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.
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