Goldbug Hot Springs in Idaho (8 Essential Tips To Hike, Soak, & Camp!)

Post Summary: Goldbug Hot Springs In Idaho & What To Expect

Deep in the rolling hills near the Salmon River sits one of the most magical hot springs in Idaho!

With heart-shaped pools, roaring waterfalls, and tons of space to kick back and relax, you can enjoy the valley views for hours on end and never want to leave. If you don’t mind the extra effort for the journey, Goldbug Hot Springs is for you. 

With a hefty hike and a serious detour from places like Stanley or Missoula, the journey is still SO worth it! In this post, we’re sharing everything we know about Goldbug Hot Springs, and how you can have a magical experience here. 

Stick around for directions, trail reports, Idaho hot springs information, and lots of epic photos of the pools. Let’s get started!

View of Goldbug Hot Springs in Idaho -

Goldbug Hot Springs in Idaho (And Exactly How To Get There)

Where is Goldbug Hot Springs?

Goldbug is located near Elk Bend, Idaho. The Goldbug Hot Springs trailhead can be found right off Highway 93, which connects to towns like Stanley, Idaho, and Missoula, Montana. If you are coming from Stanley, don’t forget to stop by other iconic hot springs, like Boat Box and Sunbeam on your way!

Here are some driving times and directions to Goldbug Hot Springs from major cities/towns nearby:

  • Salmon, ID to Goldbug Hot Springs: 30-minute drive, 24 miles.
  • Stanley, ID to Goldbug Hot Springs: 1-hour 45-minute drive, 93 miles.
  • Missoula, MT to Goldbug Hot Springs: 3-hour drive, 163 miles.

To get to the trailhead, drive on Highway 93 and turn onto Warm Springs Road, around mile marker 282. Follow the road all the way past the homes to the end of the road to reach the parking lot. 

Goldbug Hot Springs Parking Lot, Idaho
Emily Mandagie at Goldbug Hot Springs Trailhead, Idaho

Once at the end of the road, the trailhead should be very obvious. There are signs, information boards, and the entrance on the south side of the parking area. There is a bathroom on-site, which we definitely suggest using before you start your hike to Goldbug Hot Springs. 

If you are planning to camp at Goldbug Hot Springs, you are allowed to leave your car overnight at the trailhead, although you are not allowed to sleep IN your car. This area is monitored frequently, so make sure to follow the rules. If the lot is full, follow the example of other cars and park alongside the road, pulling all the way off and making sure not to block any private driveways. 

Pools at Gold Bug Hot Springs, Idaho

When Is The Best Time To Visit Goldbug Hot Springs?

Goldbug Hot Springs provides a different experience in each of the four seasons. Each season brings its own unique perks as well as challenges. We’ll cover these seasonal pros and cons briefly below to help you decide on when you should plan a trip to Goldbug Hot Springs.

Winter: Winter in Goldbug Hot Springs probably comes with the most challenges. Idaho can bring frigid, single-digit temperatures, and heavy snowfall can make the hike in very slow and tedious. However, because of the added challenge, the crowds are significantly reduced! Pack microspikes and check the weather before your trip!

Spring: In our opinion, spring is the best time to visit Goldbug Hot Springs! We came in late spring, which meant the trails were clear and wildflowers covered the trail. It also made for an amazing backdrop, to see the hills in a fresh green coat – perfect for forest bathing! If it’s early spring, watch out for muddy trails, and bring a light jacket to wear on the hike down if you are leaving after sunset. 

Summer: Summer is the easiest and most convenient season to visit Goldbug Hot Springs. However, easy access means this is the season that sees the most foot traffic. It can also get pretty hot during the day, so pack lots of water and bring a sun hat to protect you from the elements!

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.

Elk Bend Hot Springs in Idaho, Goldbug
Emily Mandagie backpack camping at Goldbug Hot Springs, Idaho

What To Pack For a Trip To Goldbug Hot Springs

So what should you bring to Goldbug Hot Springs? Below, we’re sharing a list for day-trippers – everything to pack for a hot springs trip in Idaho for a full day of soaking.

Hiking Shoes/Trail Shoes: The beginning of the trail is relatively flat, but the final 1/3 crosses boulder fields and gets pretty steep. Flip flops won’t cut it, so make sure you wear shoes that support your feet. We love these Teva Universal Trail sandals for summer days and prefer these Vasque ones for anytime else.

