How to Visit Natural Goldbug Hot Springs, Idaho

goldbug hot springs idaho

Idaho is a hot spring connoisseur’s utopia, and I think none are more beautiful than Goldbug hot springs. In fact, thus far in my natural hot spring pursuit, Goldbug hot springs in Idaho come out the clear winner.

Natural hot springs aren’t typically on the major tourist track, until they are, and then they sometimes get ruined and closed. So there is always an ethical debate that goes on within me when I write about a pristine place. That’s not to say Goldbug hot springs are not well known, but they thankfully didn’t seem overrun or trashed when I was there. So please, if you make the journey to this special place, treat it with respect and leave not a single trace that you were there.

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goldbug hot springs heart shaped pool

Getting to Goldbug Hot Springs, Idaho

Goldbug hot springs can be found about half an hour from the town of Salmon, Idaho. The cute small town with a population just over 3,000 has a handful of restaurants, cafes, gas stations, and hotels. Salmon is definitely the closest place to Goldbug hot springs to grab a meal. The other closest “town” on the map is Elk Bend, but it’s really just an RV Park and Campground.

Traveling on highway 93 along the Salmon River, if you come from the south, like Stanley, Idaho, the road for Goldbug hot springs will be on your right. Google initially led us to a locked gated road with a big sign that says “For Goldbug hot springs keep going another 1/2 mile,” or something to that effect. Maybe Google has updated it by now, but you are looking for a road called Warm Springs on the right near mile marker 282. If you’re arriving from Salmon, Warm Springs Road will be on the left immediately after passing a campground and RV park.

highway 93 from Stanley Idaho to Goldbug hot springs

If there are other people at Goldbug hot springs, you’ll see vehicles parked all down the side of the short gravel road to where it ends. There are homes along Warm Springs road so be respectful with noise and make sure not to block any driveways. There is a bathroom at the trailhead.

gold bug hot springs outhouse

Hike to Goldbug Hot Springs

The trailhead is super obvious from the parking lot. It starts where the bathroom is. The hike is approximately 2 miles each way with around 1000-1,350 feet of elevation gain (depending on the source). I would consider it moderately strenuous because of the climb towards the end. The start of the hike begins with about a quarter mile of thigh burning switchbacks that’ll get your heart pumping for a few minutes too until you cross through the gate onto public land.

goldbug hot springs gate entrance

For a while, the trail stays pretty level as it meanders along Warm Spring Creek. You can tent camp for free along the trail in a few spots as well, and there are even limited spots up above the hot springs when you get there, but you must be at least 500 feet from the springs. Your hike takes you through the valley with mountains around you. There is lots of sagebrush and it’s actually a really pretty hike.

hike to goldbug hot springs

Once you cross a footbridge, that’s when the elevation gain begins. For about a quarter mile, there is a lot of stair-stepping up big rocks and finally an actually long wooden staircase. Then you’ll start seeing little falls and warm water on your left.

The Pools at Goldbug Hot Springs

Once you reach the top, there is another bridge and you’ll see the main pools on your left. Most people will be in the big main pool.

There is one pool on the right side of the bridge where hot and cold water both mix, so it’s a useable pool, but the hotter main pool is down below the bridge after you cross it. Explore your way around the pools trying the varying temperatures. In the hottest, most popular heart shaped pool, hot water cascades from above and you can nestle yourself into the little cubby and let it cascade all around you.

Not the most flattering picture, but I was blissful in this little nook.

We thought there might be more hot pools farther up the hill, but the water is ice cold not far up the hill past the bridge. Plus, there were a couple camp spots and random toilet paper on the ground (gross, not cool). So we came back down to the bridge.

goldbug hot springs final bridge

If you continue down the hill past the main pool, there is another smaller pool down below that is a little cooler. It is more private and still has great views.

Fantastic times of day to experience Goldbug hot springs are sunset and sunrise. Of course, sunset is more popular and can have a rowdier crowd. My advice would be to begin your hike before sunrise when it’s still dark and arrive to watch the sunrise from the pool. On a Monday morning, we had the pools to ourselves for at least an hour, even though there was a camper there, he didn’t wake up. If you can be there on a weekday, you significantly increase your chances of having the place to yourself.

Goldbug hot springs sunrise

The Secret Cave Pool at Goldbug Hot Springs

Goldbug hot springs are no secret, but not many people know about the hidden cave pool with a waterfall cascading into it. It pains me a little to even write about it publicly.

On your way down as you leave the hot springs, probably about 50 yards or after a couple minutes walking, there is a little area with a waterfall that cascades over a ledge. There is a lot of moss around. Walk through the creek and look behind the waterfall. You can actually climb up the slippery rocks into the cave behind the big waterfall and there’s a pool behind it.

The water is not very warm, but just warm enough to sit comfortably. In the ceiling is a hole with a perfect water shower cascading into the pool. It’s honestly incredible. One of the most magical things I’ve seen in my life and my jaw was basically dropped the entire time. Try to keep it on the low down, ok?

