by Liza Brackbill from Flower Power
I had never been much of a backcountry or multiday hiker until I worked for an adventure travel company last summer. My coworkers there introduced me to the skills, equipment, and knowledge I needed to get into backcountry hiking, and I found out that-contrary to what I once believed-just about anyone with the will to backpack can backpack! Today I want to share my absolute favorite backcountry hike from that summer: Gold Bug Hot Springs.
Gold Bug Hot Springs, which is located in Idaho (south of Salmon and north of Challis), is an amazing backcountry excursion perfect for both those seeking to camp on-site and those who would rather hike in, soak, and hike out all in the same day. To get to the trailhead, follow Route 93 to a dirt road turnoff near mile marker 282. Follow this road to its end where you can park your car. You’ll know you have made it because there is a little dirt parking lot and a composting toilet just over a footbridge leading from the lot.
Next up: your hike! The hike is not long (just about two miles in), but it can be steep at parts. Make sure to bring plenty of water, especially if you are visiting in the summer time, as Idaho gets very hot and dry! When you begin your hike, you may notice you are on private property, but it is okay to pass. You’ll soon reach a gate and enter Salmon-Challis National Forest Land. As you hike up, you may notice other campers stationed along the beautiful Warm Creek that flows along the trail. Keep going! You want to make it all the way to the springs. Trust me.
As you hike, you’ll notice two mountains in the distance, the meeting of which form a “V.” That’s where you’re headed, and once you get there, the view is one of the most exquisite you will ever see. In fact, if heaven really were a place on earth, I’m sure it would be at Gold Bug.
Gold Bug Hot Spring Tips and Tricks
Go in fall. Autumn is the best time to visit the hot springs because the weather is a bit crisper and those hot pools will be even more rewarding for your hardworking muscles when contrasted with the cool air.
Experience the hot and the cold. Gold bug is so special because its springs have both naturally hot and naturally cool water flowing into them. For this reason, there are several pools available for soaking, all at varying temperatures. Check them all out for the fullest experience! Or, if you find yourself too hot in one spring, go dunk your head in one of the cold-water waterfalls nearby.
Stay over if you’re into it! This place was my introduction to backcountry camping, and it was a really good one to start with for several reasons. First of all, the hike is not really long, so even though I was carrying everything I needed for the night and morning (sleeping gear, cooking tools, food, change of clothes, etc.) it was not too difficult to complete. Gold Bug also has several designated camping spots and at least one fire pit. Other campers are always happy to share or take turns!
Bring a waterproof camera. You could also just bring a regular camera, but a waterproof camera is ideal because you may have to leave most of your other belongings slightly removed from the springs. There is not a whole lot of area to really spread out right next to them, especially if other people are there, and the last thing you want is your iPhone lying around next to a pool of hot water.
Safety First. If you’re not local, you may not be aware of some of the animal dangers that lie in the backcountry of the western United States. Always carry bear spray with you and keep it on your person in a spot that is easily accessible. While it’s not likely that you’ll have to use it, you should be ready to act (on any animal-not just bears!) should you need to.
With all these things in mind, you should be ready to take on this gorgeous hike and soak! And believe me, as someone who has experienced this, it is not an experience you want to miss.