Water Sandals: Climbing over rocks and hopping between pools can do a number on your feet, so we suggest packing some type of water sandal to protect them. We love these Hurricane XLT sandals by Teva, which can also double as your hiking shoes!

Towel: Choose a lightweight & quick-dry towel to save on space. We prefer ones by Nomadix, but also love these stylish ones by Slowtide!

Slowtide Towel for hot springs

Water Bottle: Water is essential when soaking in hot springs! The water temperature can potentially bring negative effects, so make sure to hydrate often!

Sun Hat: Goldbug Hot Springs provides some shade, but not a lot. On hot summer days, we recommend packing a sun hat to keep your skin protected from the harsh rays.

Snacks For The Trail: As a reminder, pack out everything you brought in, and that includes food scraps like apple cores and orange peels!

Coming in the winter? Bring microspikes, a super warm coat, and a trash bag (or a big dry bag!) to stuff everything in to keep it from getting wet on the snowy ground. (Bonus: on your hike back down, you can use your trash bag to pick up any pieces you see along the way!)

Berty Mandagie hiking on Goldbug Hot Springs trail

Hiking To Goldbug Hot Springs

  • Trail Distance: 4 miles round-trip (2-miles one way)
  • Elevation Gain: 1350 feet

The hike to Goldbug Hot Springs is a very clear path, which should be an indication that this is a popular location! The directions to Goldbug Hot Springs are very straightforward and easy to follow. 

The first part of the trail is actually on private property, with recent permission to use it to access the BLM land where Goldbug is located. Treat this small and steep section with respect, because mistreatment can mean access could be potentially cut off for all! Once you cross through the gate, you are officially on public land. 

Goldbug Hot Springs Trailhead Sign
Bridge at Elk Bend, Idaho
BLM Gate crossing at Goldbug Hot Springs

You’ll travel across the bottom of the valley for around 1-1.25 miles. This section of the trail is a relatively flat incline, and along the way, you’ll pass several free campsites. (More on camping here below!)

On the trail to Goldbug Hot Springs in Elk Bend, Idaho

The trail dramatically increases in steepness after the first bridge. Here, you’ll have to watch your step because you’ll be crossing a rockslide and stepping on sets of rock stairs as you hike further. On our latest trip to Goldbug Hot Springs, we got caught in a downpour, which made the rocks pretty slippery. Wear good shoes that have traction!

Salmon Idaho trail
Stairs at Goldbug Hot Springs Trail Idaho

After a steep climb (about 10-20 minutes) you’ll know you have reached the hot springs when you start to hear the water rushing and you see the first sets of waterfalls. It’s not too much farther after that!

The final bridge marks the end of the trail. Take some time to turn around and enjoy the expansive views of the hills all the way down the valley below!

Final bridge at the top

This place really feels like it is out of a storybook. Green moss and wildflowers border the pools, waterfalls tumble into the pools below, and the range of pool levels, sizes, and temperatures make it a magical place to explore.

Keep reading to see more photos of the pools!

View of the Heart Pool at Goldbug Hot Springs in summer
Emily Mandagie at Goldbug Hot Springs in Salmon, Idaho

Proper Hot Springs Etiquette at Goldbug Hot Springs

Alright! You’ve made it this far into the blog post, so you must be serious about visiting! Before we go farther, we wanted to share some ways you can visit responsibly, and keep this place just as magical for the next visitors. 

This is a popular Idaho hot springs. Because of the extensive information online about this photogenic soak, you will likely be sharing it with others. However, everyone we met shared the same appreciation for space, so people who make the trek up tend to be friendly and accommodating!

There’s a high chance of seeing nude soakers. Give people space to do as they please, and don’t make it awkward! Give a general hello, and then choose another pool for the time being. 

Be thoughtful about what you put on your body. Lotions, bug spray, and sunscreens among other things can pollute the water! Choosing a natural, chemical-free product can protect the river below the springs. And as always, NEVER bring soaps or shampoos into the pools – they are not your bathtub!

Pick up trash. We have a zero-tolerance policy for people who leave trash at hot springs. There’s no excuse for leaving trash, including “biodegradable” items like orange peels or apple cores. Take everything back with you that you brought in. 

Walking on the pool's edge

The Pools at Goldbug Hot Springs

There are several hot springs pools around Goldbug Hot Springs, but there are two main pools we’re going to talk about here!

