Idaho Hot Springs

Goldbug Hot Springs in Idaho - Salmon-Challis National Forest

In a remote part of the state, nestled in rugged backcountry between the small towns of Salmon and Challis, is Idaho's most majestic high desert hot springs. A chain of 6 or so waterfall-fed pools is the reward for intrepid soak seekers willing to endure a grueling 2-mile hike up shade deprived switchbacks.

Goldbug Hot Springs Pictures

Goldbug Hot Springs Majestic Goldbug Hot Springs
Goldbug Overview From the trailhead: see the V? That is where you are heading!
Goldbug Route Getting closer... see the V now?
Near the Top Near the top!
First Hot Pool The first hot pool you should come across before the 4th bridge
Hot Springs Fed Waterfall Hot springs shower massage anyone?
Chain of Hot Pools Looking down on a couple of the hot pools
Set of Hot Pools A set of hot pools after crossing and below the 4th bridge

Goldbug Hot Springs Description

Goldbug is well-known and is used by many different types of soakers. The fairly difficult hike does little to deter the crowds. However, this hot springs is well cared for. The norm here is to pick up your trash and leave as little trace as possible. It is encouraging to encounter a hot springs where the majority of visitors are stewards. Expect a mostly non-swimsuit wearing crowd (signed as clothing-optional area) that are polite and friendly. Watch for snakes during the warmer months; this area has many rattlesnakes and other kinds of snakes - the elevation and temperatures are just right.

Pool temperatures vary depending on the time of year from chilly to toasty. Dipping in a finger or toe is always a good idea before sticking a leg in. It's not often you encounter swimsuits given the remoteness of the area, but it might be a good idea to keep one handy just in case. Sun protection, extra water and food are a must, especially during warmer months.

The Hike to Goldbug

Two miles may not seem like much, but you will have to work to reach Goldbug. This first 1/4 mile is on private land. Once you pass through the gate you will have entered the national forest. You will travel up hills, down into desert valleys complete with cacti, and back up, and up some more. In the desert-type area, you will find a composting toilet if the urge arises. Across from the toilet, there are a few dispersed, primitive campsites.

The last half mile up is the steepest section of the entire route. While most of the path is through a desert landscape filled with sagebrush there are brief cool areas of relief near the creek among the junipers. Once you have reached the wooden box steps, take a breath, enjoy the view, and know you are almost to your destination. Cross the bridge and take it all in.

Goldbug Hot Pool Information

Several pools await the adventurous soak seeker. Fed by various sources from cool springs to moderate the waters and hot waterfalls provide varying temperatures. The temps also slightly fluctuate throughout the year.

The rock-walled pools are filled with sandy and rocky bottoms. The topmost hot spring is the warmest and cool the further down you go. Water shoes are recommended not only for soaking but for going between the pools as well.

A Message from the BLM about Goldbug:

Goldbug Hot Springs is considered a true geothermal gem. While the pools reside on National Forest Land, the first quarter-mile of trail passes through private land with an easement purchased and held by the Bureau of Land Management. Due to an overwhelming amount of traffic to the pools, private lands are being negatively impacted. Remember to always keep dogs on leashes and reduce noise levels to a minimum.

Parking at the county managed trailhead is limited. Please be respectful of the surrounding landowners and avoid blocking driveways. Camping is not permitted at the trailhead. Overnight camping is prohibited within 500 feet of the hot springs.



South of Salmon and north of Challis near mile marker 282 on Highway 93, take a dirt road east a short distance to trailhead parking. Follow the marked trail 2 miles mostly up to reach the series of geothermal bliss.


During the core of spring runoff, you might be hard-pressed to find a soaking pool that is warm enough... usually, there is one - you just might have to search around a bit. The rest of the time is quite a different story... depending on the creek flow there can be anywhere between 2 to 10 soakable pools on each side of the creek. Accessible all year, keep in mind that the trail can be extremely difficult and treacherous in the winter. Depending on snow levels, crampons are highly recommended.


The 1st quarter mile of the hike is on private property, and there are no camping sites at or near the trailhead aside from a BLM recreation site a few miles down the highway.

Between 1 and 2 miles in, there are a couple of primitive campsites nestled in the junipers near the creek just off the trail that provide ample seclusion and shade. There are also stepped camping sites above the hot springs near the 4th bridge on the north and south sides of the creek. The stepped plots are fairly small and would accommodate 2-person tents. They are all fairly close together, so don't bother unless you don't mind close company - because there will be company.


Goldbug Hot Springs Idaho's Most Beautiful Hot Spring
The hike lies just outside of rural Salmon, Idaho down steep a 2 mile trail which does well to ween out the crowds a bit.

Goldbug Hot Springs Soak Stats

  • Season: All (campground closed during winter)
  • Restrictions: Pools submerge during Spring runoff
  • Access Type: Hike
  • Public Land: Salmon-Challis National Forest
  • Elevation: 6,200 ft
  • Region: Lemhi Range
  • Water Temperature: Varies
  • Nearest City: Tendoy
  • Usage Level: Heavy
  • Avg. pH: ??