What Time of Year to Visit Goldbug Hot Springs

Honestly, anytime will be fantastic. We went in the fall and it was perfect. Nice and crisp in the mornings but comfortable during the day. Spring is a great time of year as well because everything is greener, but then you have more chance of rain and slippery muddy trails. Summer in general is probably my least favorite time of year to visit hot springs because it’s too warm and there just seems to be more people road tripping and camping. I still hope to visit Goldbug hot springs in the winter months because it looks magical! Depending on if there is fresh snow, consider snowshoes or micro spikes for ice.

Where to Stay When Visiting Goldbug Hot Springs

If you want to really get the most out of your visit to Goldbug hot springs, and actually go at sunrise and have them to yourselves, then you’ll want to stay nearby. Your options are staying 30 minutes away in Salmon or stay closer around Elk Bend.

Where to Stay Around Salmon, Idaho

There are not a lot of places to stay in Salmon – it is a town of around 3,000 after all. But there is a Super 8 and The Stagecoach Inn. Not my first choices.

Twin Peaks Guest Ranch

However, the absolute BEST place to stay in the area is Twin Peaks Guest Ranch. It’s closer to Goldbug hot springs than Salmon, you get your own adorable cabin, it’s family run, and the views are outstanding! We could not recommend Twin Peaks Guest Ranch more highly.

Other, more plentiful options are on Airbnb. I’m a big fan of Airbnb, I run an airbnb myself, but I prefer to use Booking when I travel just because of the fees on Airbnb. But I do love the uniqueness of Airbnb stays. There are some very cool cabins in the Salmon area. Check them out HERE.

The Salmon Gypsy Bed and Breakfast is particularly unique and it’s right near Elk Bend by the trailhead to Goldbug hot springs. They apparently have mini donkeys which means I may have to stay there next time.

Rules at Goldbug Hot Springs, Idaho

Amazingly, dogs are allowed on a leash, which is so cool to me. I love dogs and mine is family, so I’m always grateful for dogs being allowed on trails.

As I mentioned before, the first quarter mile of the trail is private property, so absolutely do not litter or disrupt the homes or property in anyway, otherwise the ability to visit this pristine place will be jeopardized.

Do not use fireworks or firearms at any time. Check the signboard for fire restrictions.

Bikes are prohibited on the trail. Use your feet.

Pack it in, pack it out. This should be obvious. Toilet paper, beer cans, candle wax, your dirty socks, your Twix wrapper – whatever -PACK IT OUT!

What to Pack for Visiting Goldbug Hot Springs

Like any hike, wear good footwear. Flip flops are probably not going to make it any easy hike. Hiking shoes or hiking sandals, and boots and spikes in the winter are ideal. The brands I list here are either based on personal experience or top ratings on Amazon.

Flip flops or water sandals – Once you get up there, it’s really nice to have a pair of sandals to slip on and walk around in the dirt and rocks and in the pools, especially if you have sensitive feet. I love my La Sportivas for hiking and these Tevas sandals are nice and light and can just be strapped to your backpack.


Water bottle – you’d be surprised how much hiking, sweating, and the sun can all dehydrate you. Come prepared with hydration. I’m a huge fan of this Iron brand for a better price than popular Hydro Flasks.

Sun hat/sunglasses – anytime of year, the sun can give you a nasty burn. This trail does not have a ton of coverage for much of it. I love compressible sun hats for travel.

Headlamp – if you decide to hike before sunrise or stay after dark, you should absolutely have a headlamp. That trail can be riddled with steps, rocks, and roots to trip you up. 

Sunscreen – but please use the mineral kind that is less harmful to the environment when it goes into the water, like zinc oxide. Avoid other lotions and creams before getting in the springs. These have both been listed as ocean friendly and 100% reef safe by, but when you can, always opt for non plastic packaging!


Towel – I love a hiking towel that dries quick and doesn’t take up much room. I always bring one for my body and one smaller one for my feet to stand on when I’m drying off and putting socks and shoes back on.

Camera – for real, this place is insanely beautiful. You’ll want your camera if you’re into photography. If you’re curious what camera and lens I carry, here they are:


Snacks – You’ll likely take about 45 minutes to an hour to get up to the hot springs, a good hour or more to soak, and then 30-45 minutes coming down. Snacks are always a good idea! This is not sponsored, I just love GoMacro bars more than any other protein bar!

If you’re camping, of course, you’ll need much more. But I’ll leave that planning to you.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this overview of Goldbug hot springs in Idaho. It truly is a marvelous, off the beaten path place to visit and I can’t recommend the drive, the hike, and the soak more. For me, it’s almost an 8 hour drive from home in Washington, but well worth the scenery and experience!

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2 thoughts on “How to Visit Natural Goldbug Hot Springs, Idaho”

  1. Idaho is so amazing for so many Hot Springs. Used to go many years ago. There’s a book that tells you where and how to find them. Maybe Hot Springs of the NW. Great Adventures!

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