Heart-Shaped Pool

The heart-shaped pool is the first major pool you’ll encounter at Goldbug Hot Springs. Right after you cross the bridge at the top, it will be on your left, overlooking the vast valley below. It is the largest of the pools, so you’ll often find separate groups congregating in different areas. 

There is a nearby bench to hold some items, but also plenty of extra space around the pools to set down your things. This pool is definitely the most photogenic and would be beautiful to photograph during sunset!

Heart Pool at hot springs Goldbug
Bench at the edge of the pools, Elk Bend, Hot Springs

Waterfall Pool

Sitting just below the heart-shaped pool is what we have claimed as “the waterfall pool”. Warm water from above spills over to heat this one, as well as warm water sourced from the ground. We found this pool to be much more private, so come to this one if you’d like an unobstructed view to yourselves!

To get here, follow the clear trail past the heart-shaped pool, and continue down the hill for a short path to the base. There is no bench to stash your things, so find a nearby rock or bush to leave your items. Make sure they are secure because you don’t want them to fall down the waterfall!

Waterfall pools at gold bug hot springs
Berty Mandagie sitting in pools
View of the waterfall pool at hot springs goldbug

Surrounding Pools

We didn’t explore all the pools, but it looked like there are at least 5 separate ones, each with varying temperatures and sizes. There were a few pools right before the bridge at the top, with their own private spaces and small waterfalls feeding the pools. All in all, there is no bad pool here at Goldbug Hot Springs, because all of them have epic views of the valley!

Camping at Goldbug Hot Springs

So you want to turn a trip to Goldbug Hot Springs into an overnight trip? Goldbug Hot Springs camping is a really fun way to spend more time at the pools, and see them at less-crowded times like sunrise. Keep reading for some tips on camping here and what you should consider. 

Camping Near Goldbug Hot Springs, Idaho
Camping at Goldbug Hot Springs, Idaho

Campsites near Goldbug Hot Springs are FREE of charge, as they are on BLM Land! There are three major sites in the first mile of the trail, each with its own fire ring, tree trunk benches, and shaded areas. Each site can fit about 1-3 tents, so you can come with a group and camp altogether. 

Okay, so what if you visit, and all the sites are full?? This could potentially happen in the summer season, so here’s what we do in that case:

The Free Camping Collection from Dyrt PRO is our favorite way to find free camping nearby Goldbug Hot Springs. The Dyrt has a collection of over 5000 drive-in accessible locations that include free campgrounds and free dispersed sites, which is so nice in this part of Idaho!

Plus, the Free Camping Collection shows you boundaries of free dispersed camping areas on a map and tells you when a camping permit is required (and if so how to get one). Try the PRO Free Camping Collection for free, no strings attached — use our code “mandagies” to get 30 days free. Get the deal here!

Packing for a trip to the hot springs in Idaho

If you are willing to trek all your gear up to the top, we saw people camping at the end of the trail, up the hill from the pools. Just a heads up though, you are not permitted to camp within 500 feet of the hot springs, so keep that in mind when choosing a spot at the top.

Goldbug Hot Springs Conclusion

Goldbug Hot Springs is one of the most unique activities to do in Idaho, with camping, hot springs, and hiking all mixed into one cool adventure! We hope this post helped clarify some questions about the area and helped you prepare for your own future trip. Remember to follow Leave No Trace Principles, practice good hot springs etiquette, be a good steward of the area, and kick back & relax!


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    1. Thank you! It really was, and the pools vary in temperatures. Not too hot and not too cold!

  1. Your videos are simply the best! Photos are beautiful, information is thorough and contains all revellent information and presented clearly and concisely and may I add completely. I like your new image it wonderful and I thank you both for all the work you both put into creating it for us. I’m a serious photographer and much appreciate the quality of your photographs. You both seem to enjoy not only each other but the work that you do . Again, thank you and stay healthy and safe. Ralph

  2. Hi there! We are starting to plan a trip to California & on our way out we will be going thru Idaho so I am starting our list of places we’d love to stop at. I came across your blog post here & I will definitely be adding this to our list! Also I was wondering where and/or what brand your swimsuit is? It’s super cute! Thanks!

    1. Hey @paige.outdoors! I’m so glad we could give you some inspiration for your upcoming road trip! My swimsuit is from Londre Bodywear, and they are made from plastic bottles too, so you can look cute and save the planet at the same time! 🙂