Idaho’s Best-Kept Secret — Goldbug Hot Springs

We love getting recommendations from people when we travel. Whether through blog sites like this one or directly from people we meet on the road, it’s a great way to add exciting stops not found in guidebooks. This was exactly how we found out about Idaho’s best-kept secret — Goldbug Hot Springs.

While having a beer in Whitefish, Montana, we met Damian. He was completing a workaway in Idaho and told us about his time at Goldbug Hot Springs. He hadn’t seen anything about it in guidebooks — it was a suggestion passed along friend-to-friend, and now, we were in on the secret too. It was also en route to the Sawtooth Mountains, which were our next big stop. Everything lined up perfectly, so we excitedly added it to our itinerary.

Goldbug Hot Springs — Quite possibly the best natural hot springs on public lands.

The Drive to the Goldbug Trailhead

From high mountain passes to valleys along gorgeous, winding rivers, the drive through this part of Idaho was beautiful. The skies were a clear, vivid blue, and everything from the grass to the changing tree leaves were a golden hue in the bright sunlight.

Another great thing about Idaho? They have tons on free BLM campgrounds scattered throughout the state! We passed several of them on our way to the Goldbug trailhead and were amazed by their beautiful riverfront locations.

As we turned onto the road for the Goldbug trailhead, we thought we were in the wrong place. It looked like we turned onto private property. But we continued until we saw the signs for the trail and prepared for our hike.

The Hike to Goldbug Hot Springs

The hike that day was four miles long — two miles there and two miles back — with a 1350 ft elevation change. The beginning of the trail had tight switchbacks and left us breathless, but then it changed to an easier, more gradually-upward slope. As we walked through a desert-like area, we saw gold-colored grasshoppers leaping up from the sagebrush. “Gold bugs!” we laughed, finally understanding the odd name.

We hiked excitedly toward the mountains and the desert trail led us into old rockslide area, which shifted into a lush, mossy strip next to a small creek. As we hiked up the steps alongside the creek, we started to notice steam rising from it, carrying the slight smell of sulfur into the air. We’d arrived!

Goldbug Hot Springs

As water cascaded off the cliff, it collected into several pools. The pools closest to the top were the warmest, and the water got cooler as it worked its way down to the lower ones. Since we were the first people to trek up to the pools that morning, we had first pick. We chose a larger and hotter pool at the very top and settled in to enjoy the perfectly clear water and the incredible views of the Lemhi Range behind us.

Soaking in the hot water and chatting with the people who joined us was a great experience. Goldbug Hot Springs is on public land and is a wilder hot spring than most of the others we’ve visited, so visitors wore varying levels of clothing while bathing. Jimmy and I had a good laugh after we left because, for the first time, there were more nude young females bathing than nude old men. What luck!

As the sun climbed higher in the sky, we had to make a tough decision: reapply our favorite sunscreen and stay or start the trek back down to our campervan, Dot. We chose the latter of the two and started to trek back down while we were still blissful and without a sunburn. It was an amazing morning and we were a little sad to leave.

Goldbug Hot Springs -- Idaho's Best-Kept Secret

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Hiking back from Goldbug Hot Springs

26 thoughts on “Idaho’s Best-Kept Secret — Goldbug Hot Springs”

  1. Thanks for sharing! I had never heard of this hot springs before. Sounds great, I’ll be sure to check this out if I ever make it to Idaho. The hike is the perfect distance for me to handle.

  2. This looks like an awesome hike with a great reward of the hot springs at the end! I haven’t been to Idaho yet but I’m hoping to do a northwest road trip next summer so I’ll have to keep this in mind.

    1. Elizabeth, we loved Idaho. We drove South from Missoula to Goldbug Hot Springs, the Sawtooth Mountains, Ketchum, and finally Craters of the Moon National Monument before dipping down to Salt Lake City. There was so much hiking and camping everywhere, we are desperate to go back and explore anything we missed! You and your husband will absolutely love Idaho.

  3. What a wonderful thing to discover, thanks to your friend. I am not much of a hiker but would love to do something where the end leads to dipping in a hot spring. I am curious to see if it gets more popular will they built a driveway and start charging a fee.

    1. Hi Arunima! The parking lot and very beginning of this trail are actually located on private land, and then it switches to BLM/public land as you get further up the trail. I’m not sure what kind of contract the private landowners have with BLM, and if they’d be allowed to build up the parking area and entry. I would assume (and hope) they would not! That would be a shame b/c these public lands belong to all of us!

  4. The secret of Goldbug Hot Springs and how it was passed to you reminds me of the movie “The Beach” – somethings are too good to be shared! Glad you had such a great experience!

  5. We have been to the US a few times but yet to get to Idaho. Happy to discover Goldbug Hot Springs. The fact that they are on route to mountains makes them even more inviting! What an amazing reward after a breathless hike! A perfect relaxation. Gold-colored grasshoppers.. wow…would love to see them!

    1. Navita, everything about this experience was absolutely perfect! The drive, the views, the hike, the clear water…just wow. If you get the chance to stop by one day, I’m sure you would love it too!

    1. Janine, it’s funny you say that because I totally agree! It sounds exactly like something you’d find in a children’s book. How fun!

  6. I’ve been to the US a few times but I didn’t visit Idaho and I never thought I’d find such amazing nature over there. The hot springs look absolutely amazing!

    1. Daniel, we didn’t know much about Idaho until a couple of months before our trip. A friend told us it was her favorite state during a 5-state circle she completed over the summer and we were so excited to visit it ourselves! We can’t wait to go back — we could very happily spend a summer here hiking and exploring and hope that you will get the chance to do so too. Cheers!

  7. I seriously had no idea that Idaho had hotsprings like this! i’m adding it to my US must visit list for sure

    1. Yes! If you love to hike, camp or explore hot springs, Idaho will be an incredible vacation destination for you. 🙂

  8. Honestly I feel so ignorant because I had to google Idaho! Thanks for introducing me to a new place! I love the idea of hotspring and have never been to one before

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  10. Thanks for sharing your experience with Goldbug. It is truly magnificent, isn’t it! I have been lucky enough to visit a few times since I moved to Southeast Idaho. Love your blog and appreciate all your tips and words.

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