Goldbug Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Goldbug Hot Springs

03/15/2014 | Outside Salmon, ID

The current state of Idaho Hot Springs Beta is such that by and large when it comes to reliable/in-depth/actionable information you have to buy a book aka a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers.

Goldbug Hot Springs


I Itinerary Summary

The current state of Idaho Hot Springs Beta is such that by and large when it comes to reliable/in-depth/actionable information you have to buy a book aka a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers. But who cares because you don’t have to be a geothermal imaging expert (GIE) to know that Idaho, in particular the southwestern portion of Idaho which is connected to the northeastern part of Oregon (also a literal hotbed of related activity), is geothermally endowed or bestowed or whatever, all you have to do is an image search on the internet, which internet also provides access to hundreds of websites, forums, bulletin boards, chat rooms, blogs, tumblers, articles and galleries with unreliable/not-so-deep/quasi actionable information regarding Idaho Hot Springs Beta—where they are(ish), when they are(ish), what they are(ish), how they are(ish), etc. In summary; we knew Idaho was #legit, we forgot to buy a book, we went on the internet, we made a plan(ish).


The plan was exceptionally straightforward: head east, stop in deep eastern Oregon just off the 84, visit Juntura Hot Springs; a HOT-hot spring located a few miles outside of Juntura, Oregon on Central Oregon Highway (Hwy 20) between Burns and Ontario. Juntara, the hot spring, is located on an island in the middle of the Malheur River and requires the crossing a channel to reach. While the majority of opinions on the internet indicate the channel is easily navigated—apparently at its worst it’s only 2-3 feet high—it had, at the time, been raining heavily for the last 10 days. We had light-to-medium concerns. And there was the whole trash thing, apparently it’s trashy in and around the greater soaking area. Also, there is a grave site on the edge (literally!) of the soaking area memorializing the death of young man who died in that self same hot spring—details are vague, alcohol was involved, he was changing after a 2 hour soak, he was 22. Also, allegedly there is an unrelated girl ghost—what?, it says so in the internet!—who intermittently haunts the soaking area and steals towels or something.


After Juntura we intended to drive to Boise and liaison with local resident, ex-professional cyclist and hot springs enthusiast, Sam Johnson. After Boise (either the next morning or later that night), we intended to drive to Sam’s Uncle Gunter’s cabin in the middle of the Sawtooth National Forest, and proximal to, according to Sam, a collection of little known and only vaguely public hot springs, one of which pirate hot springs was actually an abandoned geothermal spring-fed, Olympic-sized swimming pool that may or may not be accessible without bolt cutters. Or if after talking to Sam we felt access (legal, physical, emotional or otherwise) to the springs proximal to Gunter’s cabin sounded a little too tentative, we intended to drive to Lake Cascade State Park Campground located near Lake Cascade just off Idaho State Hwy 55 past the village of McCall, Idaho, an area which many of you know was first settled in 1889 by Thomas and Louisa Mccall—in case you forgot, basically Thomas and Louisa traded a team of horses to Sam Dever for assumed rights to about 160 acres of land around the lake and a cabin. And from which campground we could easily access Kirkham Hot Springs, Pine Flat Hot Springs and Skinnydipper Hot Springs. Assuming we did that, the second and non-Gunter related option, here is a rough itinerary of our proposed hot spring weekend.




  • Leave Portland 7:00 AM
  • Drive to Juntura Hot Springs, OR 1:00 PM
  • Soak 3:00 PM
  • Drive to Lake Cascade SP 6:30 PM
  • Camp




  • Leave LCSP 9:30 AM
  • Drive to Kirkham Hot Springs 11:00 AM
  • Soak 1:00 PM
  • Drive to Pine Flat Hot Spring 1:30 PM
  • Soak 3:00 PM
  • Drive to Skinnydipper Hot Springs 3:30 PM
  • Soak (1/2 mile hike in) 5:30 PM
  • Drive to LCSP 6:30 PM




