One of the world’s premier, undeveloped hot springs is in EWU’s backyard. Goldbug Hot Springs outside Salmon, Idaho, is well worth a weekend trip from Cheney.
The stunning landscapes of Idaho and Montana make the time fly by. It’s even more powerful when you realize you’re passing through the same mountain ranges that blew the minds of the 1805 Lewis and Clark expedition.
Traveling east from EWU, and after skipping through Spokane, you pass beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene and the historic mining towns of the Silver Valley. Then you descend Lookout Pass into Montana.
Missoula is the perfect halfway point. Before turning due south refuel at one the towns’ restaurants and coffee shops. Recommendations include the delicious Catalyst Café, which has a fresh, unique menu and great coffee, or The Bridge Pizza, which offers up fresh pizza by the slice.
Geology fans should take note of the strange lines running across Missoula’s foothills. Those lines are high water marks made by the historic Lake Missoula thousands of years ago, the same lake whose ancient floodwaters carved out the current rugged landscape of the Inland Northwest and the territory around EWU.
Leaving Missoula you are soon flanked on either side by the peaks of the Bitterroot Mountain range, rising up to just over 10,000 feet.
Be sure to top off at Tower Creek Road and take in The Pyramid Rocks. Known as Hoodoos, these soft rocks are eroded by rain and wind to resemble their Egyptian namesakes.
After passing through Salmon, the birthplace of Sacajawea, you are almost to Goldbug. Just past the community of Elk Bend turn left on unpaved, unmarked Warm Springs Road. Be sure to Google map it, as the turn off is easy to miss.
The trailhead is a hundred yards down the dirt road. The hot springs is a two mile hike up a moderately steep trail. While camping is prohibited at the trailhead and within 500 feet from the springs, there’s plenty of flat spots to pitch a tent about a mile up the trail alongside the creek. There are also a few hotels in nearby Salmon if camping is not your thing, or if its too cold out.
The hot springs themselves sit in a series of pools connected by picturesque waterfalls. Temperatures vary from scalding hot to warm. If you’ve been to other springs you’ll be surprised by Goldbug’s crystal clear water, smooth, clean gravel floors and a distinct lack of the sulfur smell common to other hot springs. Settling into the crystal clear pools is the perfect reward for the long drive.
As you relax, take in the view. All around you steep mountains rise up, and the shimmering pool reflects the sky as you peer over the edge at the valley below.
Goldbug Hot Springs is an incredible outdoor experience you will never forget, and it’s a perfect weekend trip for a new EWU student.