoe – Men’s
Not everyone will require hiking poles, but they can definitely come in handy for those steep descents, or if your knees aren’t the best and you’d like a little extra support! Here are some great options:
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND:
Even if you don’t plan to hike in or out in the dark, a headlamp is a necessity, just in case. And don’t forget extra batteries. Here are some awesome options:
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND:
Other Items to Pack:
- Hiking clothes and layers proper to the season you’re in (shorts, tank tops, warm layers, extra socks, sports bras, underwear, etc.)
- Water shoes (helpful for walking in and out of the water with rocky bottoms)
- Waterproof phone case or camera
- A bag to pack out your garbage (everything you hike in MUST be hiked out)
- Packing cubes for keeping your personal items organized (I love EagleCreek brand)
- First-Aid kid (for blisters, injuries, headaches/pain, illnesses etc)
- Water bottle(s) – I prefer Nalgene brand
- Adequate food / snacks and water for the day
I’m working on an entire blog series dedicated to the best Idaho Hot Springs. Are you interested in being notified when the next blog posts go live? Sign up for my email list!
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Questions or comments about Goldbug Hot Springs or other Idaho hot springs? Some other topics you’d like me to cover? I’d love to hear from you, just leave me a comment below!