  • Leave LCSP 9:30 AM
  • Drive home to Portland 5:30 PM

II Portland, OR to Warm Springs Rd, ID

ID-21 Avalanche Closure Route
This 698 mile route is the quickest way to Goldbug Hot Springs during the winter and spring seasons, when avalanche closures throughout the National Forest highways are common.
Parking lot of the Grand Central Travel Stop (Shell Station / Subway / Linda's Restaurant ) in Biggs Junction where the Columbia River Highway (the 84) and Sherman Highway (97) intersect, across the street from the Pilot Travel Center and Dinty's Motor Inn. Here is José with the a server currently working a double at Linda's.
Ginger with a gentleman headed to Wasco from Crescent City.
U.S. Hwy 395, just north of Connell Washington.
The Ojibwe people, one of the largest Native American Tribes in North America, have an ancient legend about the origin of the dreamcatcher, or "iháŋbla gmunka." Storytellers speak of the Spider Woman, known as Asibikaashi; she took care of the children and the people on the land. Eventually, the Ojibwe Nation spread to the corners of North America and it became difficult for Asibikaashi to reach all the children. So the mothers and grandmothers would weave magical webs for the children, using willow hoops and sinew, or cordage made from plants. The dreamcatchers filtered-out bad dreams, allowing only good thoughts to enter one's mind. The Techno Dreamcatcher, invented in a gas station parking lot, as these things so often are, just off U.S. Hwy 90 near the town of Kellogg, Idaho, is made from modern or technology-based flotsam and jetsam, and is used to filter out ultraviolet sunlight and ORS811.507.
Fourth of July Summit on the fifteenth of March.
Mullan Road was the first wagon road to cross the Rocky Mountains to the Inland of the Pacific Northwest. It was built by U.S. Army Captain John Mullan between the spring of 1859 and the summer of 1862. It led from Fort Benton, Montana, to Fort Walla Walla, Washington Territory, and it roughly follows the path of modern-day Interstate-90 through the Rockies.
12 miles west of Missoula, Montana on U.S. Hwy 90.
Salmon, ID.
17 miles south of Salmon, Idaho on U.S. Hwy 90 there is a one lane bridge over the Salmon River. It (the bridge) leads to Twin Peaks Ranch.
Facing north from the middle of the Twin Peak Ranch Bridge.
Facing south from the middle of the Twin Peak Ranch Bridge.
Take this photograph with you as there is no signage for the Warm Springs Road exit, which is the turn-off for Goldbug Hot Springs. It's a non-descript gravel road. You know how sometimes people say, "you can't miss it," well, in this case you can definitely miss it. This photograph of the entering Elk Bend road sign, is taken facing north, in the direction of Salmon, Idaho. There is no such similar sign if you are traveling south from Salmon, Idaho. Warm Springs roads is on the East side of the road.

III What Really Happened

7:0O AM: José, Ginger and I leave Portland, Oregon via the Starbucks on 14th and Fremont. At the time I was still drinking mochas. I ordered a venti (FTR, that’s 20 fl. oz.) mocha with only one pump of chocolate and no whip. Sometimes, like when I’m trying to get the register person to smile at me, I call it a “neutered” mocha. Also, sometimes I order a venti latte with one pump of chocolate, which is like 45 cents cheaper that way. Usually it works but sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, each time I drank one of these neutered mochas I was consuming 20oz of milk and paying $4.25(ish). On a bad day I might drink as many as three neutered mochas aka 60oz. of milk and $12.75(ish). I like Starbucks because they don’t judge you for this kind of behavior. You try that move at say Heart on Burnside or Stumptown on Belmont, or even Ristretto on Williams, and they will haze you and make you feel like a dick. But listen, since begining my 2014 News Year’s Resolution which I didn’t actually start until March 3rd, I only drink Americanos. Anyway, we stopped at Starbucks and then we got on the 84 headed East, towards Hood River and Europe.


7:15 AM: Who farted? Just kidding, everything is super chill, we’re on the freeway in the vicinity of Sandy, the town, the river, the stripper(s), all of them.


