GOLDMYER HOT SPRINGS HIKING TRAIL GUIDE
Goldmyer Hot Springs may well be a smaller jewel in the Cascades Mountains’ jewel-studded crown, but they are a mightily impressive, scenic and altogether impressive one nonetheless.
Tucked away in the depths of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, this short, easy hike rewards your efforts with a miniature wonderland of water features — a trio of babbling creeks, tumbling hillside cascades and, at the trail’s end, a collection of natural geothermal hot springs flanked by a roaring waterfall.
It might not make for an epic wilderness adventure, but for a night camping, lounging and soaking in a very remote, unspoiled and otherwise enchanting spot, it’s pretty hard to beat.
In this article, we’re going to look at the logistics involved in visiting Goldmyer Hot Springs, from pre-trip prep right through to permits and potential difficulties. After that, we’ll include descriptions of the two most popular trails and a few notes on gear, sleeping arrangements and potential hazards.
Before we get to that, here are a few highlights and lowlights of the hike to Goldmyer Hot Springs.
Goldmyer Hot Springs are situated in a secluded, wonderfully quiet corner of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness that is within 2 hours of Seattle by car. Over the years they have both benefited and suffered from periods of overuse and neglect, but today represent one of the most peaceful, well-maintained and generally attractive natural hot springs in Washington State.
Goldmyer Hot Springs are situated in the midst of one of the last remaining ancient forest ecosystems in North America. Although the springs lie only 60 miles east of Seattle, they get over twice the amount of annual precipitation — enough, in fact, to merit designation as a temperate rainforest.
The area was first developed by the logger, homesteader, prospector and hiker William Goldmyer in the early 1900s. Goldmyer, who named the springs ‘Crystal Hot Springs Resort’, privatized the property as a patented mining claim and ran a lodge for miners and loggers in the early 1910s.
In the 1920s, the property came under the ownership of Bill Morrow, who installed a number of facilities on the site — a basic lodge, bath houses, bridges, a sawmill, a hydro electric power system and plumbing system — with a view to turning it into a resort and a spa. Morrow’s efforts were ultimately interrupted, however, by the start of WWII.
Severe flooding in January 1960 saw the falls fall into relative obscurity until their rediscovery and renaissance as a wilderness party spot in the 1960s and 70s. In 1976, the Morrow family established the nonprofit Northwest Wilderness Programs to preserve and protect the springs from the overuse and abuse (vandalism, littering) that followed and NWWP continues to manage the property to this day.
The two most popular hiking trails to Goldmyer Hot Springs are easy forest trails that involve a few short creek crossings but present no other notable difficulties. Both trails can feasibly be undertaken on cross-country skis, snowshoes or a mountain bike given the right conditions.
Both of the routes to Goldmyer Hot Springs are easy, very well-maintained hiking trails. From the Dingford Creek Trailhead, the Dingford Creek Road* Trail is marginally easier than the Middle Fork Trail, but is also less scenic and of similar length — the trails are 4.7 and 5 miles respectively and each take around 2 hours. If you choose or are forced to park at the Middle Fork Trailhead, the entire hike measures closer to 11 miles each way and should take 3.5-4 hours at a moderate, steady pace.
The total ascent/elevation gain from the Dingford Creek Trailhead (1300ft) to Goldmyer Hot Springs (2200) ft is 900 feet.
* Sometimes, confusingly, also referred to as the ‘Middle Fork Road’ or the ‘Dutch Miller Gap Trail #1030’
Vehicle Access: Forest Road 56 (FR 56) is usually passable with a high-clearance vehicle. The road has potholes up to six inches deep, so drive your low clearance car at your own risk. In the event of road closure or if your vehicle is not high-clearance, be prepared to walk the stage from the Middle Fork Trailhead to the Dingford Creek Trailhead, adding 6 miles each way
Camping: Camping at the springs costs $5 per night, per person 18 years of age and older. Camping reservations can be made at the same time as reservations for visitor permits
Access: FR56 is occasionally closed as a result of washouts and construction work. Prior to setting off for the springs, make sure you check the springs’ Access Report, which is updated every Wednesday
Goldymer Hot Springs is a wilderness area and there are no services at the springs whatsoever. As such, any visit requires complete self-sufficiency. Be sure to pack in everything you will need for the duration of your stay, from clothing and sleeping provisions to food, water and cooking appliances
Road Access and Parking: A Northwest Forest Pass is required to park at the Dingford Creek Trailhead. An annual pass or a day pass, which can also be purchased online, must be displayed in your vehicle. More info on Forest Passes is available here
Goldmyer Property: It is possible to visit the springs without a reservation, but with access limited to 20 visitors per day we highly recommend booking in advance. To make reservations for both the springs and the campsite, call 206.789.5631 and leave a voicemail
At the time of writing, the price of permit fees for visitors are as follows:
From Seattle, head east on the I-90 to Exit 34 (around 45 minutes without traffic). From Exit 34, drive into North Bend and turn right onto Middle Fork Road. Stay on the road until you reach the Dingford Creek Trailhead (an additional 30 mins/9 miles), passing the Middle Fork Campground before taking a right immediately after the single-lane bridge, then follow signs for the Dingford Creek Trailhead.
The address for the Dingford Creek Trailhead (for SatNav use) is NF-5620, North Bend, WA 98045, USA and the map coordinates 47.5173° N, 121.4542° W
No public transport currently serves the Dingford Creek Trailhead.
From the Dingford Creek Trailhead, cross the bridge and head through the old gate. The forest access road flanks a succession of creeks (Dingford, Wildcat, Thunder) at a steady but never steep incline until reaching the footpath to the springs with a right turn just beyond the easternmost tip of Burnboot Creek.
The forest access road is not as enjoyable or scenic as the Middle Fork Trail, but is a safer option following heavy rains or during the spring thaw as it avoids the potentially problematic crossings on the south side of the four creeks.
This route is the more scenic, but more treacherous way to reach the Hot Springs due to multiple stream crossings. DO NOT attempt this route during the winter months or after heavy rain. The trail begins behind the outhouse in the parking lot. It passes a scattering of long-disused logging campsites before arriving at another junction 2.3 miles in. Here a third route to Goldmyer veers off on the Rock Creek Trail (#1013.3), which we have not included in our list on account of its steepness and potential to turn your hike into a lengthy, bushwhacking slog through dense windthrow (trail maintenance crews don’t make it up this way quite so regularly).
From the Rock Creek turnoff, continue on the Middle Fork Trail, crossing the slightly narrow log bridge over Thunder Creek after about 1.5 miles.
From Thunder Creek, the trail continues gradually northeast until reaching a large meadow. After the meadow, a large bridge crosses Burntboot Creek onto the Goldmyer Hot Springs property.
A sneak preview of the springs from Bosch Voyage
Goldmyer Hot Springs Reservation Calendar
The road access report for the hot springs, which is updated weekly
Kieran James Cunningham is a climber, mountaineer and writer based in the Italian Alps. He’s climbed a handful of 6000ers in the Himalayas, 4000ers in the Alps and loves nothing more than a good long-distance wander in the wilderness. He climbs when he should be writing, writes when he should be sleeping, has fun always.