7:39 AM: Nobody talks about it around here really but Multnomah Falls is truly breathtaking. I mean, if you traveled to say Austin, Texas or Baltimore, Maryland or Tulsa, Oklahoma and 24 minutes outside of town you passed a natural wonder as spectacular as Multnomah Falls you would freak-the-fuck-out. You’d want to do the hike and maybe make a picnic out of it, and whatever it is that you were doing, like wherever you were going, you’d be like, no way, it can wait, let’s camp here for the next two days. But in Oregon, it’s just something you look at driving down the freeway.


8:41 AM: We stop at the Grand Central Travel Stop in Briggs just past the Dalles to pee and worse. Ginger, José and Sara take this opportunity to “outfit” themselves in sponsor appropriate equipment (you got your Danner Boots and your Poler Shorts and your Woolrich Ponchos), behind the truck, on the ground. Thus successfully rendering this project ‘camera ready’ as they say in the biz.


11:00 AM: Real talk. While researching Idaho hot springs in preparation for this trip, we discovered Goldbug. Goldbug, by all accounts and from every perspective but one, was clearly the destination hot spring—it’s scenic, it’s relatively remote, it’s situated at the top of a 3 mile uphill hike; a natural deterrent and filter, it has several pools, it offers the best views of any hot spring since the dawn of time, and it’s 12 hours further away than the western slope springs north of Boise like Skinnydipper and Kirkham when a 30 mile-long avalanche is blocking Ponderosa Pine Scenic Route otherwise known as Idaho State Hwy 21. While hopes of going to Goldbug were abandoned early-on in the process we continued to talk about it because (#duh) it was so obviously awesome and because everybody likes a challenge and because this was, after all, a roadtrip.


11:01 AM: Near the town of Hermiston, with only 300 yards left before our exit, we called an audible and re-routed to Missoula, Montana via the U.S. Hwy 395. The fastest way, all things considered, to Salmon, Idaho, the nearest town to Goldbug Hot Springs.


A List of Five Things that Happened on the Way to Goldbug


  1. We visited the Main Market Co-op in Spokane, Washington and ate lunch.
  2. We went to Missoula, Montana for ten minutes. Before leaving we bought coffee, chocolate and gasoline.
  3. We railed it through a blizzard over Lost Trail Pass in the Bitterroot Mountains. On the way up—on the Montana side—we followed two snow plows. On the way down through six to seven inches of fresh untouched snow—on the Idaho side—we listened to Mathew Dear’s Her Fantasy with the lights off. Nobody said a word. We saw nobody.
  4. We slept in an RV campground parking lot in Salmon, Idaho on top of my truck.
  5. We ate breakfast at Coffee Shop Dining Room on Main Street in downtown Salmon, Idaho.

IV Goldbug Hot Springs

The first 25 yards of the twoish mile hike to Goldbug are strenuous.
Looking down into the valley floor after hiking the first 25 yards. Presumably somebody lives in this ranch at the bottom of a rugged desert canyon next to the trailhead to a geothermal alpine wunderland.
Historically most "log cabins" were a simple one-story structures, somewhat impermanent, and less finished/architecturally sophisticated than a proper log house. A "log cabin" was usually constructed with round rather than hewn, or hand-worked, logs, and often it was the first generation home building erected quickly for frontier shelter.
This erroneous jokester-of-a-sign reads, "Half Way." Real funny sign. Real fucking funny.
The hike into Goldbug follows a trail up a rocky, high-desert canyon.
Goldbug Hot Springs, located toward the top of a canyon, spills over and feeds what is effectively a geothermal river. Signs that water, heated water in particular, are flowing through the very bottom of this steep canyon can be seen well before you reach the "main" Hot Spring area.
Goldbug is a "warm spring." The US NOAA Geophysical Data Center defines a "warm spring" as a spring with water between 68°F and 122°F.
Additional Support for this Project was Provided By Woorich Danner Poler
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